College of Political Knowledge
I have been watching the actions of our Congress both Senate and House, since the Clinton days and have seen just how dysfunctional the institution really is, at least in the near past…….the partisanship has made the organization a non-workable endeavor……its approval rating is dismal…..its bill success rate is in the toilet…….and most of the players appear to be nothing short of clowns in a circus……..
The next question should be….how can we as a nation find a way for our legislative branch to function more efficiently? Or is it possible at all to make it an institution worth saving?
One idea that was floated during the founding era, especially by Franklin, was a unicameral legislative system as opposed to what we have now, bicameral……
Franklin wrote Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania to record his opposition to bicameralism.
The Combinations of Civil Society are not like those of a Set of Merchants, who club [combine] their Property in different Proportions for Building and Freighting a Ship, and may therefore have some Right to vote in the Disposition of the Voyage in greater or less Degree according to their respective Contributions; but the important ends of Civil Society, and the personal Securities of Life and Liberty, these remain the same in every Member of the society; and the poorest continues to have an equal Claim to them with the most opulent [wealthy], whatever Difference Time, Chance, or Industry may occasion in their Circumstances. On these Considerations, I am sorry to See the Signs this Paper I have been considering [the proposed Pennsylvania Constitution] affords, of a Disposition among some of our People to commence an Aristocracy, by giving the Rich a predominancy [superior power] in Government, a Choice peculiar to themselves in one half the Legislature to be proudly called the UPPER House, and the other Branch, chosen by the Majority of the People, degraded by the denomination [name] of the LOWER; and giving to this Upper a Permanency of four Years, and but two to the lower.
Franklin felt that every member of society should have an equal say in the legislative branch of government. He disagreed with the theory of bicameralism that favored one chamber for the wealthy and another chamber for the rest of society. (version can be found on Yahoo Answers)……….
There are benefits to unicameralism…..can almost hear the butts slamming shut!
1. No Duplication of Work-
Law making is done through a process. If there is one house the process is followed once only. There is no repetition of the same process. So time is saved, money is saved and energy as well.
2. No Hindrance-
The people’s will is reflected in the single chamber and there is no check on progressive legislation by any reactionary or conservative second chamber. If the legislature is bicameral in nature there will be differences in the outlook of the two houses.
3. Singleness of Purpose-
When the legislature consists of only one house, singleness of purpose will be maintained. Hence, there will be no confusion in the law making process. Benjamin Franklin said: “Legislative body divided into two branches is like a carriage drawn by one horse in front and one behind pulling in opposite direction.”
4. No Divided Responsibility-
It adds to the quality and dignity of the legislators by avoiding conflict between two chambers. The single chamber is responsible for all legislative matters. There is no divided responsibility as is found in a bicameral legislature.
5. More Representative and less Expensive-
The unicameral legislature can be composed of members who are the true representatives of the people. The composition can be simple. Because it is unicameral, double expenditure for maintenance of two houses is not necessary.
The benefits sound too good to be true…….it would streamline the process and as stated it would be less expensive, something we all should aspire to in these days of looming austerity……so I return to the beginning question……Could one house be better than two?