The selected writings below are considered highly useful in understanding the U.S.
Senate in its operations, and in its relation to the U.S. Government. There is a vast amount of information
that has been written about our governmental system, its foundations, subsequent modifications, and
problems. However, many of these writings are peripheral to our focus. The writings listed below are
central to our understanding.
What is our focus?
We cannot know everything which seems pertinent to our intent, including the history of the U.S. Senate.
Moreover, it is easy to become side-tracked from our focus, since much of this history is quite
interesting, and seems valuable. And it may be hard to separate problem symptoms from problem
sources. As much as possible, we want to remain focused on the sources, the real causes of the
problems, and deal with those which can be changed. In the course of our analysis, we want to learn
- understand the Senate process
- detect important problems in its present functioning
- suggest some solutions to these problems
What do we want to learn?
Given the above knowledge, we will be better prepared to identify current problems, and better able to
separate symptoms from causes of problems in Senate operations.
- the founders' initial design and intent for the Senate
- consider modifications to the Senate since its founding
- understand the Senate's current 'Rules and Procedures'
- understand how these rules and procedures are used to stall the legislative process
Of what value is a simulation?
Our use of the Senate Simulation, with its several different possible legislative bill topics, should help
us to think about the effect of possible changes to the system. The present simulation was not designed to do
'what-if' analysis, which would allow for changes in the structure before running a simulation session.
However, as the current simulation is an attempt to represent the actual Senate proceedings, and as the
legislative bill options are either currently being considered, or have recently been considered by the
Senate, perhaps we can reasonably imagine consequences of changes.
Unintended consequences of changes are forever the enemy, but improvement is unlikely without attempts at
it. Experiments will surely be necessary. Consequently, we will try to become aware of attempts
by U.S. states and by other democracies and republics to effect relevant improvements in their legislative
processes, and to learn from their efforts.
The Federalist Papers
essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Essays written in 1787-88. 483 pages
(Bantam Books edition).
This collection remains important partly because the essays (all published under the pseudonym 'Publius')
were written to explain and promote the proposed new Constitution; to replace the existing Articles of
Confederation (written and adopted during the Revoluitionary War). As such, the essays reveal
much of the founders' reasoning for the basic government structure we have today. Additionally, they
reveal that these authors were uncommonly bright and 'well-read' people; their writings concerning:
help us, over 200 years later, to understand and to evaluate the effectiveness of our existing government.
- separation of powers
- balance of powers
- checks and balances
Though Alexander Hamilton wrote most of the essays in the Federalist Papers collection, and was
deeply concerned that the new Constituion be adopted, he was so unhappy with the proceedings during the
Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia that he left, and never returned until the proposed
Constitution was completed.
The Anti-Federalist Papers,
edited by Ralph Ketchum. 406 pages (Signet Classic Edition).
Though this book is not as well-known as The Federalist Papers, it provides an excellent collection of letters,
essays, etc. current to the time of the writing of the U.S. Consititution. These writers also wrote
under pseudonyms, such as 'The Federal Farmer', John DeWitt, Cato, and Brutus. In
addition to anti-Federalist writings, the book contains speeches by Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry,
and much, much more of high value to understanding the arguments concerning government structure.
In general, writers/thinkers known as 'Federalists' favored a strong central government, assigning
power to it previously held by the states (former colonies). Writers/thinkers known as 'Anti-Federalists'
were especially concerned that the new central government be as limited in power and scope as feasible.
Miracle in Philadelphia
Catherine Drinker Bowen, 1966. 310 pages.
Arguably one of the best medium-length histories of the writing of the U.S. Constitution during the Constitutional Convention
of 1787 in Philadelphia. Particularly impressive is the comparison between the submitted proposals at the beginning of
the convention, and the final document.
The resulting proposed Constitution involved months of argument, listening, and compromise in a hot,
un-conditioned building in summer. The author makes clear both the patience of listening, and the passion of
differing beliefs as the members struggled to develop an operational document for the new nation and succeeded.
She lays out for us a prime example of successful collaboration among differing dedicated, intelligent persons.
Senate Procedure And Practice
Martin B. Gold (2nd Edition), 2008. 278 pages.
This book is not really a pleasant nor an easy read, but includes information relevant to understanding
(discussion of the functioning Senate Rules and Procedures) how a body of representatives can meet
regularly, be seemingly well organized, and yet fail to deal satisfactorily with the legislative
needs of their country.
Books by Barbara Sinclair, Professor Emeritus of
Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Professor Sinclair's books provide a rigorous academic analysis of changes in the United States Legislature during
the period from the 1950's to the present (Circa 2013). Her analysis provides a basis (with metrics) for
understanding changes in senator behavior and possibly using that basis for predicting senators' behavior given
theoretical changes in rules and Procedures. She provides metrics of Senate behavior for different time periods,
and makes some comparisons of this behavior relative to expectations from formal game theory (see Robert Axelrod's
The Evolution of Cooperation). Sinclair's writings are also not easy reading, but thorough,
and possibly provide the foundation for logical changes in Senate Rules and Procedures.
The American Senate: An Insider's
- The Transformation of the U.S. Senate, 1989, 216 pages
- Party Wars: Polarization and the Politics of National Policy Making, 2006, 369 pages
- Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the US Congress, (4th Edition) 2011, 276 pages
, Neil MacNeil and Richard A. Baker, 2013. 455 pages.
An excellent, readable history of the U.S. Senate, including the impact of individual personalities on the functioning of
the Senate, both senators and presidents. It documents changes in rules and procedures, and the circumstances
surrounding these changes. Also, the author addresses widely recognized problems such as money and politics,
the search for individual power, and the election of mediocre Senate leaders, etc. An excellent, quite
thorough book on the U.S. Senate to date.
American National Government;
Institutions, Policy, and Participation
, Robert S. Ross (3rd Edition), 1993.
477 pages + the Constitution.
An exceptional book for understanding the U.S. national/federal government. Easy to read, to understand, and is
comprehensive. One may think she/he has considerable understanding of our government, until reading this one.
This 3rd Edition book is a university-level text Dr. Ross used in his classes while serving as head of the Political Science
Department at Chico State University in California. Good instructors use feedback from students, both direct and
via testing, to modify instruction methods and materials. This process can lead to excellent learning material,
which is the case in this book. Useful for both reference and for basic understanding.