This article, based on the author’s book, Heavy Lifting: The Job of the American Legislature (CQ Press, 2004), explores the factors that indicate whether a legislature is “good” or not. Neither a legislature’s appearance, structure, nor it’s product ought to be considered indicative. A legislature’s performance of its principal functions is what counts. Legislatures do best at representing constituencies and constituents, next best at lawmaking, and least well at balancing the power of the executive. Critical to legislative performance of the latter two functions are leadership and standing committee systems.