Wednesday, June 09, 2010

"Repeal the 17th Amendment?"

"Repeal the 17th Amendment?" Campaign for Liberty

HT: David in Iowa and the Repeal the 17th Amendment Discussion Group

Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute, asks that question this morning in his column at the Washington Examiner.

Quick, what's the 17th Amendment? Good on you if you didn't need a lifeline: It's the one that mandated direct election of senators, instead of having them appointed by state legislatures.

Thanks to the wonderfully impertinent Tea Partiers, that 1913 "reform" is no longer just the stuff of trivia -- it recently made headlines in House and Senate races.

Two Republican nominees for House seats -- Ohio's Steve Strivers and Idaho's Raul Labrador -- have expressed sympathy for repeal. And Tim Bridgewater, one of two Tea Party candidates who last month knocked off sitting Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, argues that "if the states elected their senators, legislative monstrosities like ObamaCare or [No Child Left Behind], with their burdensome mandates, would never see the light of day."

Predictably, the liberal intelligentsia has responded with scorn. Of all the "goofy ideas from those lovable wacky Tea Partyers [sic]," John Aloysius Farrell writes at, this is the "stupidest." Repeal talk is "truly regressive," even "Paleolithic," Timothy Egan seethes in Sunday's New York Times.

Apparently, the only thing worse than peasants with pitchforks is peasants with pocket Constitutions. [emphasis added]

Continue reading.

Healy argues that while repeal of the 17th amendment is highly unlikely, there is nothing "silly or retrograde" about it. Virginia's George Mason, he points out, argued in 1787 that direct election of Senators would allow the newly empowered federal government to "swallow up the state legislatures."

Throughout the column Healy refers to George Mason University Law School Professor Todd Zywicki's work on the 17th amendment. For more information, some of his work on the topic can be found here, here, and here.

Congressman Paul has often discussed repealing the 16th and 17th amendment and rightly so, as both have done tremendous damage to federalism and limited government. While Healy describes any effort to repeal the 17th as "noble but quixotic", it's still a goal worth striving towards, if only to wake up and educate those around us.

Read all the comments here.

Comment: I have to disagree with Mr. Healy. Since I have started my small quixotic quest I have seen interest in the repeal grow. Maybe not as fast as interest for the repeal of the 16th (national income tax), but when people begin to understand the history surrounding the 17th and the serious consequences we are experiencing as result, opinions turn 180 degrees rapidly. (It's about education!)

I think that when a number of issues manifest in such a way, i.e. loss of US sovereignty, a global tax, and the astronomical deficit being placed upon the back of our young, repealing of the 17th is going to become one of the few means available, and left, to keep the Union together, because on the horizon is another supposed quixotic movement that people only thought years ago was a fringe movement, secession.

Update: Note the comments at The Volokh Conspiracy. The Healy article was linked to by Todd Zywicki.


Ray in Kansas said...

Reasons in favor:
- States allow a diversity of choices. Don't like your state? Move to a different one. Federal law does not give you that choice.

- Most States HAVE to be fiscally responsible, no if ands or buts. Constitutionally balanced budgets; And no printing fiat money allowed.

- It's harder for a lobbyist to "influence" 7,400 State legislators in 50 locations than 535 congressmen in one location.

- By the same token, it is easier for a citizen to influence a Representative of 30,000 who lives down the street, than a Representative of 600,000 who lives 1,000 miles away.

- State Legislators are accessible. They shop at the grocery stores and live in the neighborhoods they govern. As a result, they are never "surprised" by their district's crime, education, or demographics. Federal Legislators are universally millionaires who live in more insulated worlds.

- State Legislators are accountable by challenges, both singularly and in masse'. In contrast, it takes a small miracle to defeat a well funded, entrenched U.S. Senator. Overthrowing 33 U.S. Senators in a general election is unheard of; 33 defeated Senators in a primary is science fiction.

- State Legislators are citizens first and politicans second. Many of them have "real" jobs.

- Regardless of political party, State legislatures always have a higher approval rating than the U.S. Congress.

- Perhaps we should reward authority to the legislative body that people think is working.

Anonymous said...

How would this effect the R/D split in the Senate? I know in Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country, we currently have 2 R Senators, one very conservative & one fairly conservative. If our state legislature elected them, we would have 2 Dems. Because of jerrymandering, we have D majorities in our state house & senate. This is a problem that needs to be fixed, but I don't think it is likely to be fixed anytime soon, if ever.