Tricameral Trimming

As we saw in an earlier posting, there’s a problem in the way the US Constitution interacts with the present demographic trends. In essence, as more folks moved into cities, all that matters is the vote of the cities. As The Senate was converted from a Republic oriented “House of Lords” analog into “Yet Another Peoples House” – but one with longer terms – the ability of the people to ‘vote for themselves the largess of the public purse’ now runs unchecked. (Vis the Debt Bubble…)

So how to fix it?

One “good idea” is to just roll back how the Senate is elected and make them back into creatures of the Several States again. That would work best if those states, like California, were to also roll back how THEY elect Senators back to how it was when the Counties appointed State Senators. But I know that just will not happen. Too many folks vested in the present system.

Is there another way?

Well, looking at the graphs in that prior posting, one thing that stands out is just how many Counties vote one way, but get squashed by the cities. How do we protect those rural “minority rights” against the maw of “urban jungle” voters?

2012 County Map Red / Blue

2012 County Map Red / Blue

Well, the idea I came up with is just a variation (or more accurately, a more detailed form of) an idea from Heinlein. Have a 3rd House of Congress who only has the power to remove things. In Heinlein’s view, they could only repeal laws. I think that’s too limited. They also ought to be able to remove spending and abolish whole departments.

So, what I’d do, is create a Tricameral government, with a House of Counts (a fun play on words between ‘bean counters’ and Counties ;-) who would be elected, one per county, from every county in the nation. They would have the power to line item veto any expenditure with a simple majority (hey, if more than 1/2 the counties don’t want it, it’s probably a bad idea) and to repeal any law or abolish whole departments with a 2/3 supermajority. (Just to put in some hysteresis in law making so you don’t end up with repeated 51% passing in the House / Senate and 51% repealing in the Counts.)

That’s the basics.

I’d leave it up to each County to decide how they would choose their Count, but would encourage them to be appointed by the County Government. (In order to keep that ‘vote of the public’ out of the ‘largess of the public purse’…)

I could also see some benefit to having a few more powers in the third house. Subpoena for example. But mostly I’d rather keep them out of the Political Game in D.C. In fact, I’d go so far as to assert they ought not even meet in D.C. That they could communicate and vote electronically from an office in each county seat.

By having them (largely) not elected, and closely tied to the local economies of their locations, they would be far more likely to veto things like a ‘road to nowhere’ and some “deal” that shoveled a few $Billion to Solyndra Friends Of Obama…

But just to nail down the “do not lobby” even more (as the cost of flying to every county in the nation to ‘lobby’ ought to discourage many…) I’d also suggest that for those places that DO choose their Count via a vote: Donations from unnatural persons (i.e. corporations) only be allowed from those corporations who have headquarters in that county. Basically, only county residents (citizens or corporate headquarters) can donate to a Count campaign. Subsidiary corporations can only contribute in the county of their parent. (i.e. only ONE entity, the top one, can fling money and only in their own county). Similarly NGOs, non-profits, That would keep costs and spending proportional to individual county size and keep big outside influence from buying Counts.

I’m sure there are more details that could be added, but I think that would cover most of it. It certainly ought to reduce the greed and corruption in DC politics, get the Big Money Interests out of a lot of it, and when they DO get some boondoggle bill passed, the Counts can go in and snip out the money…

All it would take is The Several States to decide they want it.

Then again, they haven’t cared enough to take back their Senators, nor to prune back their creation to stop forcing unfunded mandates on them, so I doubt they would do it.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to Tricameral Trimming

  1. Ian W says:

    I was thinking that a simple 28th Amendment was needed,
    “If no balanced Federal budget is passed by the Congress and Senate and approved by the President by November 1st of the financial year, the personal federal tax rates of all members of congress, senate and Administration including the President, Vice President and advisers to the president become 100% and remain at 100% until such time as a balanced Federal budget is formally passed by both houses and approved by the President.”

    That would concentrate the minds and remove all this fiscal cliff nonsense.

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ian W:

    Nice idea! I’d suggest a change, though, to avoid the ‘tax rate for a week’ problem…
    …”for that entire year, until such time as…,”

    Basically, miss the deadline, lose a year…

  3. crosspatch says:

    I would say to make a compromise and go (for now) with ONE Senator elected by the legislature and one elected by the people. I don’t favor three Houses of Congress. I would rather see the state governments regain their House of Congress. The current system just gives the Senate delegation to the largest metro area of each state. Whoever carries Philadelphia controls Pennsylvania’s Senate delegation, for example. So the political machine of Philadelphia controls two Senators. That needs to stop.

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    Before anything else, an independent controlling authority needs to be created that can ENFORCE the terms of the Constitutional Contract. Depending on honorable people that are part of the to be controlled party, to interpret the terms of that contract, DOES NOT work. pg

  5. Steve C says:

    Anyone with an eye to modifying the structure of politics should take a good long look at the game of Nomic. As a game, highly entertaining, but as a way to live …

  6. Bloke down the pub says:

    So, what I’d do, is create a Tricameral government, with a House of Counts (a fun play on words between ‘bean counters’ and Counties

    I would suggest there’s room for further abbreviation.

  7. philjourdan says:

    It will never happen, but it may be the only possible saving grace of the country.

  8. Gary says:

    Interesting idea, but the Countpersons would be dependent on the other Congressional branches for their funding. What better way to strangle the Counts than to restrict their staffing resources or holding them hostage in other ways. Gotta figure out a way to prevent blackmail.

    The real Constitutional flaw is the Judicial branch’s failure to remain neutral. Chief Justice Roberts is the latest example of the itch judges get to make law.

  9. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Gary; You are correct. When the Supreme Court was examining a major action of President Andrew Jackson, He was reported to remark to a reporter when ask, “What he would do if the court found against him?”
    Jackson:”How many divisions of troops does a Supreme Court chief Justice command?”

    Violation of an oath is perjury and should result in jail and dismissal from office and forfeiture of all benefits and banning from future service.

    Any Constitution Court must be totally independent of the Federal government. The states and the people created the Federal Government and Constitution, perhaps we should look to them. pg

  10. Pouncer says:

    I suggest the “bean counters” be selected, one per county, by lottery. Chief, didn’t you do an essay on the “bingo ball” style machines the ancient Athenian/Greeks used for their demo- cracy. Or was it demography? In any case all citizens were tagged to various groups by family, profession, locale, etc, and important issues were decided by a jury-like group randomly selected by running bingo balls through various pachinko-machine filters to get a representative sample. ANYhow, the Greeks aren’t this issue here. The issue that since we have Gallup style polling and sampling anyway, institutionalize it. A large sample randomly chosen among a large number of groups would certainly be more representative than the Doles and Clintons and Kennedys and Sibelius’s and other multi-generation powerseekers.

    Also, selecting leaders by lot is how they do it on the planet Bismol, according to the lore of DC Comics “Legion of Super Heroes”. Hey, how much better example can you have?

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Mikey Likey!!!

    Planet Bismol To The Rescue!!

  12. philjourdan says:

    Pouncer I like the idea of a lottery, but not the polling part. It is too susceptible to manipulation. But the lottery! Now that is a good idea.

  13. Pouncer says:

    For Phil,

    Okay, not polling. Another Heinlein-esque approach. Instead of military service have another filter that pre-certifies a citizen for enrollment in the third-chamber lottery. Say, anybody who in the past six years (one Senate term) has served on a county-level jury. The citizen who has showed up when called, passed voir dire by prosecution and defense attorneys seeming a balanced and judicious citizen, is then equally presumed to be able to fairly and judiciously consider laws — not accused law-breakers.

  14. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Pouncer; not sure that, that is a good idea, as attorneys generally want ignorant, easy to persuade people on juries. In Athens you had to be a solder or former solder to be considered. A part of being a citizen of good standing was service as a citizen warrior. pg

  15. E.M.Smith says:


    Just choose them from the local property tax rolls. Folks who have some ownership tend to care.


    Yup. I get bounced off any jury selection so fast it makes your head spin. They see that I’m smart, independent, and they will NOT be able to snow nor manipulate me and I’m gone.

    IMHO part of what’s wrong with our government is that it is full of folks with law degrees trained to think of “the public” as a jury to be manipulated and packed…

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