So Yesterday Was A Pretty Wild Day

Yesterday felt a lot like the bizarro world; in the words of George Costanza, I was spotting dimes and eating onions.  I had a job interview that went surprisingly well.  I had lunch in Boston and paid 15 bucks to park in a garage for twenty minutes.  I nearly talked myself into seeing The A-Team.  I got one of my contacts knocked out by some old guy in a men’s league basketball game, and the Celtics got blown out of the water by the Lakers.  Just a weird day.  Somewhere in the midst of all that,  I wrote a blog called “11 Things That (Inexplicably) Continue To Exist.”  Before I left for my basketball game, I checked the stats to see what kind of buzz the post was getting.  I was expecting twenty, maybe thirty views.  So imagine my surprise when I saw I had three-hundred views and nineteen comments.  I didn’t figure out what was going on until later that night, when I checked WordPress at halftime of the Celts game and saw that my blog had made WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” selections.

First of all, I have to thank WordPress.com.  As they say on their homepage, there are 288,897 bloggers out there, so to get recognized out of that group is really special.  I also want to thank everyone who took the time to read or comment on any of my posts.  I appreciate it.  Finally, I have to thank all of my older readers, from the Facebook community and otherwise, for reading, commenting, and giving me ideas. 

I’m not used to getting so many comments, so let me address a few things that people brought up.  I’m not going to lie, if I had known this post was going to be viewed 5,000 times, I probably would have edited it a bit and changed some stuff around. 

-The point of the blog was to express my amazement over the continued existence of some things that I consider outdated, not to advocate for the immediate elimination of these objects.  In other words, I don’t think people should start burning their VHS collections or throw out their old calculators, I just am amazed that things like VHS tapes and phonebooks are still being produced regularly. 

-Probably my biggest regret was putting home phones on the list.  People brought up good points about them, mainly the fact that in rural areas cell phone connectivity is spotty.  So yeah, home phones will be around for a while, just in my particular situation and for my generation, I don’t think they make a ton of sense.  For people just getting out of college, who probably are not going to be making a lot of money and who have college loans to pay, paying an additional amount of money to keep a landline you hardly use.  Funny story actually; my freshman year of college my mom bought me a landline for my dorm room.  I didn’t know she had bought it, so when I was setting up my room on the first day of school, out popped the landline.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that no one was going to be calling my dorm room phone, so that thing sat next to my computer all of freshman year.  I love you, mom.

-Ok, so I might be underrating phone cards a bit as well.  Their apparent popularity, though, is more about the outrageous fees placed on making international calls than it is about the merits of a phone card, which I still don’t think are very efficient.

-The most controversial items on the list were the Senate and the Electoral College.  People had some really well-reasoned, articulate reasons as to why these institutions are useful.  But the fact remains that both of these things place real limitations on democracy in America.  Growing up, we’re all taught about the beauty of American democracy.  History classes are filled with tales of the great men who founded America, how they cobbled together a country out of a loosely aligned coalition of states, how the brilliance of the Founding Fathers is everlasting, etc. etc. 

And there is some truth in that.  The Founding Fathers were a special group of guys.  But what doesn’t get mentioned, what you find out later as your knowledge of history begins to fill out and you take off the rose-tinted glasses, is that the Constitutional Convention, which more than anything else shaped and continues to shape the United States of America, was kind of a mess.  At the time, the “United States” was operating under the Articles of Confederation, a vague set of guidelines that were routinely ignored by the states (or colonies in the parlance of the British).  Getting down a system of rules and creating an efficient way to run the country was a Herculean task, especially in the days before the internet *winks*.  The document that emerged, the Constitution, is the oldest written document still in use as law by any nation.  Amazingly, it’s been amended only 27 times in the 227 years since it became law.  They did a great job, is what I’m trying to say.

However, the fact is that the Senate was really created as a way to appease the smaller states.  It was a compromise, not unlike the Three-Fifths Compromise which declared that slaves count as 3/5ths of a person for representation purposes.  The Senate seems fair in theory; there’s 50 states, why not give each one of them 2 Senators?  If people could remove their reverence for the Constitution, though, I think it would be apparent that it actually hinders democracy by letting a minority of people have such a momentous sway over public policy.

The electoral college is another issue that has always been controversial.  I am of the opinion that a system which allows a minority of people to decide the next leader of the country should be, if not abolished, then at least altered.  I mentioned this in the comments section, but a system where the percentage of a candidate’s popular votes are used to calculate the number of electoral votes would be an improvement.  In other words, if Obama got 60 percent of the popular votes in MA, he would get 60 percent of the electoral votes (which would be about 7 of MA’s 12 votes).  This would have a number of positive impacts, but the primary positive change would be that it would eliminate the all-or-nothing nature of the current electoral college.  I also belive it would create more transparency during campaign season.  Candidates today have to walk on eggshells and can’t express a strong opinion for fear of alienating swing votes in battleground states.  I remain optimistic that with all the smart people in America, someone will find a way to change this outdated system in my lifetime.   

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, here are some sources that on the electoral college, the Constitution, and democracy in America that were both informative and enjoyable reads:

Amy, Douglas.  Behind The Ballot Box: A Citizen’s Guide To Voting Systems.  <amazon.com/Behind-Ballot-Box

Dahl, Robert.  How Democratic is the American Constitution?  <http://www.amazon.com/Democratic-American-Constitution-Professor-Robert/dp/0300092180

Rosenfeld, Richard.  What Democracy?  The Case for Abolishing The U.S. Senate.  <http://www.harpers.org/archive/2004/05/0080035

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Alright, that’s it for me.  Thanks again to everyone for reading and leaving comments.  If you want to become a fan on Facebook, check out the link to the right.  Have a good day!

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~ by fc13 on June 16, 2010.

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