Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Span of Control in Washington

On Monday, April 15 (Patriot’s Day), we’ll discuss how the country, and therefore the demands on Washington legislators, have changed since the “Founding Fathers” drafted the Constitution.

In particular, since the size, scale and scope of the nation have grown, and Federal control of each citizen has also grown, legislators’ (and judges’ and Executive Branch members’) “span of control” has grown dramatically—well beyond what any one person can fathom.

Should this increased complexity be reflected in changes to our constitution and laws? For example:

  • As our 535 legislators have become (understandably) reliant on experts (lobbyists) to help them navigate the complexity, how should lobbyist influence be managed? Are current laws adequate? Do we need more control? Or different control mechanisms?
  • Recognizing that no legislator will ever become expert in everything under their control, should we accept and recognize that fact by establishing reasonable term limits? What maximum term seems most appropriate? What benefits would there be? What detriments? How might term limits be accomplished?
  • In a similar vein, is it time to reconsider the lifetime appointments of Federal judges (and justices)? Net-net, is this unlimited tenure a good or bad thing for the country? Is the fact that it is now “topical” mostly a reaction to President Trump’s appointments, or has increasing desire for judicial term limits been a consistent trend across time?

By the way, here are two “good reads” from the New York Times published over the course of the last week. We’ve touched on these topics many times, and they struck me as being reasonably balanced. Others may (will) disagree:

The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World (NYT Magazine, 4/9/19)

Would ‘Medicare for All’ Save Billions or Cost Billions? (NYT 4/10/19)

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