Three ideas to limit government

Federal budget in gigantic Oreo cookies

E.D. Kain at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen wrote an intriguing post on steps we should take to the limit the ominous size and reach of our central government.

E.D.’s idea is that we can make great strides by simply reforming the legislative process. He proposes requiring legislators read bills before voting on them, standardizing the time a bill is up for review, not allowing post vote amendments, and limiting the breadth of the bill to the stated purpose (no more online gambling bans sneaking their way into port security bills).

I think these are great ideas, although I’m skeptical it would be possible to force our Congressmen and women to actually read anything that crosses their desks. Presumably there would need to be a mechanism for speeding up the process in times of crisis (e.g., appropriating funds for disaster relief), although that would leave a loophole for abuse. I would hate to have another war authorization vote without the proper time for debate.

Anyhow, I think there are some other fixes that could go a long way toward reigning in Washington:

  1. We should re-institute Pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) which requires our government actually figure out how it will pay for the programs it creates, either by raising taxes or cutting existing programs. Politicians will have to explain why their new programs are worth the sacrifices in taxes or other reductions in other programs.
  2. Publicly finance elections and remove the power big corporations and wealthy donors have over our elected officials. As it is, if you can pool enough donations together, you can have lawmakers outlaw your business competitors or write your own tax breaks. Government should not be picking winners and losers in the market.
  3. End gerrymandering of districts that allow incumbents to vote on legislation with impunity.

I’m sure you guys and gals are more clever than me, so do you have any other ideas or see any problems with mine?


  1. Ian

    More representatives per state, term limits for congressmen and senators. This would allow third parties to actually maybe gain some influence.

  2. Chris

    Welcome back Ian.

    Before we add anymore members to Congress can we get rid of the Senate first?

  3. Great ideas, Chris. Not sold yet on the public-payment for elections but I see its benefit. Why not just limit elections to four six months or something? Nobody could run for any office until six months before the vote. Nobody could collect cash until then either. I don’t know. Lots to think about though.

  4. Chris

    Shorter election and primary election seasons would limit the amount of cash that was necessary to win, but it would also leave no-name candidates with little time to build their “brand.”

    The next step is to take over a couple of states and try these ideas out 🙂

  5. Clint

    “Publicly finance elections”

    I think that point is crucial. As it is, it’s inconceivable that a candidate could run a viable election if he or she doesn’t have millions of dollars, or if he or she doesn’t woo big donors (usually from business circles).

    There are some attempts at voter-owned elections on the local level, in places like Chapel Hill.

  6. Drew L

    E.D., I think that while the limit on campaign time could be good, it will be hard to really regulate what is and isn’t campaigning. One could argue that Obama started running for president before he was even in the Senate. I just think it may be difficult to find where the line is exactly.

  7. The right to recall politicians.

    Politicians paid the same as skilled workers.

  8. Chris

    Renegade Eye,
    Would you choose the California model for recall elections?

    And what do you consider the salary of a “skilled” worker?