Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Banging The Drum: The 17th Amendment

The 17th Amendment,and the rise of Special Interests; Ronald L Clark; October 28, 2008.

From the weblog Banging the Drum:

There is another date other than 7 December 1941 that will live in infamy. The other date is 8 April 1913, the date that the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified. On that date the Congress and states changed Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution that required each State Legislature to select two Senators for representation in the United States Senate. The Amendment requires instead that each Senator be elected by popular vote of the people rather than be selected by their respective State Legislators, to wit, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years, and each Senator shall have one vote”…….. The 16th, 17th, 18th (Prohibition) and 19th (Woman right to vote) Amendments were conceived during the “Progressive” movement that was gaining influence at the time and you will of course recall that the 16th Amendment allowed the Congress to lay and collect taxes on incomes. The “Progressive” movement has morphed into the “Liberal” movement of today and these two terms have come to mean that force is required to change people’s actions for the good of all, and Brothers and Sisters, as I have said on many occasions before: Taxes Are Power and the 16th is the single most important enabler of the power requirement that can force change. This Amendment was the legal basis for enacting legislation that began the collection of payroll taxes in 1937 for the Social Security Program...

The importance of the original Constitutional requirement for Senator selection cannot be overstated because the Article 1, Section 3 requirement was carefully crafted to complement the Bicameral organization of the legislative branch of Government. I really don’t think I command enough of the reader’s respect to provide the reason for this, but perhaps one of the Country’s founding fathers could. I’m referring to James Madison and in the Federalist Paper No 10 he explained the reason for Bicameralism, “Before taking effect, legislation would have to be ratified by two independent power sources: the people’s representatives in the House and the State legislatures’ agents in the Senate.” This requirement would not only provide the means to ensure the concept of Federalism but would thwart the influence of special interests because of the requirement of satisfying two separate constituencies. Mr. Madison further explained the concept in Federalist Paper No 51: “In republican government, the legislative authority, necessarily predominate. The remedy for this inconveniency is, to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them by different modes of election, and different principals of action, as little connected with each other, as the nature of their common functions and their common dependencies on the society, will admit.” You may be surprised to learn that the original method of Senator selection was so important that it was one of the few principals that enjoyed nearly unanimous approval by the founding fathers. Because of the Seventeenth Amendment, the authority of each State has been greatly reduced and due to the power of incumbency, each Senator has become a Potentate instead of a representative in a Senate that is coming to resemble the Senate of Rome in its last days. Also, because the Senators are now elected, special interests have a corruption avenue equal to that in the House of Representatives to funnel money and power to ensure election and satisfy plain old greed in exchange for favors in the legislative process. Indeed, the current financial catastrophe we find ourselves in can be traced directly to the influence of special interests in causing the Gramm-Leach-Blily (GLB) act in 1999 to become law. That law was enacted in spite of repeated warnings by knowledgeable and responsible people that its enactment would produce a financial crisis of Biblical proportions. The GLB act repealed part of the Glass-Steagall act of 1933 that was enacted to prevent the kind of financial crisis that produced the great depression. The GLB act removed most all restrictions and separations between commercial banks and all other investment and financial entities. Viola, financial crisis circa 2008, and all because special interests have gained a foothold that the founding fathers tried with all of their wisdom to prevent. I could even make the case that Article 1, Section 3, of the Constitution addressed the most fundamental special interest problem indigenous to a mature society. The special interest that I’m referring to is the special interest of the Cities versus the rest of the country. The cities always attract the most intellectual and financial capital and this concentration of wealth always demands more and more resources from the rest of the country. The ever-increasing demands of the Cities always causes a schism to develop between the whole of the people because one cannot exist without the other yet the cities keep making demands that would cause the rest of the country to fall into ruin (much like Rome in its final days). The cities can do this because there have the greater population concentration and can easily overwhelm the rest of the country with superior political power especially within a “one man, one vote” system. I refer you to the USA Today 2004 Presidential Election map down to the county level (commonly referred to as the “Red/Blue map) that clearly shows the cities (population areas) voting one way and the rest of the country another. The requirement that Senators be agents of the State instead of being directly elected by the people addressed the City/Country schism in a remarkable and effective way. I invite you to consider other areas that the 17th Amendment ratification may have influenced upon but suffice to say, the consequences of the 17th Amendment are far reaching and quite possibly damaging to our country as well.

Comment: For additional background concerning the Senate and special interest groups, check out Prof. Todd Zwicki's paper, Senators and Special Interests: A Public Choice Analysis of the Seventeenth Amendment (see the right hand side of this weblog for additional papers).

Clarke says:
I invite you to consider other areas that the 17th Amendment ratification may have influenced upon

Drop by his weblog and join in his discussion.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Hughes said...

Dear Brian,

I've been beating this drum since the late 80's to no avail. I don't want to come across as smug or as a defeatist, but as a fellow believer in a republic, I feel most people neither have an understanding of civics nor a will to understand it, beyond what's pushed on television. Time and time again, one hears, "this democracy..." or some form of it - rarely does one ever hear "...this republic..." I've only heard a couple politicians actually say it, one being Senator Byrd (that was shocking). If people don't understand our form of government, its almost hopeless to expect them to ever grasp the concept of a Bi-cameral legislative branch or the importance of the 10th amendment.

I commend you one your efforts and will do my best to preach the word. I interested if you've made any converts - I haven't.

Jeffrey Hughes
North Carolina