Things that make sense to the New York Times!


One way to improve the Congress: We know, we know:

The New York Times is widely seen, at least among liberals and mainstreamers, as our smartest newspaper. In some areas, the Times may even do some good smart work.

But good God! The types of things which make sense to the Times! We thought we’d mention the Sunday Dialogue the paper ran last week.

In some ways, the Sunday Dialogue isn’t a half bad idea. Each Wednesday, the Times publishes an “invitation to a dialogue”—a short piece by some assistant adjunct associate professor on some issue, concern or obsession.

Readers are invited to offer reactions. On Sunday, the original piece is printed again, along with a bunch of responses.

In theory, that sounds like a decent format. But uh-oh! Last Wednesday, readers were asked to respond to this idea:

The House of Representatives should have 3,100 members, not the current 435.

No, we’re not making that up. That’s the proposal which was chosen to spark the Sunday Dialogue.

On Sunday, the first two responses ridiculed this notion. (“Hopelessly undoable.” “Perhaps the worst vision of the future I have heard.”)

After that, the Times published five responses from readers who managed to act like this proposal wasn’t absurd on its face. Then, the original author responded.

In part, she said this:

“The idea of 3,100 representatives becomes less outrageous when one considers that the House already employs 10,000 staff members.”

Reputation and marketing to the side, the New York Times is a very strange newspaper—a strange, routinely dysfunctional artifact of a new gilded age.


  1. Madison argued against the assumption that more is better:
    "Sixty or seventy men may be more properly trusted with a given degree of power than six or seven. But it does not follow that six or seven hundred would be proportionally a better depositary. And if we carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole reasoning ought to be reversed. ... In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason."

  2. So 3100 is absurd, but 435 is perfect and etched in stone? Thank goodness you didn't have to rebut this proposal with arguments or anything!

    Critics used to dismiss same-sex marriage with "It's absurd!" Women voting? "Absurd!" A B-movie actor in the White House? "Absurd!"

  3. Bob Somerby:

    Why would anyone assume that this proposal is absurd on its face?

  4. 3100 hundred may be a bit high. But 435 is rather low. We have fewer representatives than Germany, Italy, UK, France, Japan, and Spain despite the fact we have more people than any of those countries. It also is unchanged from the early 1900's when we had about a third as many people. The elections in many cases would be cheaper would be one example.

  5. Do a little Googling. The idea may or may not be absurd, but it is serious. Fundamentally, it is about making the lower house closer to the electorate. Cut down on staff, keep the elected officials at home and use modern communications technology for most of the legislating. I'm not saying I'm convinced, but as an idea it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

  6. I agree with Anonymous 1:49PM. Why is an ostensibly liberal blog against more democracy?

    1. This is basically antidemocratic ideas about elites being necessary being covered up with the usual vague whines about corruption. It would be one thing to show a system in place that you wish you could copy. This doesn't. It is literally something I came up with stoned about five years ago. This is a corporate paper getting traffic with that idea. In other words it is for their own power that they even selected the question.

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