1787 vs. Today

The original constitutional convention in 1787 consisted of 55 men who spent 4 months in lively debate in drafting a 4-page constitution. There were major issues to resolve such as the power of large states vs. small states, how to address slavery, the role of the federal government vs. the state governments, and how much power to grant to the people. There were strong opinions on both sides of these issues and in the end each delegate and state had to compromise to achieve the final draft of the constitution. The delegates themselves wrote the words of the constitution and there was often debate over individual words. The delegates all served at their own expense and endured a hot and muggy summer in Philadelphia in a closed room with no air conditioning.

Fast forward to today and we have strayed far from that standard for making legislation. We now spend hours or days in debate (if that) on 2000 pages of legislative language written by someone else. Our congressman all get paid for their work (and many find ways to make significantly more than their salaries), they have staffs to write their bills, and they debate in a spacious and air conditioned room. We have heard this year that many congressmen don’t even read the bills they vote on.

How do we get back to the ideals of 1787? We can start by getting rid of the staffs of our congressmen. Let them have a secretary and that is it. If they were forced to write their own bills without the benefit of a staff, then we might get more real debate and less grandstanding, shorter bills that can be understood and explained, and politicians that can be held more accountable to the people that elect them.