U.S. Population Increase and Representative Democracy

August 20, 2012

According to the U.S. Census bureau, in 1790 the United States had 3.9 million persons in 13 states from Maine to South Carolina.  New York City had a population of 33,000.

Today, the nation has 308 million people, and New York City has a population of 8.2 million.  In other words, the Mayor of New York answers to more than double the constituents that George Washington did as President of the United States at the time the Constitution was ratified.

A small number of people produced a great document that currently governs a far greater number of people.  However, at the time that the Constitution was passed, the government was necessarily closer to its people because each representative had a much smaller constituency to please.  Has the nation out-grown the constitution, not in principles but in sheer representative force?  No doubt the refrain “I’m going to write a letter to my Congressman” carries even less weight than it used to.  Should the states be divided up for federal purposes, so that perhaps even each county receives a senator?

While such a change may sound radical and unfathomable, it might pose a beneficial check to the dual-party system imposed on the nation.


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