Would You Support a Nomadic Capital?

 

capital

Full disclosure: I have always had a bias against Washington D.C. When I was a child, we would visit family there and it was always uncomfortable.  They lived in the right neighborhood in the northwest part of town, sent their kids to the right schools, and worked at the right government agencies…but something was wrong. The odd hierarchy of the city — where there were the connected elites, the government bureaucrats, and the destitute — never sat well with me.  Additionally, the huge temples to red tape and massive monuments to politicians did not seem proper in a republic. This caused me to think at a fairly early age that it was a swamp on the Potomac in more ways than one.

As I have grown older, my belief in the inappropriateness of this piece of real estate has increased. The calcified thinking, the “temporary” government servants who have permanently changed address, and the fact that the most affluent ZIP codes in the country are there have become too much. Why is this artificial piece of no man’s land straddling two states the focus of a country of over 300 million souls?

So here is the idea: we disband Washington D.C. and have a roving, nomadic capital. We will add a few roller coasters on what is now the Capitol building and make it a “national funland” where the gate fees could help pay down the debt.  Regarding where those who govern determine our laws, the rules become as follows:

  1. The capital moves every six months
  2. No city over 50,000 in population can host the capital
  3. No permanent structures can be built for the temporary capital
  4. You do not talk about Fight Club…sorry, different post

Think traveling carnival but with more freaks gathered around the flaming garbage cans at night. When the caravan moves on it will be the circus train meets a Mad Max car chase. This would not be just the elected officials either; it would include the whole kit and caboodle, from staffers to lobbyists to think tanks to the assistant of the lead assistant of the head of the Department of Busybodies. The largest constantly moving group of people since Genghis Khan, but the ongoing travel of this horde would be shoring up civilization.

Wouldn’t this result in a healthier republic? The idea of Congress, their staff, and all the hyenas that follow them having to pack up every few months and move on brings a smile to my face. With any luck, this would discourage young people from careers in government and push them towards more productive pursuits.

This change may cause some Ricochet displacements, but they would, generally, be hilarious……..

Wouldn’t you love to hear a Hemingways podcast where they are lost in Oklahoma trying to find the new temporary seat of government, the kids are screaming “are we there yet!?” in the back, and Mollie is saying “it’s time to ask for directions” while Mark insists he knows where he is going? (please note: this is not suggesting the Hemingways are part of the problem — quite the opposite — it’s just that they live in the neighborhood)

Obviously, a moving capital wouldn’t solve all the issues of the republic. But could power be corrupted and entrenched — and could elites thrive as easily — if they shared an outhouse, had to pick up and be constantly on the move, and resided in an old refurbished Winnebago?

OK, is this idea completely implausible and even a little silly? Yes (though I would vote for it if it became proposition 5849). But we need to push the envelope more in our national discussions if we are ever to make real progress. The other side discusses outlandish ideas like maximum wages and we, being pragmatics, generally counter with, “well, eliminating the Bureau of Nonsense is probably unlikely in the next few years so let’s just cut its growth by 10%”. Unless we begin shaping the national debate with some zany ideas that capture the core of our message, we are not going to get anywhere. How has playing defense for the last 100 years worked out for us? Besides, James Pethokoukis has pointed out many times that tomfoolery is down 14% since the recession (at least, I think he has).

There are 45 comments.

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  1. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Given a few more years Robert Bird would have moved the Capital to West Virginia .

    • #1
  2. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    PHCheese:Given a few more years Robert Bird would have moved the Capital to West Virginia .

    PHC – would be a step in the right direction.  However, I’m concerned that given his 348 years in the Senate he would have moved West Virginia to Washington D.C., still, probably, an improvement.

    • #2
  3. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Hey, as they say in WV. It’s all relatives .

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    You’re thinking about this the right way.   I kind of like it, even though it’s a little different than my decades-old idea, which is to disperse the capitol.  The White House can be in one town, the Treasury in another, IRS and DOJ in yet others.   I don’t suppose that will stop the insider trading that goes on between them, such as illegal sharing of IRS returns with other agencies.  But it might slow it down a little, just like telecommuting is not quite the same as having an office near the boss’s, where you get things done in hallway conversations.

    Also, all government offices should be housed in Quonset huts.  There was a time when it wasn’t certain the United States would last long. It made sense then to erect Greek-style columned buildings to impress on people the permanence and stability of the government.  Well, at the present time nobody is worried about the permanence of our government, and pork-festivals like chromnibus show that certain aspects of it are all too stable.   So we can sell off those buildings to private owners who will use them for activities that will generate tax revenue. Quonset huts will do a lot to put our civil servants in the right frame of mind and help them to understand their role in our society.

    • #4
  5. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    Why does there need to be a physical location?  I propose moving all government functions onto the cloud.  iGoverment is the way to go.   iMplementation may be a challenge, but we put an iMan On the iMoon.

    • #5
  6. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Maybe we should out source it all to Switzerland ?

    • #6
  7. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    The Reticulator:You’re thinking about this the right way. I kind of like it, even though it’s a little different than my decades-old idea, which is to disperse the capitol. The White House can be in one town, the Treasury in another, IRS and DOJ in yet others. I don’t suppose that will stop the insider trading that goes on between them, such as illegal sharing of IRS returns with other agencies. But it might slow it down a little, just like telecommuting is not quite the same as having an office near the boss’s, where you get things done in hallway conversations.

    Also, all government offices should be housed in Quonset huts. There was a time when it wasn’t certain the United States would last long. It made sense then to erect Greek-style columned buildings to impress on people the permanence and stability of the government. Well, at the present time nobody is worried about the permanence of our government, and pork-festivals like chromnibus show that certain aspects of it are all too stable. So we can sell off those buildings to private owners who will use them for activities that will generate tax revenue. Quonset huts will do a lot to put our civil servants in the right frame of mind and help them to understand their role in our society.

    TR – I can go with the splitting up of D.C. but Chicago gets the Nationals pitchers and you get the IRS, the Cubs need the pitching.

    Disclosing my ignorance, but I had to lookup Quonset hut.  I like it!  Not sure it has the charm of the rusted Winnebago, but I’d be fine with Congress bunking there.

    • #7
  8. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    blank generation member:Why does there need to be a physical location? I propose moving all government functions onto the cloud. iGoverment is the way to go. iMplementation may be a challenge, but we put an iMan On the iMoon.

    BGM – my brother tries to talk to Steve on a Ouija board (I’ve used that one before) so all the iStuff freaks me out.  With that said, I’d take a virtual Washington over a real one……though I don’t know how a president a couple back would like the iInterns…. Sorry leader Hillary, I did not mean that

    • #8
  9. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    PHCheese:Maybe we should out sourceit all to Switzerland ?

    Too expensive!  No one outsources there need a non-union third world alternative

    • #9
  10. Max Blowen Admin
    Max Blowen
    @Max

    It would be better if Congress simply didn’t convene for more than three months a year.

    • #10
  11. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Max the Volunteer Admin:It would be better if Congress simply didn’t convene for more than three months a year.

    Max – thanks for what you are doing and I love the volunteer angle but what would they do the other 9 months?  Best we just keep these scorpions in a jar as best we can.

    • #11
  12. Max Blowen Admin
    Max Blowen
    @Max

    Pleated Pants Forever: they do the other 9 months?

    Who cares?:-P

    • #12
  13. user_435274 Thatcher
    user_435274
    @JohnHanson

    Personally, I think congress should have one 60 day session every two years, and only allow bills to be voted on and become law on the last day of the session.  Each congress person should also be limited to 2 staffers, a secretary, and an assistant, and no committee can hire anyone, just have to use the staffers of their members.  Further, one office for each, all the same size,  say 350 sq. ft.   For the staffers and the member of course, all in that same space. Further, any law can be repealed with a simple majority of the members present (not all members, just those present, and a quorum for repeal could be as small as 3 persons.  To pass a law however, would require a 2/3s majority always, in both houses.   Further, each house member would get a $1000 bonus for every law repealed, and have their salary cut by $500 for every bill passed.     The combination should make a start on shrinking the behemoth down to human size in a decade or so!

    • #13
  14. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    John Hanson:Personally, I think congress should have one 60 day session every two years, and only allow bills to be voted on and become law on the last day of the session. Each congress person should also be limited to 2 staffers, a secretary, and an assistant, and no committee can hire anyone, just have to use the staffers of their members. Further, one office for each, all the same size, say 350 sq. ft. For the staffers and the member of course, all in that same space. Further, any law can be repealed with a simple majority of the members present (not all members, just those present, and a quorum for repeal could be as small as 3 persons. To pass a law however, would require a 2/3s majority always, in both houses. Further, each house member would get a $1000 bonus for every law repealed, and have their salary cut by $500 for every bill passed. The combination should make a start on shrinking the behemoth down to human size in a decade or so!

    JH – I like it but please change 350 square feet to 100 square feet and we are in agreement.

    • #14
  15. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    Max the Volunteer Admin:It would be better if Congress simply didn’t convene for more than three months a year.

    Max – thanks for what you are doing and I love the volunteer angle but what would they do the other 9 months? ….

    Wander, as nomads are wont to do.

    If they get kicked from town to town like gypsies, the system is working.

    • #15
  16. user_428379 Thatcher
    user_428379
    @AlSparks

    Ok, it’s a tongue in cheek question.  But even if it could be pulled off, it’s a gimmick that wouldn’t change government in any meaningful way.

    For one thing, the bureaucracy wouldn’t move in any meaningful way.  There’s feds spread all over the nation.  They would be there to govern and without moving.

    • #16
  17. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    You’re taking shots at the politicians who have absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful piece of geography and magnificent architecture of D.C.

    Despite the horrendously humid summers (and I speak as a Floridian), the Metro, the stores, the restaurants, the hotels, the Smithsonian museums and the people who run them are the ultimate in civilization. I travel there as often as I can and after attending lectures at Heritage and AEI, I always make the effort to catch a ballet at the JFK Center, visit the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and pay my respects to my favorite landmark of all- the Treasury Building.

    This city makes me proud.

    • #17
  18. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Aaron Miller:

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    Max the Volunteer Admin:It would be better if Congress simply didn’t convene for more than three months a year.

    Max – thanks for what you are doing and I love the volunteer angle but what would they do the other 9 months? ….

    Wander, as nomads are wont to do.

    If they get kicked from town to town like gypsies, the system is working.

    AM and Max – OK, if the idea is they meet for 3 months in a town and then travel and scavenge for 9 months in between, I am with it

    • #18
  19. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Al Sparks:Ok, it’s a tongue in cheek question. But even if it could be pulled off, it’s a gimmick that wouldn’t change government in any meaningful way.

    For one thing, the bureaucracy wouldn’t move in any meaningful way. There’s feds spread all over the nation. They would be there to govern and without moving.

    AS – I don’t know, if they are spending more of their time on Google looking for the best place to get a beer in Hopkinsville, Kentucky next month it’s less time they have to make everyone else’s life more miserable

    • #19
  20. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EThompson:You’re taking shots at the politicians who have absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful piece of geography and magnificent architecture of D.C.

    Despite the horrendously humid summers (and I speak as a Floridian), the Metro,

    ET – Sorry, being petty as I am, you lost me on Metro.  The Metro greatly irritates me.  In Chicago, New York, or Boston the transit systems were built 100 years ago, often with private money.  The Metro is brand new and beautiful in comparison but, to me, is a symbol of the untold billions extracted from this country to subsidize DC

    • #20
  21. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Not really, but i would like to see the agencies and their remora fish contractors broken up and decentralized.  In the world of digital collaboration software and high speed networks there is no rational reason they need to be clustered in NoVA and Maryland.

    I think part of the economic redevelopment of middle america and the rust belt is to break up the concentration of rich rent seekers in the DC area and spread them around.

    Rich people flock to places with rich people stuff, and we can move the rich people around and build up a rich people infrastructure and that will trickle down.  If we are going to have the rent seekers and government employees, we need to spread it around.

    I think moving back to a regimental system and out of hte few major superbases would also be useful.  Integrate the military back into the communities etc.

    • #21
  22. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    The Reticulator: Also, all government offices should be housed in Quonset huts.

    Quonset huts are so last century.  Modified shipping containers are the 21st-century version of the Quonset hut.  Cheaper and more mobile, too.  On top of that you can convert used containers that are too battered to be used at sea anymore.

    Seawriter

    • #22
  23. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    The founding fathers had it right when they choose Washington D.C.  It was a po dunk town next to a smelly river.  Who would want to hang out there.  I think they should move to one of the worst areas in the U.S.  Either a blighted part of Detroit  (save your jokes about all of Detroit being blighted) or East St. Louis.  The urban renewal would greatly improve these cities.  Within a few years either city would be the chic place to live although it would have all the problems that plague poor areas like gentrification and horrible public education despite a huge influx of money.  It would force politicians to face the reality of what their policies have created.

    • #23
  24. SteveSc Member
    SteveSc
    @SteveSc

    Why can’t they just do a lot of this with video conferencing?  That would eliminate fundraising parties at the Palm and force them to spend time with their districts & constituents.

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Seawriter: Quonset huts are so last century. Modified shipping containers are the 21st-century version of the Quonset hut. Cheaper and more mobile, too. On top of that you can convert used containers that are too battered to be used at sea anymore.

    Office cubicles in 3d arrangements! I look forward to a new round of Dilbert cartoons.

    Only thing is, if you let them stack too high, those in the top offices get in the habit of looking down on the rest of the citizens of this country. But I imagine a stack that’s too high can get toppled, too.

    • #25
  26. 1967mustangman Inactive
    1967mustangman
    @1967mustangman

    I am not sure the traveling circus is needed just require all votes, both committee and floor votes, must be cast from home districts.  Video conferencing technology is good enough now that this could easily be done.

    • #26
  27. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Back in the summer of 2013, I spent an extended amount of time in the capital cities of both the United States and Canada. The former, Washington, has become a true imperial capital, projecting dominance, self-importance, and extravagance (as noted upthread, the DC suburbs are booming and are among the wealthiest in the nation). The latter, Ottawa, seems the true embodiment of republican virtue as envisioned by our founders. It is a city noticeably lacking in ostentatiousness. The roads are a bit shopworn, the buildings reflect a practical, utilitarian nature (the truly beautiful Parliament Hill and nearby museums being notable exceptions), and the people seem genuinely down to earth. It is rather ironic how the the capital of a constitutional monarchy should exemplify republicanism better than the capital of the Republic itself.

    • #27
  28. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    The Founding Fathers wanted the Capitol of this Republic to be grand, and it should be. DC should be a celebration of our Nation, our History, our Power. Changing the location or punishing people for getting elected is not the answer.

    The answer is to elect better people. Get the government out of our lives, and the money and crazy laws will be reduced. If it does less, as the Founders intended, it will fix itself.

    • #28
  29. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    EThompson:You’re taking shots at the politicians who have absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful piece of geography and magnificent architecture of D.C.

    Despite the horrendously humid summers (and I speak as a Floridian), the Metro,

    ET – Sorry, being petty as I am, you lost me on Metro. The Metro greatly irritates me. In Chicago, New York, or Boston the transit systems were built 100 years ago, often with private money. The Metro is brand new and beautiful in comparison but, to me, is a symbol of the untold billions extracted from this country to subsidize DC

    You have a valid point about the subsidization of the Metro, because so few people use it compared to the cattle cars in NYC. That’s why I enjoy using it- it’s clean and uncrowded. :)

    • #29
  30. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    thelonious:The founding fathers had it right when they choose Washington D.C. It was a po dunk town next to a smelly river. Who would want to hang out there. I think they should move to one of the worst areas in the U.S. Either a blighted part of Detroit (save your jokes about all of Detroit being blighted) or East St. Louis. The urban renewal would greatly improve these cities. Within a few years either city would be the chic place to live although it would have all the problems that plague poor areas like gentrification and horrible public education despite a huge influx of money. It would force politicians to face the reality of what their policies have created.

    As a native suburban Detroiter, I find this comment to be wrong in every possible way. Urban renewal will be a long time coming to this once thriving city; there isn’t a coherent, responsible work force to be found and I don’t blame politicians for one damn thing because they were elected and supported by deadbeats, derelicts, and welfare queens all along the way.

    If you haven’t lived in that hood — with all due respect — you have no idea what you’re talking about. Frankly, the area should be razed of indigent African-Americans and Muslims (see: Dearborn) who have destroyed entire neighborhoods and saddled the state with enormous entitlement burdens.

    • #30

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