“Should Congress be more like honeybees?” asks NPR’s Robert Krulwich

If bees ran the world, the filibuster simply wouldn’t exist, according to this report by Robert Krulwich at NPR (accompanied by charming illustrations, too!).

Bees are democrats. They vote. When a community of bees has to make a choice, like where to build a new hive, they meet, debate and decide. But here’s what they don’t do: they don’t filibuster. No single bee (or small band of bees) will stand against the majority, insisting and insisting for hours. They can’t.

Bee biology prevents it.

See, scout bees will find a location they think works for the new hive. They campaign for their location by dancing — communicating the coordinates of the site and inviting the rest of the hive to check it out.

If she feels really strongly, she will dance with extra energy, for a longer time.

Even if most of the other bees have chosen a different tree, they won’t stop her dance, or tell her to be quiet. Or have three-fifths of them invoke “cloture,” a fancy way of saying “shut up.” They will wait her out.

But what happens if the hive votes a different way? The scout bees don’t hold resentments or filibuster, they simply stop dancing  and go with the flow. Drawing heavily on the ideas of The Honeybee Democracy and the research of author Tom Seeley, Krulwich asks, “would we be better off being more beelike?”

Biologically-induced congeniality sounds like a nice alternative to what we’ve got now, a spitting, snarling mosh pit of politicians. But even so, I don’t wish a bee lobotomy on our senators.

Yes, they are petty, shortsighted blowhards too much of the time. Some have lost the art of compromise. But would I prefer the bee model? A polite, genetically induced quiet? No, I wouldn’t.

I see the advantages, but speaking as an intelligent, free willed mammal, I’m afraid their system seems a little … umm, what’s the word?


Read the complete article here, or listen in to an earlier interview with Tom Seeley.

j9267[1]You can read more of Tom Seeley’s book The Honeybee Democracy in two ways.

The complete book is available here: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9267.html

A Princeton Shorts titled The Five Habits of Highly Effective Honeybees (and What We Can Learn from Them) is also available through most major e-book retailers. Learn more about this e-book here: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9648.html