Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Next David Skarbek-esque Post: The Federalist Papers and Legislative Tenure

I always feel like fellow blogger David Skarbek when I post something that might contain academic value. (Emphasis on 'might.')

Anyhow, when I'm interested in a topic, I find it useful to break out the Federalist Papers and seeing what those three had to say on the topic. Currently, I'm interested in all things legislative tenure. Onwards!

- Federalist 39 (Madison):

"If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different formsof government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior."

"It is sufficient for such a government (MER: a republic) that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can well be organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character." (emphasis in original)

"According to all the constitutions, also, the tenure of the highest offices is extended to a definite period, and in many instances, both within the legislative and executive departments, to a period of years. According to the provisions of most of the constitutions, again, as well as according to the most respectable and received opinions on the subject, the members of the judiciary department are to retain their offices by the firm tenure of good behavior."

Nothing too surprising here. Remember, limited office is a big topic at the time-- monarchy and its indefinite rule wasn't the most popular idea at the time. It is interesting that judges pretty much get a free pass.

- Federalist 53 (Madison):

"The period of service ought, therefore, in all such cases, to bear some proportion to the extent of practical knowledge requisite to the due performance of the service."

"In a single State, the requisite knowledge relates to the existing laws which are uniform throughout the State and with which all the citizens are more or less conversant... The great theater of the United States presents a very different scene. The laws are so far from being uniform that they vary in every State...public affairs of the Union are spread throughout a very extensive region and are extremely diversified by the local affairs connected with them, and can with difficulty be correctly learned in any other place than in the central councils, to which a knowledge of them will be brought by the representatives of every part of the empire."

"...the business of federal legislation must continue so far to exceed, both in novelty and difficulty, the legislative business of a single State, as to justify the longer period of service assigned to those who are to transact it."

"A few of the members, as it happens in all such assemblies, will possess superior talents; will, by frequent re-elections, become members of long standing; will be thoroughly masters of the public business, and perhaps not unwilling to avail themselves of those advantages. The greater the proportion of new members and the less information of the bulk of the members, the more apt they will be to fall into the snares that may be laid for them."

The final quote has public choice written all over it. Should a gap develop between tenured, in-the-know legislators and the new, still-learning-the ropes legislators, then self-interested action will likely increase.

The earlier quotes in Federalist 53 concern the fact that most State constitutions at the time had tenure of representatives at one year, yet the Constitution was proposing tenures of two years.


Justin M Ross said...

I'm always struck by their unwillingness to trust what was largely their own creation - democracy. So much of what they discussed was undemocratic, in that they did not want many personal liberties (religion, speech, property) brought to a popular vote. A stark contrast to those who would have us surrender such choices to the will of the populace under the guise that it is what the Founders would have wanted.

Viagra Online said...

definitely the founders of this country had a lot of time to think in all the laws and regulations, and many times I thougth about the many laws that are totally useless.

idssinfo said...

So, I do not actually believe it is likely to work.