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Cutting Corners Erodes Freedom and Stability. Here’s my solution.

If you’re like me, you find it pretty unbelievable that people will cast a vote for someone or something without knowing who or what they are. The fact is, though, that it happens all the time. In elementary and middle-through high school elections, in college, and continuing on to local and national politics.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the same thing goes on in Congress nearly every day on incredibly important issues. After all—to these people, voting is just business as usual. Pick a “side and glide,” I call it. Sure it’s lazy, but at least it looks like things are getting done.

But here’s the difference: we elect and pay (and give incredible health care benefits) our representatives with the expectation that they will take the necessary steps to become informed on:

  1. The issues
  2. The sentiment of the people they represent in relation to those issues
  3. The laws and guiding principles of the country that should influence those issues

Why do we pay people to do this? Because although it’s imperative that the process take place, we just don’t have the time to do it ourselves.

As a remedy for our lack of time and expertise, we as citizens, delegate our voting authority to elected officials so that the necessary time and attention will be given to important matters that may affect our lives for years to come.

So when I hear that sides are being taken and votes being cast on issues and bills that haven’t even been read, as a citizen, I feel ripped off. Worse, I feel defrauded by the very people trusted to handle the job.

Would you invest your money with some dude who doesn’t watch the markets, who decides (based on nothing more than the name of the stock or bond) that he’ll just throw your money at this one or that one and hope for the best?

Would you send your children to a doctor who doesn’t bother to read patient histories, who doesn’t examine the symptoms, and who doesn’t even ask the simple yet vital questions like “where does it hurt?”

This shortcutting—voting without first understanding the issue you’re voting on—isn’t just lazy and irresponsible, it erodes freedoms by transferring power out of the hands of the people and into the hands of politicians who, without proper oversight, create or tear down laws that will inevitably affect the populous. So if politicians aren’t looking out for the best interest of their constituents, who will? Who can?

The Solution
It’s pretty simple:

My Congressional Deadbeat Remedy Act would require congresspeople to have read any piece of legislation in full before casting a vote. Although reporting would be based on the honor system (despite my suspicion that DC is void of any actual honor these says), each would be required to verbally confirm whether or not they read the legislation before casting any vote.

Instead of a simple “Yea” or “Nay,” a vote would be cast like this:

“I, Rupert Rawlings, have read this bill and cast my vote against.”


“I, Nancy Pansy, have not read this bill yet enthusiastically, and with great emotion, cast my vote for.”

Here’s the kicker: If a representative doesn’t read the bill, he can still vote. That vote, however, will be counted at 50%.

Think about how this approach would incentivise representatives to provide time for, and to actually read the bills that they seem so passionate about.

If you care about the issue, you’ll do your homework and come prepared to cast an intelligent vote. If you don’t, take the 50% and rely on your colleagues to do their jobs for you.

It’s not a perfect solution. I doubt anything can really cure the human condition of laziness and blind dis/obedience—especially in politics. But it’s clear that we would all benefit from representatives who, instead of cutting the corners, read the bills and ask the questions including “where does it hurt?”


1 Brett { 09.24.09 at 10:12 am }

Oh, I forgot- I need a sponsor for my bill. Any takers (assuming you actually read the post)?

2 Dave { 09.24.09 at 12:41 pm }

The only problem I see with this is that everyone will just keep doing what they’re doing, get a 50% vote and nothing will change.

Instead, I think there should be a financial penalty for not reading it. As you pointed out, that’s their job after all.

3 Brett { 09.24.09 at 12:51 pm }

That’s the thing—because some people really do care about the issues and whether they pass or not, they would be the ones to read the bill. Essentially, we’d be weighting the votes which would mean that some representatives would be seen as more valuable, which would motivate them to actually do their jobs.

Not only that, but citizens would be able to see how much attention they paid to the issues and to their job in general (how many 100% vs 50% votes), then base their voting for incumbents on that.

Good point about their jobs. If I just decided not to read the documents that are sent to me, there’s no way I’d be able to keep my job. I like the financial penalty idea.

@cboyack also has a good idea:

“Interesting idea, but I still think Congress should take a quiz on each bill before voting on it to demonstrate they have read it. Heck, make it 50 questions (given the avg. bill’s length) and make it open book, on their own time. That’ll force them to read.

4 Dave { 09.24.09 at 9:36 pm }

Good points and I really like cboyack’s idea, too.

That’s it. Brett, you need to run for office. I’ll vote for you.

5 Eric { 09.25.09 at 7:11 am }

It’s good. I think that a follow up piece of legislation would introduce 2 term limits to all senators and congressmen, and they no longer get to decide what their pay is. Rather their pay should be the average income for the state that they represent. There shouldn’t be a financial incentive to run for any office.

6 Brett { 09.25.09 at 9:54 am }

Dave- not a chance. You know I hate politics.

Awesome idea Eric. I fully support term limits in every office (including supreme court justices), and your average income idea is genius! I vote for Eric, and I hope Dave will throw his support behind you, too 🙂