Do we have enough  or do we have too many politicians? This is a quantity not quality issue. Here are my notes … 

  1. How strong is the case for reducing the number of MPs (, the authors, Lewis Baston and Stuart Wilks-Heeg, say, “In this short paper, we pose three important questions in relation to the government’s own rationale for reducing the number of MPs. First, is the House of Commons is really ‘too big’? Second, is the number of MPs really growing, and without justification? Third, will reducing the number of MPs really save money?”
  2. The More the Merrier? Choosing the optimal number of representatives in modern democracies by Auriol and Gary-Bobo. They say, “Having too few members of parliament means parliament is likely to be un-representative, but it seems that having too many makes it easy for vested interests to buy influence. Simple logic suggests that the optimal number of MEPs should be proportional to the square root of the population. Empirical work suggests that nations with a much higher number of MEPs tend to be plagued by red-tape and corruption. They authored a paper, “On the optimal number of representatives” in which they pose their optimal number rule.

I also found this on how local politicians are to their constituencies, in short, the percentage of MPs elected within their region of birth in 2015 was 47% when the stats were polled.

Elements of this issue have been explored in two blog articles, by me,

One Person, One Vote



Baston & Wilks-Heeg, say that the UK is under provided with elected politicians, Arnold & Gary-Bobo say that the UK is marginally over provided, while the USA is dramatically under-provided but they are wedded to their sq. root rule which I for one have not bought into, yet, maybe? Did Arnold and Gaqry-Bobo write more than one white paper? See also this at Springer Link, which also exposes the abstract and this at Researcdh Gate which downloads a .pdf.

The footnote to the Arnold & Gary-Bobo says,

The classic work on these questions is J. Buchanan and G. Tullock (1962), “The calculus of consent”, University of Michigan Press. On voting theory, see Austen-Smith and Banks (1999), “Positive Political Theory”, University of Michigan Press; see also H. Moulin (1988), Axioms of Cooperative Decision-Making, Cambridge University Press. On recent developments of the “Public Choice” literature, see Mueller (2003), “Public Choice III”, Cambridge University Press. Our own paper is available at; as far as we know, our argument for the “square-root formula”, based on Mechanism Design, is new.

The Calculus of Consent has a wikipedia page and has been developed/critiqued, for instance, here by Dougherty & Edward. which has an abstract. This all takes us into Pareto analysis with a trade off between external costs and decision making costs. This in some of the further writing takes to pareto theory and the k-majority rule, whatever that is. Maybe some more to read!

Democratic Audit have published a precis  on committee sizes by Alex Marland, in which he says,

the formula for calculating the number of members of a legislature is more political symbolism than it is mathematical equation.

He also refers to the cube root rule, which argues that the ideal representative body should be the cube root of its population. This makes the UK too large, (411) and Lewisham Council bang on at sixty four. (Cube roots are hard to calculate long hand, but this site does it for you.) How popular is the 3√ rule and why is it proposed? Marland also talks about what in the UK is called the executive ‘payroll vote’, which implies larger assemblies.

Cutting the size of a parliament: we should consider process and resources not just numbers

What about the Unions?

We might be informed by the size of large Union conferences? GMB with about 650,000 members has ~520 delegates and USDAW’s rules imply a conference of around 900. I am looking for the rest of the TU numbers through informal sources.

4 Replies

  1. I added some more links today, including more sources for Arnold & Gary-Bobo and the LSE article on locality.

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