Most of this post is housekeeping, but let me make a minor Senate/filibuster point first:
As I’ve written many times, those who want to reform the filibuster tend to overlook the two key problems of a filibuster-less contemporary Senate. First, it would still be malapportioned. Second, it would almost certainly function like the House, in which minority amendments that could command floor majorities would be shut out by agenda setting rules of the majority party. And so it has never been clear to me that the status quo Senate could be improved by turning it into a small, malapportioned House with long terms. (As usual, I caveat this by saying I’m in favor of filibuster reform for nominations; but I think that’s clearly a different issue).
But that’s just the instant analysis. One bigger institutional point is that there are some tree branches you can’t back out of once you’ve gone down them. It’s virtually unthinkable that the Senate will not retain its malapportioned character over the coming generations. You have to accept that as fact. And therefore you also have to accept that comparisons to popularly apportioned parliamentary systems are inherently weak. It doesn’t really matter if majoritarian popular legislatures work in England or Germany or the South side of the Capitol building, because you can’t get there from here.
That’s a message for both institutional designers and institutional reformers, although it speaks slightly differently to each. To the former, it’s a question of care; decisions about institutional design — be it a government or a fantasy football league, become sticky very quickly, and can foreclose future change. To the reforms, it speaks to working in the word of the possible. I completely agree with anyone who says that we would never create the current American legislative branch if we were starting today. But that’s the point. We aren’t in the position of institutional design on a blank slate; we’re in a situation of potential institutional reform.
Anyway, on to the housekeeping:
Apologies for the lack of posts this week. Unfortunately, circumstances are conspiring such that 2 posts or so a week may be more the norm than my previous pace.
For one, I’m running out of low-hanging fruit; after a couple hundred posts, I don’t really have many obvious and moderately-fresh bullets left chambered and ready in the institutional politics shotgun. So keeping up a daily pace would almost certainly result in reduced quality.
Of course, one way to prevent reduced quality is to be more responsive to current events. The problem for me there is that I work in legislative branch, and blogging more about day-to-day politics quickly crosses into questionable territory, if not outright conflict of interest with my job. Or worse, devolves into partisan writing, which is the last place I want (or am allowed) to venture.
As this blog has gotten modestly more popular, it has become tougher and tougher to stay 100% on the appropriate side of those lines. As much as I try to keep my writing institutional, I feel it sliding these directions; hopefully, a lighter pace will solve that problem.
The last two pieces of the puzzle are somewhat happier. The novel I’ve been working on for the better part of 5 years is once again occupying a fair amount of my time, and may actually end up somewhere besides the desk drawer of my study. I’ve also returned to semi-serious running and road racing. I don’t see any sub-18 minute 5k’s in my near future, but I’m putting in more miles/week than I have in years.
Of course, I don’t want to give any regular readers the idea that I’m hanging it up; quite to the contrary. But my plan for the next few months, at least, is something like a Tuesday/Thursday publication schedule.
Besides, I don’t know a damn thing about elections, and that’s what you are going to want to be reading for the next six months.
See you Tuesday.