The Congressional Throughput Problem: Do We Need More People in Congress?

The Congressional Throughput Problem: Do We Need More People in Congress?

One of the most fascinating topics I studied in Engineering school was Queuing theory. It had me constantly thinking about throughput, bottlenecks, and queues.

In physics, we learn that many innovations have are simply impossible to build because the available known materials at hand can’t accommodate their own weight and a variety of other reasons. It’s really hard to get a material of sufficiently high tensile strength.

As a consummate optimist, I like to believe that congressional folks join congress in the belief that they can help things move forward and improve.

I think we might have a fundamental problem that has little to do with the intentions of congress and everything to do with the existence of a practical limitation on Representatives and Senators.

After some technical observation, I found the following to be interesting:

Congressional Metrics


  • 100 senators immutably.
  • 435 House Representatives immutably.
  • From 1950- 2010 the population grew from 150M to 310M.
  • 1 representative = 345,000 constituents in 1950
  • 1 representative = 712,000 constituents in 2010

Time Required to Meet Every Constituent.

In a year if a representative was to meet every constituent, this would allow them to meet with every constituent as follows.

  • In 1950–91 seconds
  • In 2010- 44 seconds

This is a fundamental problem and has always been one.

Capital Raising

  • “House members, on average, each raised$1,689,580, an average of $2,315 every day during the 2012 cycle.” — Source
  • “Senators, on average, each raised $10,476,451, an average of $14,351 every day during the 2012 cycle.”— Source
  • “Over the last several decades, the number of bills passed by Congress has declined: In 1948, Congress passed 906 bills.” — Source
  • “In 2006, it passed only 482.” — Source
  • “At the same time, the total number of pages of legislation has gone up from slightly more than 2,000 pages in 1948 to more than 7,000 pages in 2006. (The average bill length increased over the same period from 2.5 pages to 15.2 pages.)” — Source

A Lack of Scientific Competency

What’s worse is that the average scientific competency of a senator and congressmen is admittedly low despite the rampant increase in the amount of technology being released into the world.


P(win congress seat|you raise enough money) = high
P(lose|can’t raise money)=high

P(spent time talking to constituents|win)= low
P(win|talk to a lot of your constituents)=low

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