Congress vs. the Commons

More from this brilliant interview with Lawrence Lessig:

If you started in 1794 and looked at our Congress, and compared it to the House of Commons, the two would look pretty much the same—you have people sitting in a room for five or six hours a day while they’re in session,debating with each other, arguing about the ideas. Not necessarily that it’s the greatest of the arguments but they’re trying to do what you imagine a deliberative body would do—deliberate. Jump ahead to today, the House of Commons doesn’t look that much different, you still have sessions where everybody’s sitting there and debating, and they have question time where there’s real activity.

But switch to C-SPAN covering the U.S. Congress and it’s a completely different picture. You can’t see it, because they don’t allow the camera to pan around, but the hall is empty, people coming to speak just to C-SPAN—they’re not speaking to each other—all of the activity of negotiation and deliberation is done outside the chamber; there’s no deliberation, so you just have to ask, “Why did we create a Congress?” The framers didn’t sit down and set up a Congress so they could imagine these 535 independent contractors all arbitraging fundraising opportunities. If that’s what the institution is, then let’s just shut it down.

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