For various reasons, I was rereading Meditations on Moloch today, and this leapt out at me:
14. Congress. Only 9% of Americans like it, suggesting a lower approval rating than cockroaches, head lice, or traffic jams. However, 62% of people who know who their own Congressional representative is approve of them. In theory, it should be really hard to have a democratically elected body that maintains a 9% approval rating for more than one election cycle. In practice, every representative’s incentive is to appeal to his or her constituency while throwing the rest of the country under the bus – something at which they apparently succeed.
From a god’s-eye-view, every Congressperson ought to think only of the good of the nation. From within the system, you do what gets you elected.
…if you were wondering, this is exactly why the Charter specifies that Senators should be chosen from the centuries, rather than from geographic areas, where the centuries are themselves filled by random assignment and as such contain roughly equal numbers of every clade, race, and other characteristic, roughly equally spread across all 234 worlds and innumerable subdivisions. Even if a Senator had a motivation for it (not being up for reelection), try figuring out how to serve the approximately 1.5 billion randomly distributed sophonts of the 714th Century specially relative to everyone else.