Madison, in fact, attempted to fix the representative ratio at a maximum of 50,000 to 1 in the original, but rejected, first amendment. Such a ratio today would result in a 6,000-member House of Representatives. A body that large wouldn’t be able to conduct business. But with a representative ratio now reaching 750,000 to 1, Americans have lost republicanism and control of the government, at least in its current form. If the Constitution were interpreted the way the ratifiers intended — a general government for commerce and defense only — and left all domestic issues to the states (health care, education, law enforcement, etc.), then 435 members may be sufficient. But because we have drifted into “a single government over the whole United States,” we have arrived at the “unremitted despotism” that James Wilson feared. Americans understand that and the result is lower participation in the political system.
The only hope is a revival of true federalism. What Americans on the left who have legalized pot and gay marriage at the state level and on the right who have rejected Obamacare health exchanges are saying when they suggest Washington “get off our backs” is that decentralization, — “states’ rights” — is the only way to preserve liberty in America. The founding generation knew it and we are waking up to that reality. America is too big. Now is the time to take a stand.
Brion McClanahan holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of South Carolina. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History with Clyde Wilson (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes (Regnery, 2012).