Thursday, May 29, 2003
The 17th Amendment and the 21st Century
IMHO one of the biggest problems with the US right now is the 17th Amendment. It's a case of too much democracy.
Senators were originally appointed by the State Legislatures so that they represented the individual States as entities.
This kept local issues local, as they should be, and also facilitates the experimental social laboratory effect: a bad policy in one state, trying a novel solution to an emergent problem, won't screw up the entire country, and as solutions are explored, the best competing solution or three will spread to be adopted most places.
With more and more at the Federal level since the 17th Amendment (so that voters are suseptible to the same media onslaughts as House elections, also making electing Senators vulnerable to the same large, national business and other interests as House elections), a mistake in one area now effects the entire nation at once.
The beauty of the original system is that in the House, the People all decided how much taxation pain they would accept to implement the policies of the educated, business leaders, intellectual elites and religious leaders that the upper house of the Senate represented. Our Aristocratic nature if you will. Those elites from each State probably CAN figure out solutions to complex national and foreign policy problems better, and will represent the views and experience of experiments in State legislatures with related problems.
But the People in the House can shoot down anything they don't like, and have to start funding bills. This is where the masses set the threshold of how much pain they will take, and hence which adventures of the upper class they will put up with. The rich and our elites have more to lose individually if our survival is threatened, and hence are given control over treaties, and must be older, and HOPEFULLY more wise, and hence also approve judges that the President nominates.
It's genius, truly.
The 17th Amendment was a result of the Progressive Movement in the late 19th century. Their original motivation was sound, as concentrated railroad and other monopoly industries had corrupted the Senate, since the amount of money newly flowing to otherwise previously backwater areas now available due to the Industrial Revolution was staggering.
Further evolution of Capitalism, in the form of labor unions, diversification of industry after the first flush of the Industrial Age, and movement into a service economy with the beginning of the Information Age at the advent of the 20th Century, later removed most of the factors that the 17th Amendment addressed. It served the function of shaking things up enough to address those issues.
But now with modern mass media, the same large interests can influence popular votes in all states at once, and once again large powers are influencing both chambers at once, and with both Houses in the pocket of 2 static parties in favor of a large govternment (especially with the stretching of the Commerce Clause to death since the New Deal), the experimental laboratory of Federalism has been destroyed.
Novel solutions to such issues as the Drug War and the decline of education all at once at the National level are far too frightening and risky, as a mis-step would be disaster everywhere all at once if unforseen consequences arise causing failure, hence nothing new is tried.
Abuse of States Rights to try to hold onto Jim Crow laws in the era of the civil rights movement have made us fear the diversity of our morals, and quest for absolute solutions in other area's where moral disagreement, but not absolute truth, will ever reign. Tragic missteps on the way to increased, uniform Liberty have made us gun shy about reasonable differences to other moral problems. Our different sub-cultures will each favor and emphasize different tradeoffs in which liberies they value most. This has historically been one of our greatest sources of strength in many sphere's of life.
We should embrace and not fear the fact that will will find different solutions to problems in different regions of our great Nation, this is a fundamental bedrock of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
We should in these trying times return to the Federal nature of our great Republic. Democracy is a required ingredient for Liberty, but not a be all end all in itself. Liberty also requires diversity and choice.
Fair whether Federalism is the only kind you see: the left wants states rights for the Drug War end-game, the right is terrfied of it there.
The left is terrified of it for abortion, while flyover country insists on it.
The left wants only total disarmament of the populace, and the NRA won't budge.
The Right wants it for vouchers and affirmative action, and the Left wants PC orthodoxy at Universities.
We have fallen into the Tyranny of Uniformity.
Most are aware of the Tyranny of the Majority in democracies, but the Tyranny of Uniformity that we have entered with increased Federal power is now strangling us as a People.
Returning more powers to the States will also allow Federal taxes to be lowered, and State taxes to be increased, as needed, to pay for what people in each State value most. Defense, foreign relations and international trade will always be best done collectively, drawing on the strengths that our different regions and approachs to life posses. All choices in the above issues have positive and negative tradeoffs in their opposing views, and we should glory in our amazing differences.
Repealing the 17th Amendment will help re-establish the Laboratory of the American Experiment, and allow ALL of us to regain more of our freedom, of the types of freedom that are best for each of us. We can choose which freedoms are most important to us personally, and express them by choosing where to live. What we want will conflict, that is why the Framers allowed each part of the country to develope socially in the ways that suited it, while pooling our great diversity and making it our strength in business and national defense.
The 21st Century demands that the Laboratory be reopened. The difficulty of the challenges listed above, not to mention the coming ones from the dawning bio-genetic and nanotech revolutions, CAN'T be left to the disasterous winds of chance that uniform national failure in any of these area's can abide.
The State Legislatures have a pulse on the interests and morals of their local people.
Retake Life America!
Repeal the 17th Amendment.
Prompted by Brail Fertilizer on this weeks Carnival of the Vanities at Dean's World.
posted by David 5/29/2003 03:54:00 AM
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