November 16, 2011 1 Comment
At this point, Rick Perry is virtually irrelevant and simply flailing around with crazy ideas, hoping something will stick and get him some attention. His proposal to turn Congress into an amateur legislation, alas, is not doing it for him. Given Perry’s current status, it hardly seems worth detailing why this is such a bad idea, but Matt Yglesias has already brought the political science to bear in doing so, so I shall pass it along as it actually worthwhile stuff to know:
…it’s obvious that the basic concept has a lot of appeal to voters. Unfortunately, it’s also a terrible idea. The basic problem is that under modern conditions, de-professionalizing a legislature tends to make it more corrupt and less responsive to either the views or objective interests of the public.
You can see this along a number of dimensions. One is that if members of Congress need to work second jobs, their business relationships will involve conflicts of interest. A second is that to the extent that earning extra income takes up more of members of Congress’ time, they’ll become more dependent on lobbyists and special interest groups for information and assistance with their projects. A third is that lower pay tends to induce legislators to retire sooner, and less-senior legislators are more dependent on lobbyists and special interest groups for information and assistance with their projects. A fourth is that to the extent you cut legislators’ pay, a larger share of the real compensation for doing legislative work is the opportunity to “cash in” after you leave office. A fifth and related consideration is that to the extent you cut legislators’ pay, a larger share of the real compensation for doing legislative work is the ability to raise PAC and campaign funds that you spend on yourself. Last, but by no means least, to the extent that you reduce the desirability of winning re-election, you encourage members of the legislature to ignore their constituents in favor of pleasing others.