Thursday, January 21, 2010

The States as Democracy Laboratories

Has anyone ever complained that Congress is too efficient or productive? I've never seen an objective measure of legislature productivity, but I would like one. That way I could better support my argument that there's an inverse relationship between productivity and legislature size. The bigger they are, the more gridlocked they are. One mechanism to explain this scale-emergent trend is Olsonian veto groups.

I'm unfortunately really starting to believe that whatever is wrong with our national lawmakers is not fixable. Elected leaders are constitutively unable to address real problems, chiefly among them our budget. State legislatures aren't always any better off, but if that inverse relationship is real, they stand a better chance of making a difference on real questions and enacting meaningful fixes. Not only should states (and even individual cities) be less shy about passing laws in opposition to the Federal gubmint, they should actively seek out confrontation.

Mind you, I'm not talking about secession, and I'm not talking about idiot tea-bagger take-up-arms nonsense, but I am talking about legal challenges. A good model is how the marijuana issue has played out, mostly between Western states and the Feds. Marijuana, while a minor social issue, is a good model. A few states experimented, the world didn't end, and now you have even states like New Jersey allowing medical marijuana. If we had waited for the Federal government to do this, we'd have waited forever. What else can we address this way?

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