« Obama's Housing Plan: The Second Time As Farce | Main | The Ideology of Stimulus Refusal »

February 22, 2009

Comments

"In appointing Senators, state legislators would have all kinds of incentives to engage in corruption in exchange for a Senate appointment. And because those incentives are there – and because we must assume people will be bad when thinking of constitutional structure – corruption would inevitably occur."

Of course, that's what happened, and why the Seventeenth Amendment was passed and ratified.

[...] In response, Congress passed a law in 1866 regulating how and when senators were elected in each state. This was the first change in the process of senatorial elections created by the Founders. The law helped but did not entirely solve the problem, and deadlocks in some legislatures continued to cause long vacancies in some Senate seats.

Intimidation and bribery marked some of the states' selection of senators. Nine bribery cases were brought before the Senate between 1866 and 1906. In addition, forty-five deadlocks occurred in twenty states between 1891 and 1905, resulting in numerous delays in seating senators. In 1899, problems in electing a senator in Delaware were so acute that the state legislature did not send a senator to Washington for four years.

The impetus for reform began as early as 1826, when direct election of senators was first proposed. In the 1870s, voters sent a petition to the House of Representatives for a popular election. From 1893 to 1902, momentum increased considerably. Each year during that period, a constitutional amendment to elect senators by popular vote was proposed in Congress, but the Senate fiercely resisted change, despite the frequent vacancies and disputed election results. In the mid-1890s, the Populist party incorporated the direct election of senators into its party platform, although neither the Democrats nor the Republicans paid much notice at the time. In the early 1900s, one state initiated changes on its own. Oregon pioneered direct election and experimented with different measures over several years until it succeeded in 1907. Soon after, Nebraska followed suit and laid the foundation for other states to adopt measures reflecting the people's will. Senators who resisted reform had difficulty ignoring the growing support for direct election of senators.

After the turn of the century, momentum for reform grew rapidly. William Randolph Hearst expanded his publishing empire with Cosmopolitan, and championed the cause of direct election with muckraking articles and strong advocacy of reform. Hearst hired a veteran reporter, David Graham Phillips, who wrote scathing pieces on senators, portraying them as pawns of industrialists and financiers. The pieces became a series titled "The Treason of the Senate," which appeared in several monthly issues of the magazine in 1906. These articles galvanized the public into maintaining pressure on the Senate for reform.

Treason Of The Senate:
[...] The combination of bribery and party prejudice is potent everywhere; but there come crises when these fail "the interests" for the moment. No storm of popular rage, however, could unseat the senators from Rhode Island. The people of Rhode Island might, as a people and voting almost unanimously, elect a governor; but not a legislature. Bribery is a weapon forbidden those who stand for right and justice—who "fights the devil with fire" gives him choice of weapons, and must lose to him, though seeming to win. A few thousand dollars put in the experienced hands of the heelers, and the senatorial general agent of "the interests" is secure for another six years.

The Aldrich machine controls the legislature, the election boards, the courts—the entire machinery of the "republican form of government." In 1904, when Aldrich needed a legislature to reelect him for his fifth consecutive term, it is estimated that carrying the state cost about two hundred thousand dollars—a small sum, easily to be got back by a few minutes of industrious pocket-picking in Wall Street. . . .

And the leader, the boss of the Senate for the past twenty years has been—Aldrich! . . .

The greatest single hold of "the interests" is the fact that they are the "campaign contributors"—the men who supply the money for "keeping the party together," and for "getting out the vote." Did you ever think where the millions for watchers, spellbinders, halls, processions, posters, pamphlets, that are spent in national, state and local campaigns come from? Who pays the big election expenses of your congressman, of the men you send to the legislature to elect senators? Do you imagine those who foot those huge bills are fools? Don't you know that they make sure of getting their money back, with interest, compound upon compound? Your candidates get most of the money for their campaigns from the party committees; and the central party committee is the national committee with which congressional and state and local committees are affiliated. The bulk of the money for the "political trust" comes from "the interests." "The interests" will give only to the "political trust." And that means Aldrich and his Democratic (!) lieutenant, Gorman of Maryland, leader of the minority in the Senate. Aldrich, then, is the head of the "political trust" and Gorman is his right-hand man. When you speak of the Republican party, of the Democratic party, of the "good of the party," of the "best interests of the party;" of "wise party policy," you mean what Aldrich and Gorman, acting for their clients, deem wise and proper and "Republican" or "Democratic." . . .

No railway legislation that was not either helpful to or harmless against "the interests"; no legislation on the subject of corporations that would interfere with "the interests," which use the corporate form to simplify and systematize their stealing; no legislation on the tariff question unless it secured to "the interests" full and free license to loot; no investigations of wholesale robbery or of any of the evils resulting from it—there you have in a few words the whole story of the Senate's treason under Aldrich's leadership, and of why property is concentrating in the hands of the few and the little children of the masses are being sent to toil in the darkness of mines, in the dreariness and unhealthfulness of factories instead of being sent to school; and why the great middle classÑthe old-fashioned Americans, the people with the incomes of from two thousand to fifteen thousand a year—is being swiftly crushed into dependence and the repulsive miseries of "genteel poverty."

Etc.

The bottom line is that for all that popular political organizations can be corrupt, and machines, and that elections can and are drastically affected by how much money is invested in them by special interests, it's all vastly, spectactularly, easier and cheaper to just legally or illegally pay off a few dozen state legislators, who in many states are part-timers, with only a per diem, and are quite ill-paid.

Does this mean you prefer the election of judges (as occurs in many states) as preferable to either so-called "Missouri Plans" (gubernatorial appointment from a list generated by legal elites) or the federal model (gubernatorial appointment with legislative confirmation)?

JHA

Judges and representatives of the people serve two different callings, and have two different purposes.

Legislators are supposed to represent the will of the people, within the framework of the Constitution (and in the case of state legislators, their State Constitution).

Judges are supposed to implement the law.

So, speaking for myself, I prefer the appointment of judges, and the election of represenatives, because they are two different things.

Just as, for instance, I support a very long term (not necessarily lifetime, but at least 14 years, if not longer) for a federal judge, so as to keep them uninfluenced by thoughts of what their next job will be, but I don't support any such thing for legislators, because in their case we want legislators to be responsive to the people, via elections, in ways we, or at least I, don't want judges influenced.

Is it really possible to take Will seriously?

His argument seems to be that until 1913 everything was hunky-dory - and then it all went to hell when Senators began to be popularly elected. Come on. This man just gets worse and worse.

to echo gary, i also think federal judges have less of an ability to distribute spoils *relative to* a Senator. plus, they aren't out there raising money and depending upon interest groups for ongoing employment

in general though, i think federal judges are too powerful (but not CORRUPT). but that's a different thread

"His argument seems to be that until 1913 everything was hunky-dory - and then it all went to hell when Senators began to be popularly elected."

I have to disagree slightly. I think part of Will's argument is valid; I just don't think it's sufficient.

I have no argument, myself, with these two paragraphs:

[...] Feingold says that mandating election of replacement senators is necessary to make the Senate as "responsive to the people as possible." Well. The House, directly elected and with two-year terms, was designed for responsiveness. The Senate, indirectly elected and with six-year terms, was to be more deliberative than responsive.

Furthermore, grounding the Senate in state legislatures served the structure of federalism. Giving the states an important role in determining the composition of the federal government gave the states power to resist what has happened since 1913 -- the progressive (in two senses) reduction of the states to administrative extensions of the federal government.

I favor the idea of the Senate being more deliberative than the House.

And I favor the idea of a considerable degree of federalism, i.e., a fair amount of independence by the States, freeing them to be, as Louis Brandeis called them, "laboratories of democracy."

I simply think Will's next few paragraphs are batshucks reversals of reality, where he claims that:

Severing senators from state legislatures, which could monitor and even instruct them, made them more susceptible to influence by nationally organized interest groups based in Washington. Many of those groups, who preferred one-stop shopping in Washington to currying favors in all the state capitals, campaigned for the 17th Amendment. So did urban political machines, which were then organizing an uninformed electorate swollen by immigrants. Alliances between such interests and senators led to a lengthening of the senators' tenures.
This is simply the reverse, for the most part, of history as I know it.

Here in South Dakota, our relatively small population enables a capable Democrat to occasionally overcome the Republican leaning here (no Democratic governor since 1978; perpetual Republican control of the legislature). Switching to legislatively selected Senators would effectively shut Democrats out of a chance at 2/3 of our national offices and make this even more of a one-party state.


But Mr. Will, I thought you said Senatorial sea ice levels today were equal those in 1913!

Now you're just confusing me.

Gary,

Will writes,

The Framers established election of senators by state legislators, under which system the nation got the Great Triumvirate (Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun) and thrived. In 1913, progressives, believing that more, and more direct, democracy is always wonderful, got the 17th Amendment ratified. It stipulates popular election of senators, under which system Wisconsin has elected, among others, Joe McCarthy, as well as Feingold.

"Thrived." Until 1913. Right. No mention of that unpleasantness in the 1860's, for example.

Oh, and we got "The Great Triumvirate," as opposed to McCarthy and Feingold. Would South Carolina not have elected such a wonderful slavery advocate as John Calhoun with direct elections? I guess it's nice to see a conservative admit McCarthy was a stinker, but lumping him with Feingold is deranged.

I don't actually agree with the arguments you seem to like either. Why is direct election less federalist than selection by state legislature? (I don't, by the way, think federalism is a virtue in this context, but that's another thread). Why would it tend to produce a more deliberative Senate? I don't see the evidence for these assertions.

Publius --

What about state judges? In many states (including my own Ohio), our judges are elected by the "rabble," and they go out and raise funds from attorneys and interests that appear before them. Is this preferable to alternative schemes? After all, it's harder to bribe the pubic than the legislature or the governor.

From an anti-corruption standpoint, it seems that elections for some positions may be less desirable than appointment. See, for instance, the Caperton case that will soon be argued before the Supreme Court. The facts of this case might suggest that contested elections could create a greater threat (or at least appearance) of corruption than some alternatives.

This is a long way of saying that I don't think that focusing on whether it is easier to bribe one decision-maker or another (i.e. the governor, legislature, or electorate) really answers the question of how Senators (or any other government officials) should be selected.

JHA

"But it’s still infinitely easier than trying to bribe the public as a whole."
Not that the argument holds much water, but the conservative talking point here is that "bribing the public" is exactly what congress does with so called pork, SS, Medicare, infrastructure developement, healthcare initiatives, education funds, workplace safety laws, etc etc...

Of course, the rest of us would probably consider these things worthwhile programs. I guess I have been "bribed".

"Will writes,"

Yes; I didn't say I agreed with those parts. That would be because I don't. I picked out the two paragraphs I agreed with, and said I agreed with them. Reprinting the entire rest of the column, which I disagreed with, seemed unnecessary.

Neither did I make the claims you otherwise ask me to justify. I said only what I said: not all sorts of other stuff that I didn't say. If I'd wanted to say that other stuff, I'd have actually written it down. If I'd wanted to say that I agreed with any of the rest of what George Will wrote, I'd have written that.

"After all, it's harder to bribe the pubic than the legislature or the governor."

Public election of judges is bad not because the public can be bribed with money, but because:

a) The public isn't competent to judge judges; they have to rely on extraneous factors, such as party affiliation, or newspaper endorsements, or advertisements, or rabble-rousing over controversial cases;

and b) judges who judge criminal law are inevitably subject to great public passion and rabble-rousing over controversial cases, which are inflamnatory, and which cause people to tend to cry out for vengeanance and convictions, with little regard to law or justice.

Judges should be insulated from all these things, in my view.

Appointments are imperfect, too, but less imperfect, particularly when done with a transparent and minimally-political process.

Gary,

I'll try again.

You write:

I think part of Will's argument is valid; I just don't think it's sufficient. I have no argument, myself, with these two paragraphs:

Part of the paragraphs in question read:

The Senate, indirectly elected and with six-year terms, was to be more deliberative than responsive.

Furthermore, grounding the Senate in state legislatures served the structure of federalism. Giving the states an important role in determining the composition of the federal government gave the states power to resist what has happened since 1913 -- the progressive (in two senses) reduction of the states to administrative extensions of the federal government.

After quoting this you write:

I favor the idea of the Senate being more deliberative than the House.

And I favor the idea of a considerable degree of federalism,

Along with the assertion that "part of Will's argument is valid," I take this to mean you agree with Will's claims that election by legislature is more federalist, and produces a more deliberative body. These are the claims I ask you to justify. If in fact you disagree with them, I am very puzzled as to what you intended to say in your 1:42 post.

"I take this to mean you agree with Will's claims that election by legislature is more federalist, and produces a more deliberative body."

And there you would be wrong. I said neither. What I actually wrote is what I agree with. I'm sorry if I was unclear in this.

"I am very puzzled as to what you intended to say in your 1:42 post"

What I wrote. That's usually what I mean, although occasionally I screw it up.

I wrote the following: I favor the idea of the Senate being more deliberative than the House.

And I favor the idea of a considerable degree of federalism, i.e., a fair amount of independence by the States, freeing them to be, as Louis Brandeis called them, "laboratories of democracy."

That's what I meant.

If I'd wanted to write something else, I'd have written it. If I'd wanted to state there was something else I agree with Will about, I'd have said so.

I think what you're stuck over is that Will wrote "Furthermore, grounding the Senate in state legislatures served the structure of federalism," and I said I didn't argue. Choosing not to contest a subsidiary statement is not the same as stating agreement with it. And "served the structure of" does not mean "and therefore the rest of what Will drew from that is something I agree with."

Because, you know, if I agreed that the rest of Will's arguments were correct, I'd have said so. I'm sorry if I didn't make this clear enough.

To get into the real nitty-gritty, for the sake of ultra-clarity, Bernard, although I have to imagine that most other people are rolling their eyes in boredom now, Will wrote this: "Furthermore, grounding the Senate in state legislatures served the structure of federalism...."

And I don't disagree with that; but it doesn't, in my view, follow that therefore switching choosing Senators to popular election less serves the structure of federalism; I simply didn't see the relevance of going on about this trivial point. Until you asked me multiple times.

Gary,

Maybe you could explain just what part of Will's argument you consider (your phrase) "partly valid."

Note that agreeing with a factual statement, such as "The Senate, indirectly elected and with six-year terms, was to be more deliberative than responsive," is not the same thing as saying an argument based on that statement is valid.

"Maybe you could explain just what part of Will's argument you consider (your phrase) "partly valid."

I have.

"Note that agreeing with a factual statement, such as 'The Senate, indirectly elected and with six-year terms, was to be more deliberative than responsive," is not the same thing as saying an argument based on that statement is valid."

That's true. I don't know what relevance this has, since I said no such thing, but it's true.

I think we're well past the point of diminishing returns here, Bernard. I've repeatedly said what I've said what I've said, and if that doesn't satisfy you, we'll both have to live with it. Beyond that, feel free to argue with George Will; I'm not his substitute.

It's entirely off-topic, but in the absence of anywhere else to note it: Binyam Mohamed is apparently being released from Guantanamo tomorrow.

Democracy is overrated.

Perhaps the difference between Senators elected by the State Legislature and popular election is that the State Legislature could exact a closer identity to the State, as opposed to the Party that would aid and support the election.

In other words, it would perhaps reduce the power of the political parties because even if the legislature in power of a particular state will only support its own party candidate, it would likely be a moderating effect by tying Washington success to the state party.

Gary: I favor the idea of the Senate being more deliberative than the House.

Which the longer terms, two-per-state limit, and internal rules and customs of the Senate go a long way toward guaranteeing, apart from how they're selected.

What’s interesting about Will's position is how it adopts one extremely old-school version of conservative thought, while ignoring another entirely. Will is an old-school conservative in that he hasn’t fully embraced democracy. (“In 1913, progressives, believing that more, and more direct, democracy is always wonderful…”).

I agree with your larger point, publius, but I'm not convinced that Liberals do not share that same elitist view of governance George Will.

If I'm not mistaken, Chomsky claims that we can see that particular anti-[d]emocratic position advocated by James Madison in the Constitutional Convention debates.

Check-out Chomsky's lecture in the extras section of the 2008 film, The Chomsky Session: Noam Chomsky on the World. He goes on to lay much of America's elitism at the feet of Liberals.

The guy still does bang-up research. I didn't know that Wilson had a chance to release Eugene Debs, my hero, but chose not to.

I'll defer to you and/or Chomsky until I read the debates myself, but I'm not convinced that Americans self-identifying as conservation today are less inclined to support the rabble, than today's Liberals.

"Which the longer terms, two-per-state limit, and internal rules and customs of the Senate go a long way toward guaranteeing, apart from how they're selected."

Yes. Which is why I didn't say that I favored returning to state legislatures electing Senators.

There are no Liberals in the U.S., unless they're foreigners. There are only liberals.

Repeal the 17th amendment? You bet.
First, it restores tbe State to a role in the federal government that it no longer possesses.The result of this is to prevent the federal government from usurping State's rights. Second, if a state cannot muster a Senate office holder, so be it.

I would change the amendment to permit three senator's: 2 that are elected by the people and 1 that is selected by the Senate of each State during the Governor's term in office. This just might restore some power to state governments and just might break some party politics.

I would think that 50 states with representation in the federal government might permit some regional bloc voting. This would add complexity to the two party voting we have today as state-selected Senators may cross political lines to vote for regional interests.

I am surprised but pleased to see Gary's support for Federalism in his non-objection to Will's favoring a return to the selection of senators by state legislatures. Gary had excerpted recently so much of TR's convention speech that I was sure he would go right down the progressive line of more direct 'democracy' is always desirable. Cheers, Gary.

Relative to the paragraph of Will's that you excerpted and said you did not agree with, do you think direct election favors the incumbent to a greater degree than selection by the state legislature thereby reducing the influence on national matters of the state's elected governing body?

I didn't know that Wilson had a chance to release Eugene Debs, my hero, but chose not to.

Wilson was actually imo, a piece of work. The first to introduce segregation to the federal government as a fully articulated policy, and given that he felt that public policy was an important cornerstone to a nation's well-being, we have to take this as a considered choice, also reflected in his tenure as Princeton's president.

The fact that he was incapacitated his last year and a half in office, and his wife ran the country foreshadows the imperial presidency.

Described as a progressive president, his progressivism is only that of the man who sees which way the crowd is going, finds a short cut and pretends he was leading them the whole time and it was only made possible by true progressives like Teddy Roosevelt and Robert La Follette.

do you find anything redeeming (or progressive)in Teddy's international relations with Latin America?

"Gary had excerpted recently so much of TR's convention speech that I was sure he would go right down the progressive line of more direct 'democracy' is always desirable."

You haven't been around here long enough (nothing wrong with that, of course) to know that a fair number of my views about a number of things are "conservative" in the less political meaning of the term. I'm leary of major changes in our government structure, for one. And I'm by no means a worshipper at the alter of pure democracy, for another. I've written about both these things a considerable number of times here in the past.

But on the former, despite the flaws of some of governmental structures, I'm very cautiously minded about making significant changes, due to the law of unintended consequences.

And on the latter, I'm actually a great believer in checks and balances, in restraints upon the passions of the moment being too hastily expressed in the writing of law, and in constitutional rights being restrictions upon mob rule.

The fact that I believe a lot of other things you and I don't agree upon, such as the need of government to stand for the weak, and to help those who cannot help themselves (again, themes of Teddy Roosevelt), doesn't in the least obviate that I believe in the above, and, lo, other principles of "freedom."

I simply don't believe that individual freedom is the only value.

"Relative to the paragraph of Will's that you excerpted and said you did not agree with, do you think direct election favors the incumbent to a greater degree than selection by the state legislature thereby reducing the influence on national matters of the state's elected governing body?"

I don't know whether, in contemporary times, a return to selection of Senators by the state legislature would make for a lesser favoring of the incumbent. Certainly it's hard to understate the power of incumbency in both the House and Senate under our present system of direct election, and I think the overwhelming power of incumbents to stay in office is an extremely bad thing, indeed.

(What to do about it is a vastly complicated question, of course, and many proposed solutions seem even worse than the problem.)

On the other hand, I'm inclined to think that Senators elected by a State legislature, again, would simply, in most cases, tend to followed the lead of the monied interests who put money into the state legislature, and would therefore stay as long as they pleased their masters, and go as soon as they didn't.

So, overall, that doesn't strike me as a desirable move, or an improvement.

"... his non-objection to Will's favoring a return to the selection of senators by state legislatures."

I do object to a return to the selection of Senators by state legislatures. I don't think all the arguments for it are bad, but I don't come down on the side that says they're winning arguments.

"I'm leary of major changes...."

Leery, that is; I'm not related to Tim Leary.

publius (and commenters):

I'd be genuinely interested to know what you think of my posts on the subject over at QandO.

Repealing the Seventeenth Amendment
and
MYOB

Quickly, I'd like to respond to one point here:
"In theory, Will’s argument sounds plausible. It’s certainly sounds nice to picture state legislatures as wise, deliberative bodies, weighing their appointments carefully – unlike how the rabble makes its decisions."

I don't see that as the important distinction. It's not that state legislators are so wise, but that their interests lie in preserving their own power against federal intrusion, within the jurisdiction that they know better than the federal government does -- in short, to preserve a measure of independence.

The Constitution was framed with an underlying assumption that people--including elites in government--would abuse power if given the opportunity. They aimed to divide powerful interests as evenly as possible so that the powerful didn't conspire to oppress the weak. And they quite explicitly accepted that the ultimate power in a republic was the people--the rabble, as you put it. But they knew that in a direct democracy, one part of the rabble oppresses the smaller part.

We can argue all day about whether we like individual legislation that has emerged from Congress since 1913, but money is still very much part of the game. And unarguably, the federal government now does control a great degree of state and local activity that it didn't before the direct election of senators. It's not hard to connect those dots.

The question of whether that's a good thing... I discuss in my posts at QandO.

"do you find anything redeeming (or progressive)in Teddy's international relations with Latin America?"

Not me.

One of the fascinating things about TR is how very contradictory he was in so many things. He was large, he contained multitudes.

Woodrow Wilson really was a piece of work, though, particularly in his utterly vile racism. (Not that TR wasn't also racist, but he didn't work to institutionalize Jim Crow at the federal level.)

Thank you, Gary.

I guess redwood was addressing that to me. I'm not wild about his stance toward Latin America, but I think that almost all of Wilson's progressive achievements were already in motion before he took office. The only thing that solely fell in his term of office was Women's suffrage, and Wilson had a sudden about face from not taking a stance in 1912 (in contrast to Roosevelt and the Progressive Party) to urging it be passed in 1918. I'd rather have half a progressive than an ersatz racist one.

Representative democracy works best when voters know the candidates' positions (and elected officials' performance) well enough to make meaningful decisions. This happens reasonably well at two levels:

a) very senior officials (President, governor, big city mayor) who get extensive media coverage.

b) very local officials (small town selectmen, condo boards) where voters personally know the candidates

It works worst at those levels which are poorly covered by the media. Who among the very policially aware readers of ObWi can name all of their state reps and state senators, and (from memory) tell how their voting records are different than a typical member of their party? In these cases, the elections are likely captured by either party machines or specially interested groups. I'd love to see stats on how often there is a seriously contested primary for state legislature, but I am guessing it is much rarer than for Senate.

Direct election of Senators is like presidents and governors. Having only one election at a time for the whole state ensures extensive media coverage for the elections and Senators voting records are well reported. These are thus likely to be the best informed elections, and do indeed have high voter turnout. Election of state legislatures, on the other hand, are among the least informed and lowest turnout, even if on the same day as federal or gubernatorial elections.

If an senate vacancy needs to be filled, a special election is the best option. If the vacancy needs to be filled quickly, then I would rather have it done by the governor (who can effectively be held accountable) than the state legislature. One counterexample does not change that pattern.

Sure, repeal it. I get tired of this democracy worship; Voting is only an instrumental good, it has no value AT ALL in and of itself, it's only value is insofar as it advances something which DOES have intrinsic value, such as liberty. And that's not all the time.

The point of the Senate was to preserve a balance of power between the federal government and the state governments, by requiring legislation, and other matters, to be approved by people who would actually care if it usurped the prerogatives of the states.

History shows, I think, that it was not too long after the states lost the capacity to control who was in the Senate, (Granted, they seldom exercised it, but they had that power as a threat to hold over Senators.) that the balance of power shifted dramatically in favor of the federal government.

IF you think that federalism has some value in preserving our liberties, (I do.) then the 17th amendment was a bad idea. If the Senate is just going to be the House, with larger districts and much larger egos, we really ought to just dump it, it's redundant. It contributes nothing. Go to a unicameral system, with some other delaying process to serve as that "cooling saucer", maybe a constitutional requirement that legislation be voted on twice, with a significant wait in between to let the public sound off. Maybe require bills to be passed in two separate sessions if they're to be permanent.

What Brett said.

History shows, I think, that it was not too long after the states lost the capacity to control who was in the Senate, (Granted, they seldom exercised it, but they had that power as a threat to hold over Senators.) that the balance of power shifted dramatically in favor of the federal government.

Even if this is true as a matter of chronology, it sounds awfully post hoc to me. Lots of things have affected the balance: the income tax, two World Wars and the Depression, the Civil Rights era, etc. That the shift towards more federal power was primarily, or even significantly, a consequence of the direct election of Senators is very far from clear.

What federalism advocates also fail to make clear is why exactly the states, as entities, ought to have some significant power in national policy-making. Why is it desirable for Wyoming (as opposed to the individual citizens of Wyoming) to have a voice on issues that are national in scope?

The reason is that, with the states denied any significant input into federal policy, the federal government no longer restricts itself only to matters that are national in scope. Or hadn't you noticed that?

Brett: Voting is only an instrumental good, it has no value AT ALL in and of itself, it's only value is insofar as it advances something which DOES have intrinsic value, such as liberty. And that's not all the time.

GoodOleBoy: What Brett said.

And therein lies the foundation of much of what went on in the Florida 2000 election end-game.

The point of the Senate was to preserve a balance of power between the federal government and the state governments, by requiring legislation, and other matters, to be approved by people who would actually care if it usurped the prerogatives of the states.

The obvious question is: who the hell cares what the states think? Why is that the right level at which to stop? What if I want to live in a city-state as God intended?

[Also, what Ben Alpers said.]

"And therein lies the foundation of much of what went on in the Florida 2000 election end-game."

Agreed.

"who the hell cares what the states think?"

People in Montana who don't want California gun laws shoved down their throats? People in California who don't want New York's drug laws enforced on them?

What, you think there's one ideal set of laws that are best everywhere, and that if we enforce uniformity across the states, we're going to converge on it?

No, I'm asking wtf the people in Oconomowoc have to do with us here in Madison. Not that people from Oconomowoc aren't perfectly lovely people, but f***'em, I don't live there.

[If that's too obscure, replace with the two cities of your choice. Although I would've thought that my use of the term "city-states" above was kind of a giveaway to the fact that, y'know, I was talking about cities.]

What, you think there's one ideal set of laws that are best everywhere, and that if we enforce uniformity across the states...

See, there you go again: why stop at the states? What makes you think legislation at the state level is correct? Why not the county? The municipal? The street? Hell, why should I be bound by the same laws as the dude in the next cubicle over, he's way louder and more annoying than me.

Or, to put it another way: who cares what the states think? Why should I be bound by the dictates of anyone other than myself, or at least those I come in day to day contact with -- and if that's the appropriate level, "city-state" is too big by half.

Why stop at the states? No particular reason in principle, I agree subsidiarity is a principle which should be applied, wherever possible, right down to the level of individuals.

But you've gotta start someplace, and breaking the Leviathan down into states again is a good step in the direction you're talking about.


thank you, liberal and Gary for your TR take.

I've been researching around him, studying Elihu Root and Leonard Wood, mostly.

I'm convinced that in their administrative actions on Cuba the two of them intended for Cubans to appeal for statehood, thus thwarting the mandate of the American people to deliver Cuba to the Cubans.

It was some crafty governance. But I honestly don't know what role TR played, if at all.

And since he smacks to me as a heterosexist pig, I'd appreciate any references you suggest to get his role in the looting so that I do not have to spend one minute more with him than I have to.

Brett: Voting is only an instrumental good, it has no value AT ALL in and of itself, it's only value is insofar as it advances something which DOES have intrinsic value, such as liberty. And that's not all the time.

GoodOleBoy: What Brett said.

Wait, wait, wait... GOB, you said earlier, in another thread, that you were all about process, not results. That focusing on results instead of process leads too easily into "the end justifies the means" territory.

So this seems like a blatant contradiction. Or am I misreading something?

It's like the distinction between act and rule utilitarianism: People who emphasize process aren't unconcerned with results, we simply think that the best way to achieve good results in the long run is to dispassionately chose a good process, and stick by it, rather than just making things up as you go along.

Sorry, this may be a bit late. I find my acquaintances with historical figures is a lot like what happens with people I actually meet, in that they way I meet them often sets the tone. My path to TR was thru his hyphenated-Americans speech in 1915, and while it is filled with the problematic notion of melting pot, and giving up things to become an American, there are some lines that really stuck with me. frex

We cannot afford to continue to use hundreds of thousands of immigrants merely as industrial assets while they remain social outcasts and menaces any more than fifty years ago we could afford to keep the black man merely as an industrial asset and not as a human being. We cannot afford to build a big industrial plant and herd men and women about it without care for their welfare. We cannot afford to permit squalid overcrowding or the kind of living system which makes impossible the decencies and necessities of life. We cannot afford the low wage rates and the merely seasonal industries which mean the sacrifice of both individual and family life and morals to the industrial machinery.

The speech was in 1915, which I think is pretty breathtaking.

Also, I'm quite attracted to TR because of his sympathy to Japan. As a small kid, this image of Roosevelt as mediator between Russia and Japan sort of set the stage in my mind, and I've come to learn that Roosevelt was actually quite resourceful in what he accomplished.

About being a heterosexist pig, I would note that his Bull Moose party was the only party that had women in leadership roles and he was the first major political figure to call for suffrage.

I'm also sympathetic to him because of his shared interest in judo (scroll down for the info on TR).

As for his stance on Latin America, while the Roosevelt Corollary was a straightforward statement of intent that the US would be the policeman over South America, and his manuevering for the Panama Canal was problematic, his intervention in the Dominican Republic (which was the basis for the Corollary) was economically based and showed an understanding of how international economics could be used as a weapon. In regards to Cuba, he clearly saw the island as essential to establishing the US as a world naval power (think Great White Fleet) so it is understandable that he would want to territory as part of the US rather than push for its independence.

The reason is that, with the states denied any significant input into federal policy, the federal government no longer restricts itself only to matters that are national in scope. Or hadn't you noticed that?

People in Montana who don't want California gun laws shoved down their throats? People in California who don't want New York's drug laws enforced on them?

You're only looking at one side of the coin here, Brett. I asked about issues that are national in scope - war and peace, economic policy, environmental policy, etc.

Why should Wyoming, population 500,000+, have the same voice on these issues as California, population 36,000,000+. You are givng a citizen of Wyoming 70 times the influence of a citizen of California. I live in MA, which has roughly the same population as Oklahoma and Utah combined, but of course half as many Senators.

You don't like things shoved down people's throats? OK, but look at matters in a little more depth before you conclude that your notion of federalism is a solution. It doesn't look that way to me.

So? You're only looking at the other side of the coin.

I really think that if the federal government were still restricted to issues of genuinely national scope, which it actually has a constitutional brief to be involved in, that small and large states would have no REASON to come down systematically differently on such issues.

To the extent that they do, (It's really exagerated.) it's due to the federal invasion of subjects which are constitutionally under state jurisdiction. Taking the 10th amendment and enumerated powers doctrine seriously would resolve the matter.

thank you, lj.

Brett,

Is it conceivable, just barely, that some people might disagree with you as to how far the constitutional authority of the federal government extends?

And incidentally, I don't think that Montana is subject to California's gun laws, or that California is subject to New York's drug laws.

Of course, the great conservative states' rights federalists are happy to overturn California drug laws when they don't like them, or deny it the right to set auto emission standards.

The fact is that states' rights is generally an argument of convenience. In most cases whether someone takes a states' rights position or not depends on their view of the issue in question.

When we're arguing about whether what somebody is growing in their backyard for personal consumption is "interstate commerce"? No, I don't think disagreement over that is legit, it's on a par with arguing about whether the Emperor is clothed or not, when you can see his weenie waving in the breeze. The fact that his court has plenty of reason to admire his clothes whether or not he's dressed doesn't make it a viable question.

There are tough cases, sure, but they've been left far behind by the expansion of federal power.

"And incidentally, I don't think that Montana is subject to California's gun laws"

Was for 10 years, starting in '94.

Bernard -

Of course, the great conservative states' rights federalists are happy to overturn California drug laws when they don't like them, or deny it the right to set auto emission standards.

The fact is that states' rights is generally an argument of convenience. In most cases whether someone takes a states' rights position or not depends on their view of the issue in question.

So call their bluff and give them federalism when they ask for it. Then blue states won't have to subsidize red states so much, and blue states can have their own stricter environmental policies, and their relaxed drug laws.

Is it conceivable, just barely, that some people might disagree with you [Brett] as to how far the constitutional authority of the federal government extends?

Of course it's conceivable; it's obvious. But he didn't rest his argument on modern unanimity. He rested it on the historical, documented views of those who were around when the relevant parts of the Constitution were drafted and amended.

blue states can have their own stricter environmental policies,

Regrettably, pollution is no respecter of state lines. It is, IMO, clearly a matter of interstate commerce.

If a manufacturer in PA, for example, buys raw materials from someone in NY, then we would all agree that was interstate commerce. If the manufacturer similarly pollutes NY's air, thereby using NY resources, it still looks like interstate commerce to me. The fact that there is no market and hence the relevant resource - clean air - is not priced, doesn't seem relevant.

States have no representation and we now have two Houses of Representatives, one of them wildly out of proportion. This is not the America our founders designed, and repairing the damage (yes, this is worse) has to start somewhere. Repealing the 17th is a sound place to start. Many things must be un-done but they can't get going until the States have representation.

Funny how I never heard this from Republican when they were in power. But now, oh, noes! Too much democracy!

You can have my senatorial vote when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

"Funny how I never heard this from Republican when they were in power."

For the record, Democrats controls 27 state legislatures, Republicans control 14, 8 are split, and Nebraska's is officially non-partisan.

So there'd hardly be a Republican majority in the Senate at present if the legislatures were choosing Senators.

The original Senate was designed to provide a different constituency than the House and give the States direct input into the national government, serving to limit the size and power of the national government and maintaining vertical separation and distribution of powers (Federalism).

Competing constituencies must compromise, just as neither a buyer nor a seller can get all they want in a free market; the 17th created two houses with almost identical constituencies and removed the States as participants in the national government. Bicameralism was thus weakened, and subsequent laws reflected one blended constituency: rent-seeking voters, campaign contributors and political parties, because that's how both Senators and Reps get elected.

It takes money and political support to even make it to the ballot, so Senators are forced by the post-17th system to appease their sources of support--special interests, contributors, and rent-seeking voters. Also, the 17th forces Senatorial candidates to be popular politicians who can run state-wide campaigns, not necessarily statesmen who represent their states.

As the national government has grown larger and more powerful, the impact of one voter has progressively diminished. Repealing the 17th would gradually reduce the power and reach of the national government and flow some power and control back to the states, thus giving individual voters a bigger say in affairs impacting their lives.

We aren't, shouldn't be, and were never intended to be a democracy. We're a democratic federal republic, modeled in great part after the British model. Democracy is a means, not a religion, and the framers knew more was not better; it promotes instability and give-away programs. In opposition to the "more democracy is better" argument, I argue "More Federalism is better." That's why we need to repeal the 17th.

There is an easy way to bribe "the rabble,"
it's called socialism. The "rabble" as one of you calls the people, find they can vote themsevles unearned benefits and voila they vote in the socialist Congressmen to give them unearned benefits at public expense. It's a steal the wealth plan.

The states could, if they controlled the Senate again, put the skids on unconstitutional spending, on federal mandates that were unfunded, maybe even on interventionist wars. And if those in the populace who understand the proper role of government kept watch on their legislators and advised them, good could come of the repeal of the 17th Amendment. The "Progressives" fought for 86 years to install an amendment to mandate a popular vote for Senatorial elections. They understood how important to majority rule it was to destroy federalism.

The post by Bliss Tew is correct. Not only was our recent November electorate 'bribed' with the biggest promise of their place at the public trough, I still think mass voting fraud took place.
I favor repealing the Seventeenth Amendment as it would then tie the state legislature to the conduct of their choices of senators in their own re-elections, which should be limited to two terms, both state and federally.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad