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No, Madison was not an Advocate of the Original Design of the Senate (17th Amendment Repeal Edition)

Via the Douglas County Sentinel comes the latest odd (IMHO) musing from politicians who don’t like the 17th Amendment:  State reps propose repealing 17th Amendment.

At first, I was not going to comment, but then I was struck by this”:

“It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now,” Cooke said Monday afternoon. “This isn’t an idea of mine. This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”

If one is going to assert that one is motivated by a restoration of the past, at least understand what happened in the past.

First, the plan that James Madison wanted for the second chamber of the legislature that came to be known as the Senate was a body chosen by the first chamber of the legislature, not by state legislatures.  Moreover, he wanted the seats in  the Senate to be allocated based on the population of the states (see:  The Virginia Plan).  As such,  one cannot attribute the design of the Senate to James Madison.

Second, the decision to represent the states in the Senate on a co-equal basis, also known as the Connecticut or “Great” Compromise was a practical political move that emerged because the states had been utterly co-equal in  a political sense under the Articles of Confederation and to get the smaller states in particular to agree to the new constitution it was necessary to provide them with some assurances that they would not be swallowed up, from a power perspective, by the larger states.  Further, the original process of selecting senators via state legislatures was a way of placating the politicians at the state level who were losing power under the new constitution.  Really, the design for the Senate was an adapted version of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation (just with states getting two votes instead of one).

I cannot say this more plainly than this:  the original basic design of the US Senate was not some masterful cog in a glorious machine, but was a political compromise agreed upon to guarantee ratification.  In that way the Great Compromise is not different than the 3/5th Compromise:  both were sweeteners to entice specific states to abandon the failed Articles and to adopt the new constitution.   In this way the writing of the constitution was no different than the way legislation is crafted:  choices are made to build a coalition so that passage can be achieved.

The main problem is this:  there is a romantic view that some hold that the Framers had a perfect plan that carefully considered, and fully understood, the implications of their institutional choices.  The fact of the matter is:  they did not.  They were smart fellows, to be sure, but they were not human supercomputers who took into consideration all the variables and then determined all of the possible permutations and ramifications of their decisions.

It is very much worth keeping mind that the conventioneers in Philadelphia were largely sailing in uncharted waters; they had no clear examples to guide their choices.  How could they?  After all:  much of what they were doing was brand new.

And yes:  Madison defended the new constitution as a whole after it was drafted, but that is because at that point the political goal was not philosophical purity, it was the practical political task of getting the document ratified and the institutions up and running.

As a parting note, I would point to this post from over two years in which I pointed out that we should remember that it took 3/4th of the state legislatures to shift the election of Senators from the hands of those legislators to the people, which should put the conversation into perspective.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And yes: Madison defended the new constitution as a whole after it was drafted, but that is because at that point the political goal was not philosophical purity, it was the practical political task of getting the document ratified and the institutions up and running.

    Dogdamned RINO.

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  2. The Constitution includes the “supremacy” clause that gives the laws passed by Congress precedence (within the powers delegated to it) over any passed by the states. A counterweight to that supremacy was that one house of Congress would be selected by the states themselves, as you rightly point out was the system under the Articles of Confederation that placed far more power at the state level. The 17th Amendment removed that counterweight.

    Further, the original process of selecting senators via state legislatures was a way of placating the politicians at the state level who were losing power under the new constitution.

    So you agree that the 17th Amendment took power away from the states. That is what advocates of its repeal wish to correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 14

  3. Joe says:

    One other notable element of the Constitution was the power to amend it. The idea that we should reverse an amendment because it is not consistent with the framers’ intent is ridiculous. Strictly speaking, none of the amendments are consistent with the framers’ intent – that’s why they are amendments. If the framers had intended to put them in the document, they would have done so.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  4. @Joe:

    Strictly speaking, none of the amendments are consistent with the framers’ intent – that’s why they are amendments.

    Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  5. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    Talk of repealing the 17th Amendment is just that, talk. It’s never going to happen,. Which I why mostly consider discussions about a method of selecting the Senate that hasn’t existed for 100 years to be rather pointless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. Mike says:

    But he did advocate for protecting the absolute, God given right to own high capacity magazines and rifles

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  7. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): If you re-read the passage you quote, I am noting that the state legislatures (and specifically the legislators themselves) were losing power (after all, they chose the members of the Congress under the Articles. That a specific set of politicians would lose power is not the same thing as saying the states would lose power:

    the original process of selecting senators via state legislatures was a way of placating the politicians at the state level who were losing power under the new constitution.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  8. @Doug Mataconis: You’re moving the goalposts from SHOULD it happen to WILL it happen. It’ll never happen unless enough people believe it should happen.

    A lot of people believe that our current government is far too over-centralized, and that the 16th and 17th Amendments have effectively wiped out the 9th and 10th. Ever since Wickard v. Filburn, there has been damned little Constitutional restraint on what Congress can do. Do you agree that there is too much power at the national level? If so, what do you propose we do about it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  9. @Steven L. Taylor: So are you saying that the states have the same power under the original Constitution as they had under the Articles of Confederation? Do you honestly believe they have the same power today as they had under the original Constitution?

    Consider the abomination that was the 55-mph national speed limit or the uniform drinking age of 21. In each case, Congress dictated to state legislatures that they would pass certain laws, and that those states’ executive branches would satisfactorily enforce them, or lose funding extracted from the citizens of those states. Can you imagine a Senator elected by a state legislature voting for such laws? Can you imagine a Representative considering a future run for the Senate doing so? I can not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  10. nitpicker says:

    Anytime someone says, “The founders intended ___________,” they’re wrong. The founders compromised just long enough to get a Constitution and Bill of Rights passed and then they started disagreeing immediately about what those things meant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    In other words the Constitution was not inspired by a deity but is the product of the first political sausage factory.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  12. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    That isn’t what I said. While I am happy to explain myself further, it is difficult to discuss something if you are ignoring the plain meaning of the words I have written.

    Please reread the passage that you quoted.

    And, quite clearly, I am arguing that the states did lose power from the Article to the Constitution, hence the need for compromises.

    Are you arguing that the state should have the same level power as under the Articles?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  13. (Of course, all this focus on “states” ignores the fact the people have a heckuva lot more power as individuals under the Constitution than they ever did under the Articles).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  14. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    Can you imagine a Senator elected by a state legislature voting for such laws?

    Ok, so you think that a Senator direclty elected by the people is a worse representative of the people than is a Senator indirectly elected? This, ultimately, makes no sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  15. Scott says:

    The argument that the States lost power to the Central government through direct election of Senator doesn’t really make much sense to me. An argument that state legislatures lost power over individual senators makes more sense. By direct election, state legislatures lost authority to the electorate. In other words, the middle men were cut out.

    In addition, I would argue that the homogenation of the US in modern times would imply that states are less relevant to the electorate as a whole. After all, who wants to have to deal with 50 different states on whole swaths of legal and economic issues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): No, Doug is making the very practical point, odd for a Libertarian, that it ain’t gonna happen, so let’s not waste time on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. @Steven L. Taylor: You’re saying that the individual state legislators feared losing power, and the establishment of the Senate in its original form was to placate them. I get that. Beyond that, it’s unclear what you’re saying, because when I linked that to the states having less power now, you objected to my reasoning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  18. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): I am not sure what your position is. Noting that the Constitution diminished the power of the states is historical fact. The removal of the 17th Amendment, however, does not restore the Articles.

    It is unclear why you are even talking about the Articles in the context of defending the repeal of the 17th Amendment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  19. BTW: it is essential to understand that the most important aspect of the design of the Senate is the co-equality of the states within the chamber, not the method of selection.

    The Great Compromise was about allocation, not selection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. Ok, so you think that a Senator direclty elected by the people is a worse representative of the people than is a Senator indirectly elected? This, ultimately, makes no sense.

    The Senators were not supposed to be representatives of the people; that was the House’s role. The Senators were supposed to be representatives of the States, so that the very body that has supremacy over laws enacted by state legislatures would be partially controlled by those legislatures as a check against over-centralization.

    What is counter-intuitive is that by not being directly elected by the people, these Senators would help keep power at the level where the individual citizen has a better chance to be heard. On the average, that citizen has 2% of the voice in Congress that he has in his state legislature.

    No, I do not think things were better under the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution gave the central government the power it needed to raise a navy and armies to defend the nation against enemies, which it really didn’t have under the Articles. But the 16th and 17th Amendments have pushed that balance too far toward DC and away from the state capitals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  21. @Steven L. Taylor:

    The Great Compromise was about allocation, not selection.

    And yet it prescribed precisely the same method of selection that the states enjoyed under the Articles of Confederation. You seem to be arguing that the Convention could just as easily have written, and the States could have ratified, a document that selected Senators by popular vote. The burden of proof is on you to show why they could have done what they plainly did not do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  22. wr says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): “So you agree that the 17th Amendment took power away from the states. That is what advocates of its repeal wish to correct. ”

    Actually, the 17th Amendment took power away from elected officials in the states and returned it to the citizens of the states. How would stripping this power away from the people and giving to a bunch of politicians improve our FREEDOM!, or whatever it is you’re arguing for?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  23. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem is that there is no way that State Legislatures would choose Senators. The political machines of each state would do so. Imagine what would happen in Louisiana, Illinois, Texas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  24. @Steven L. Taylor:
    It is not possible to discuss the Constitutional Convention and the document it produced without including the defects in the Articles of Confederation that document was intended to correct.

    My point should be obvious, but let me draw you a picture:

    DECENTRALIZED <> CENTRALIZED
    AoC — Original Constitution — Current Constitution

    The Constitutional Convention proposed, and the states ratified, a document that gave the central government more power than it had under the Articles. The 16th and 17th Amendments gave it even more power. You may think that’s a good thing. I think the Articles were too decentralized, those amendments make it too centralized, and the original structure of the Constitution is damned close to the Goldilocks Point: Just Right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): Steven has described what happened historically in refutation of an ignorant remark made by a GA legislator. You wish to argue about something else. I think I speak for the overwhelming majority on this thread in saying there is no burden of proof on Steven and I will not think the less of him if he refrains from further comment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  26. Rick Almeida says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    Consider the abomination that was the 55-mph national speed limit or the uniform drinking age of 21.

    States can have a drinking age under 21, but if they do, they lose 10% of their federal highway construction funding.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  27. @wr:

    How would stripping this power away from the people and giving to a bunch of politicians improve our FREEDOM!, or whatever it is you’re arguing for?

    By moving power back toward the state legislatures, where it is closer to the people. As I said, it’s counter-intuitive that indirect election can be better for individual liberty, but the Framers had seen the evil of placing all power in the Westminster Parliament, and had no desire to repeat that mistake.

    There is a huge difference between a person exercising his individual liberty and exercising political power. The latter, like any other power, needs to be carefully controlled lest it become tyrannical. (Yes, a democracy can be a tyranny. That’s why we have a republic.)

    If the people of IL/LA, etc. elect corrupt political machines as their legislatures, when the districts thereof amplify the power of individual votes, how can those same voters elect noble champions of liberty as senators?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  28. @gVOR08:

    I think I speak for the overwhelming majority on this thread in saying there is no burden of proof on Steven and I will not think the less of him if he refrains from further comment.

    Have fun with your echo chamber. Let not your brow be furrowed by the need to actually think.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  29. @gVOR08:

    Steven has described what happened historically in refutation of an ignorant remark made by a GA legislator. You wish to argue about something else.

    I would endorse this assessment of the conversation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. @Rick Almeida:

    States can have a drinking age under 21, but if they do, they lose 10% of their federal highway construction funding.

    And can you imagine a Senator who had to face his state legislature for re-election voting for such a bill?

    Can you see how the combination of the income tax that gives Congress deep pockets in the first place, and removing the need to face those legislators, could contribute to such expansions of power of the central government?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  31. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    the state legislatures, where it is closer to the people.

    As a practical consideration, this is nonsense since most people are more likely to know who their Senators are than they are to know who their state legislators are.

    Further. under the 17th amendment the people are quite close to the Senator in a power sense, since they elect the Senator directly.

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  32. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    And can you imagine a Senator who had to face his state legislature for re-election voting for such a bill?

    Yes, because it would be in the state’s overall interest to maintain the interstates, even at the cost of raising the drinking age.

    You are privileging an abstract notion (don’t tell the states what to do!) over a practical reality (interstates are vital to the economic well-being of states).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  33. @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    that’s why we have a republic

    In regards to that: Madison’s Defintion(s) of Republic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  34. @Steven L. Taylor: You seriously think a Senator could vote for “Hey, guys who have to elect me, do what we say or we’ll take money away from you!”?

    If you think that, there’s no point in further discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  35. ptfe says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): “If the people of IL/LA, etc. elect corrupt political machines as their legislatures, when the districts thereof amplify the power of individual votes, how can those same voters elect noble champions of liberty as senators?”

    You just answered your own question: it’s the districts that amplify the power of the votes contained therein. If you have 100 people voting and 60 of them want to vote for Person X and are contained in 3 districts while the other 40 are spread across 4 districts and want to vote for Person Y, what is the optimal democratic outcome? You’re advocating that Person Y should win because she’s clearly a “noble champion[] of liberty.” Most of us would say that’s a highly negative outcome, but you seem to disagree. Since your disagreement is couched in vague notions of “political power”, “tyranny”, and “liberty”, it really is on you to somehow quantify these notions and explain how any of these is better served by re-centralizing to a system that has a demonstrably long history of localized corruptability.

    Note that this is why the House so massively overrepresents Republicans (the minority party — by a relatively wide margin — at this point). Corruption at the state level is much easier to maneuver, and with the disparate methods of districting among the states, it was a simple task to gerrymander state-level districts into permanent political locks. That’s bad all around. Direct voting removes this impediment by saying that every person in every district in a state has an equal voice — that means the power to make a senatorial vote can’t be gerrymandered away.

    It’s also interesting that what you’re advocating that states will be best represented by having a federal government devoid of state-level democratic elections. The House is populated via pocketed internal districting; the president is elected via the weirdly indirect Electoral College; court positions are appointed. The Senate is the only state-level democratic federal representation, and advocates like you scream “states rights!” and then promptly discard state-level democracy as the Tool of the Devil. Weird.

    I recognize, of course, that this entirely ignores that the Senate itself is rather un-democratic in its equal allotments. But if we’re granting that this undemocratic entity needed to exist for the sake of the initial compromise, it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that its members should be the most democratically elected.

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  36. Console says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    The house represents congressional districts. The senate represents states. The method of selection doesn’t change that. A person that’s elected by the individuals of a state still represents the interests of that state.

    Putting a middleman (whether the electoral college or state legislature) between elections is a check on DEMOCRACY. Not a check on federal power. To the extent that people want the former, it has everything to do with authoritarian impulses and not state rights.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  37. John D'Geek says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): The problems you quote are an issue with Unlimited Taxation Powers & the “We Can Cheat, We’re DC!” attitude within the Beltway*, not the 17th Ammendment.

    @Steven L. Taylor: The question is how to reduce the power of the central goverment. Unfortunately, that requires Ethics, not Laws, and the amount of Ethics we see in our elected officials wouldn’t fill a thimble**.

    * “We can cheat!” — The Constitution specifically prohibits creating a national drinking age (10th Ammendment). But, hey, it doesn’t say that the Fed can’t take all your money and only give it back if you cooperate! (Liberals can substitute “No Child Left Behind” for “National Drinking Age” — it’s the same principle.)

    ** Okay, that may be an exaturation. Maybe a gallon or two, but no more than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  38. James Joyner says:

    @Joe: @Steven L. Taylor: Well, presumably the Bill of Rights are an exception. But . . . yes.

    Then again, there are those who think any Amendment to the Constitution that changes the Constitution is therefore unconstitutional.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  39. A says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro)By moving power back toward the state legislatures, where it is closer to the people. :

    Wait. So the state legislatures choosing a Senator are closer to the people than say, the actual people choosing a Senator?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. A says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    By moving power back toward the state legislatures, where it is closer to the people.

    So wait, state legislatures are closer to the people than the actual people?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  41. David says:

    The problem is you cant gerrymander senate seats unless you get rid of the 17th amendment. (Cause you can certainly gerrymander state rep and senate districts).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. David M says:

    So Congress would be improved if the Senators were not elected? That seems rather far fetched given the appointments would be rewards from the state political parties. The state legislatures would not be selecting them either, even if that’s the claimed goal, the political parties in those states would make the selections. I can’t think of one thing that would be improved by turning Senate seats into rewards for unelected politicians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  43. @James Joyner:

    Well, presumably the Bill of Rights are an exception.

    Point taken,

    Of course, even then these weren’t the “Framers” per se, since they were written in the context of the new Congress (although the primary author of the BoR was Madison). O course, the Framers has actually “intended” a BoR they would have written one from the get-go.

    Then again, there are those who think any Amendment to the Constitution that changes the Constitution is therefore unconstitutional.

    Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  44. DRE says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):
    There seem to be three issues here.

    1. The nature of the Senate in the Constitution was a compromise to overcome objections from small states and achieve ratification, and was not the design that James Madison preferred. You don’t seem to disagree here, but you do seem to have missed that it was the primary point of the original post.

    2. You are mixing a discussion of the 17th amendment with the switch from Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. Clearly the small States lost power with the adoption of the Constitution. This is not the same thing as saying that the States lost power with the adoption of the 17th Amendment.

    3. There is a difference between the States losing power and the State Legislatures losing power. Steven made this point at least twice but you are ignoring this issue to accuse him of inconsistency. This difference is the core issue in the debate over the merits of the 17th Amendment. It is a fundamental difference in understanding the role of the Constitution.

    Does the Constitution define a Federal Government with limited powers, separate from State governments which have other powers, or does it describe a system in which State legislatures must defend their powers by having a degree of control over the Federal Government. If, as I would argue, it is the former, then the 17th Amendment took power from State Legislatures and gave it to the people of the various States, which affected the power of State legislatures relative to their citizens, but did not affect the relative power of State and Federal Government. It is only if you believe that the Constitution requires the States to defend their powers by controlling votes in Congress that you can see the 17th Amendment as weakening the States.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @ptfe:

    Direct voting removes this impediment by saying that every person in every district in a state has an equal voice — that means the power to make a senatorial vote can’t be gerrymandered away.

    That is why the 17th Amendment needs to be repealed.

    @David M:

    So Congress would be improved if the Senators were not elected? That seems rather far fetched given the appointments would be rewards from the state political parties. The state legislatures would not be selecting them either, even if that’s the claimed goal, the political parties in those states would make the selections. I can’t think of one thing that would be improved by turning Senate seats into rewards for unelected politicians.

    What…. You don’t like cronyism? How un-American!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  46. DRE says:

    @DRE:

    It is only if you believe that the Constitution requires the States to defend their powers by controlling votes in Congress that you can see the 17th Amendment as weakening the States.

    Even if you believe this, you still must ask the following: If the balance of power between the State Government and the Federal Government is a political question to be determined by votes in Congress, who do you trust to achieve the correct balance, the people of the States who are governed by both, or the state legislators whose power is at stake? If the people of individual States believe that the balance is wrong they can make that a primary issue in their choice of Senators.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  47. Andre Kenji says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    If the people of IL/LA, etc. elect corrupt political machines as their legislatures,

    People do not “elect” corrupt political machines – these political machines are so powerful that can manipulate the outcome. They draw districts to favor them and use political favors to curb defectors on both sides. A senator that has to face the voters is more independent from the political machine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  48. Andre Kenji says:

    @ptfe:

    Direct voting removes this impediment by saying that every person in every district in a state has an equal voice — that means the power to make a senatorial vote can’t be gerrymandered away.

    No, it´s not so simple, because direct voting means that you´ll have all kinds of distortions. Sometimes people in the countryside are underrepresented, for instance. Sometimes complete yahoos can use name recognition to get elected(That´s what always happens in my state in Brazil, that uses direct voting).

    Direct voting in a mixed system can be used to correct distortions from the voting in the districts, but pure direct voting also has distortions. Specially because many times people do not vote in parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  49. Craigo says:

    @Andre Kenji: Sometimes people in the countryside are underrepresented, for instance.

    “Losing” =/= “underrepresentation.” If voters in the countryside are outnumbered by those in the cities or the suburbs, that’s not a distortion – that’s a democratic election working in the way that it is intended.

    I think you’re confusing a distortion with an unfavorable outcome, and minority rule with minority protection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  50. David says:

    Distortion would be if one party got more votes than the other, but still got less seats in the House. Oh, wait…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  51. DRE says:

    @Craigo:

    I think you’re confusing a distortion with an unfavorable outcome, and minority rule with minority protection.

    I’m don’t have any knowledge of the situation in Brazil, but it’s certainly true that having at-large majority vote election for all representatives can cause severe distortion. If a majority can exclude a minority from any representation at all, that is a distortion. However in the selection of Senators, having the choice made by a majority of legislators elected by district, rather than by a majority of the citizens themselves creates a far greater risk of distortion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  52. Joe says:

    @James Joyner: I guess you could ask whether the first 10 amendments are really amendments.

    More importantly, the framers created a Constitution that was subject to amendment. Treating the amended Constitution as “less” Constitutional than the original Constitution places the framers on a pedestal they themselves rejected. As much as I appreciate and benefit from the work of the framers, I also appreciate and benefit from (in the aggregate) the efforts of those who worked to amend the Constitution over time to its current form.

    Some of those amendments nibbled around the edges (e.g., 18 and 21) and some changed the fundamental nature of American government (e.g., 14). All were within the Constitutional rights of Americans to pass. Frankly, I find much of the conversation about how the founders’ generation viewed the interrelationship of the state and federal governments to be almost irrelevant in light of the 14th amendment. We voted to change that relationship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  53. wr says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro): “By moving power back toward the state legislatures, where it is closer to the people.”

    You know where power is even closer to the people than when it’s with the state legislature?

    When it’s with the people.

    I’m sorry, but repealing the 17th amendment is quite possibly the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen on the internet, and that includes protecting against inflation by buying gold coins at twice their metal value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  54. matt bernius says:

    @ptfe:

    You just answered your own question: it’s the [State] districts that amplify the power of the votes contained therein.

    And since, in most states, those districts are drawn and approved by the State Government, it can be argued (as you do) that the House is now the part of Congress that reflect the “pick” of the State and that the Senate has become the “House” of the people’s representatives (simple majority of State Electorate).

    Great point about the inversion of the so-called “original intent.”

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  55. @Joe:

    Frankly, I find much of the conversation about how the founders’ generation viewed the interrelationship of the state and federal governments to be almost irrelevant in light of the 14th amendment.

    Exactly.

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  56. Neil Hudelson says:

    Call me crazy, but could this call for a repeal possibly be related to the fact that Republicans control a heckuva lot more state legislative bodies, but are in the extreme minority on a national level (including receiving far less votes in congress)?

    Nah, that’s probably just crazy talk.

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  57. al-Ameda says:

    What could be closer to the will of the people that an actual vote by the people? How could it be more beneficial to the people to have their Senators selected by the majority party in the State Legislature?

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  58. Justinian says:

    I am in the strange position of agreeing with every subsidiary particular of Mr. Taylor’s article at the head of this blog, but disagreeing with his conclusion.

    First, Mr. Taylor’s somewhat “sausage-making” view of the Constitutional Convention is in accord with my own sense after having read the notes taken by James Madison of the Convention itself. I, personally, agree with every detail of his description.

    But I do believe that having the Senators appointed by state legislatures, though riddled with imperfections like anything else in government, is preferable to the current arrangement, for these reasons:

    1. A book I have, written in 1905, said that it was an open question whether a State could sue the Federal Government in court: there was no case law to go by because it had never been done before. Now, of course, the States are suing the federal government over all sorts of issues. By having a Senate appointed by state legislatures, all these disagreements would be thrashed out, beforehand, and the States would not feel that Washington is trampling on them all the time.

    2. I cannot believe it is democracy to elect a puppet to some other power. If state legislators can be forced by Washington to pass speed limits and many other laws, they cease to represent the citizens at all and become minions to federal power. Somewhat paradoxically, there will be more representative government, not less, if the state legislatures appointed the Senators rather than the people directly. People would lose direct election of one hundred U.S. Senators, but gain real, meaningful election of thousands of state legislators.

    3. I forget which famous author said it (was it Machiavelli, in one of his less acerbic moments?), but the comment was that centralized governments are much more overbearing if there is not a nobility of some sort to counterbalance them. Some system of peerage is needed so that the central government doesn’t think it can do anything, at any time, to anyone. Edward Gibbon, too, commented that the Byzantine Emperors ensured that there be a huge gulf between themselves and the second wealthiest or second most powerful person in the empire— all so that their own power could be all the more unchallengeable. When the Senate was appointed, the States formed a peerage with the federal government, and kept that government in check. I believe that if the Senate goes back to being appointed, it will go a long way to keeping the federal government in bounds.

    4. James Madison is the author of this famous observation: mere “parchment barriers” are no defence against encroachments of power, and to keep powers properly in place one needs a mechanism that operates in real time (as we call it now) to keep power from being usurped. The Tenth Amendment is such a “parchment barrier” to unlimited reach of the Federal Government, and many people, even in law schools and in courts, will say that, for all practical purposes, the Tenth Amendment is a dead letter. James Madison, yet again, is right. We need a mechanism for enforcement of the separation of powers between the federal government and the states, and having federal Courts trying to play umpire sure isn’t it. A Senate, appointed by the state legislatures, is. At least, it showed itself to be for the 130 years when it was constituted in that way.

    For these reasons, I believe that the arrangement of power in this country will be different, and will be better, if the Senate is appointed by the state legislatures rather than directly elected.

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  59. David M says:

    @Justinian:

    It’s not the 19th century anymore. Let it go.

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  60. matt bernius says:

    Having seen @Justinian do such a great job defending his positions on other issues, I’m just pulling up a chair, grabbing a bowl of popcorn and looking forward to Dr Taylor’s response.

    I am curious about one passage:

    People would lose direct election of one hundred U.S. Senators, but gain real, meaningful election of thousands of state legislators.

    Given that state legislators control the drawing of district lines, and have been gerrymandering those lines for quite some time, I do not quite see how the election of US Senators will lead to “real meaningful elections.” Again, as many of us are arguing, under the current, state regulated electoral system, Federal Senate elections are far more “real and meaningful” than any district level race.

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  61. DRE says:

    @Justinian:

    Your argument boils down to the following.

    The people don’t care as much as you do about state sovereignty so they don’t punish their congressional representatives for violations of your theoretical ideal separation.

    State Legislators have an interest in maximizing their own power so they would be more likely to punish Senators for these violations.

    Therefore State Legislators are more likely to produce your preferred outcome.

    Your focus on the power balance between state and federal government leads you to ignore the much more important power balance between the people and their government at all levels. There were a whole series of amendments (especially the 14th) which were the result of States abusing the rights of their own citizens, and which fundamentally altered the nature of our Federalism. The 17th is a part of this change.

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  62. @Justinian:

    Thanks for the response. Some responses of my own:

    By having a Senate appointed by state legislatures, all these disagreements would be thrashed out, beforehand, and the States would not feel that Washington is trampling on them all the time.

    Yet there is no reason to assume this to be true. First, states don’t “feel”–people so the real issue is whether the majorities of voters in a given state support something or not. If we consider the breakdown at the moment of states that have accepted the Obamacare provisions and those have rejected them, the delineation is not stateness, but the political predilections of the majorities in those states. (Likewise, not all states sued the federal government over these issues). So, this is a political/partisan/ideological conflict, not one about state qua states.

    If state legislators can be forced by Washington to pass speed limits and many other laws, they cease to represent the citizens at all and become minions to federal power. Somewhat paradoxically, there will be more representative government, not less, if the state legislatures appointed the Senators rather than the people directly. People would lose direct election of one hundred U.S. Senators, but gain real, meaningful election of thousands of state legislators.

    I really do not think this stands up to logical scrutiny. The opportunity for the Congress to leverage highway funds into speed limit or drinking age limits is predicated on the highway funds in the first place, not the selection process of the Senate. Are you going to argue that a Senate selected by state legislators would never have voted for the interstate highway system, because that would not make any sense given the clear benefit of those roads to states as economic entities.

    Fundamentally you are not demonstrating why the people are best represented by delegating the right to choose their representative to others. Asserting it is not proof.

    The bottom line is that all of this assumes that states have interests, States don’t. The citizens in the states are the ones with the interests,

    Really, most of these arguments assume that a Senate selected by the states would be for less government. There is no real evidence of this.

    The real problem for those who want less government is that the growth in government is a direct response to the long-term effects of the Industrial Revolution and modern economies that resulted, not the way we select the Senate. In other words: the main growth factor is the welfare state and the welfare state is the outgrowth of industrialization and urbanization (amongst other factors).

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  63. @al-Ameda:

    What could be closer to the will of the people that an actual vote by the people? How could it be more beneficial to the people to have their Senators selected by the majority party in the State Legislature?

    This is, of course, the most fundamental question for the pro-repeal types.

    I have yet to hear a persuasive response. It is always predicated on the notion of the “interests” of states, but no one can ever explain to me how the interest of a state is different from the interests of the people inside those states.

    States are nothing but real estate without the people residing inside them.

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  64. Andre Kenji says:

    @Craigo:

    If voters in the countryside are outnumbered by those in the cities or the suburbs, that’s not a distortion – that’s a democratic election working in the way that it is intended.

    No, it´s not, because the problem is not just that the countryside is outnumbered – proportionally, they are also underrepresented. A normal politician can´t compete with a established incumbent or a celebrity, because they have name recognition.

    Besides that, put at large voting and mandatory voting and then the obvious result is a flurry of bizarre yahoos being elected to the Congress – from a Lyndon LaRouche wannabe that wanted to build a nuclear bomb to a TV Clown that people doubted that he could read, or even a gay fashion designer known for misogynistic tirades.

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  65. Latino_in_Boston says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    “No, it´s not, because the problem is not just that the countryside is outnumbered – proportionally, they are also underrepresented” I’m not sure what that means in terms of the Senate in Brazil, because you can’t have a third or a fourth of a senator, so yeah if as a whole the countryside votes for a candidate that doesn’t win, their votes would not be “represented” but that’s exactly what you’d expect in a winner takes all election. This would not change in a Senate that was chosen by the state legislature, because presumably the countryside would also have fewer votes in the legislature than the winning candidate.

    Regardless, the main reason why name recognition is a serious problem in Brazil and far worse than in the US is because of the open-list proportional representation way in which Brazilians elect the Chamber of Deputies. That’s the main reason why Tiririca, the clown you mentioned, got elected, for example.

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  66. DRE says:

    @The Monster (@SumErgoMonstro):

    @Steven L. Taylor: You seriously think a Senator could vote for “Hey, guys who have to elect me, do what we say or we’ll take money away from you!”?

    If you think that, there’s no point in further discussion.

    I want to go back and look a little more deeply at this question. If a Senator elected by the people of a state is willing to vote for such a proposition, he must believe that the people of the state are willing to support the “do what we say” proposition. If the people of the state are willing to support that proposition, and the state legislature is in any way representative of the people, then it is likely that the state legislature would be willing to pass a law that is consistent with the “do what we say” part anyway, so the “or we’ll take money away” part would be directed at other states. The only difference is that the state legislature might oppose a policy that the people support in order to protect their own power. The conflict is between the people and their state legislators in exercising the power of the state, not between the federal government and the state. Your problem is that you don’t trust the people to see their own interest, which is an idea that belongs to the past.

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  67. DRE says:

    @Justinian:

    We need a mechanism for enforcement of the separation of powers between the federal government and the states, and having federal Courts trying to play umpire sure isn’t it. A Senate, appointed by the state legislatures, is. At least, it showed itself to be for the 130 years when it was constituted in that way.

    I neglected this earlier. The fact is that the Senate with equal representation for each state is a plenty powerful mechanism, regardless of the selection method. Any law must be passed both by a majority of the representatives of the national population, and by a majority (or super majority) of the representatives of the states. A national majority can not impose it’s will on the states unless there is also a majority of states who agree with the will and with the imposition. The ability of the southern states to block civil rights legislation for decades, even with popular election of senators, would indicate that it is a plenty powerful (too powerful) mechanism.

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  68. Justinian says:

    You may get out the popcorn: this is a long one.

    First, in reply to a comment by Steven L. Taylor:

    The opportunity for the Congress to leverage highway funds into speed limit or drinking age limits is predicated on the highway funds in the first place, not the selection process of the Senate. Are you going to argue that a Senate selected by state legislators would never have voted for the interstate highway system, because that would not make any sense given the clear benefit of those roads to states as economic entities.

    An appointed Senate would certainly have voted to approve an interstate highway system. They would just have voted down amendments to require speed-limit laws and legal-drinking-age laws in those spending packages. The Senate has power to amend. The nature of legislation coming out of Congress would look different with an appointed Senate.

    Also, Mr. Taylor wrote:

    Fundamentally you are not demonstrating why the people are best represented by delegating the right to choose their representative to others. Asserting it is not proof.

    Under an appointed Senate, the people are not delegating their ability to elect Senators, they would be ceding it. (And I wonder how I got such a reputation for defending unpopular positions. Such is life.) The Senators would no longer be representing the People; they would only be representing the States, or, as Mr. Taylor puts is, “states qua states.”

    Representation into the federal government would then be confined to the House of Representatives, a body which is, and I totally agree, of wholly gerrymandered districts. If, though, the federal government would stick to its enumerated powers, and not “intermingle” with the States so much, then that would be representation enough: people would have full representation in things that matter to them most: public education, police protection, a working judicial system, public health and publicly dispensed charity, and so forth, and in all these areas, people would be represented by state legislators, people they might even see or bump into in a grocery store, rather than our current Congressmen, who are so few (per capita) and so distant, both physically and socially, from the people at large.

    Another comment by Mr. Taylor:

    The bottom line is that all of this assumes that states have interests, States don’t. The citizens in the states are the ones with the interests.

    A state is a thing-in-itself. We have no trouble with this concept with states outside the Union: dealing with Great Britain or with France as states in their own right, not simply as collections of people within those countries.

    And again:

    Really, most of these arguments assume that a Senate selected by the states would be for less government. There is no real evidence of this.

    It is on this point that I feel almost all alone in this country. Conservatism has talked itself into being against government, or for smaller government, even to the point of becoming anti-government. Instead, my position is that a restored sense of Federalism will redistribute power, much of it away from Washington, but with much still remaining there (defense, tariffs, regulation of interstate commerce, and so forth). Government power is not vanished by the process, it is moved, with large segments going back to the States whose legislatures are much closer to the people than Congress could ever hope to be.

    Now, in reply to DRE. DRE reduces my fine-sounding reasons and says that I hold my position simply because I prefer the outcome that would result with an appointed Senate, but that many other people do not prefer this outcome. I agree: whether I or anyone will support an appointed Senate is whether one prefers the outcome.

    I believe the outcome will be a restoration of federalism, of a clearly delineated separation of powers between the federal government and the states, and also a federal government that is recognized as having only limited, delineated powers and thus does not bankrupt itself trying to be all things to all people. Such is my vision: I do not know how many other people share it.

    I have several examples of much more clumsy and onerous the federal government is than a state government when they each do the same thing, such as oversee public education. But instead, I’ll write about the need for federalism in broad terms. Chuang-Tse, the great commentator on the Tao-Teh Ching, has an excellent passage, which unfortunately I must quote from memory (my text not being near me). Here is the passage:

    People try to keep things safe by placing their valuables in trunks. They take special precautions to bind these trunks shut with chords, and secure the cords with locks. This, they think, is wit. But a big thief comes and take the trunk itself. His greatest concern is that the cords not be strong enough, and the trunk open up as he is hauling it all off!

    And (Chuang-Tse continues), everything the world calls wit is just storing up treasures into trunks for big thieves to take to themselves, trunk and all. Chuang-Tse then catalogs splendid kingdoms, ruled by righteous kings, that then became the property of a usurper, who took not only the throne, but all the intellectual trappings that supported it.

    I have not done justice to the original (which some take to be the single greatest thing Chuang-Tse ever wrote), but the meaning is plain: if power is concentrated into too narrow a compass, it is only a matter of time for someone to come by and take it all and become a dictator. Dispersion of power is the only safeguard against tyranny.

    Contrary to much prevailing opinion, I do not believe that the concentration of power into Washington is the result of either the Civil War, Industrialization, or the rise of the “welfare state.” First, the States were having their rights respected after the Civil War into the 1920s. Truly massive transfers of power came only with the New Deal in the 1930s. Second, the Industrial Revolution dates to the 1750s, and the degradation of the status of American states occurred much, much later. Finally, the rise of the “welfare state” points to more federalism, not less, since the natural dispensators of public charity are the states, not the federal government.

    No, it was only after the Senate became elected, rather than appointed, that we saw a migration of power out of the states to Washington in any large scale. And the concentration of power was, and continues to be, at such a large scale that if not stopped, it will end with such huge power being packaged into so narrow a compass that it will be only a matter of time for a dictator to take it all for himself.

    In the end, these are are the concerns that press upon my mind and make me believe that an appointed Senate, despite all its manifold imperfections, will be better than an elected Senate for ensuring the continued safety and happiness of the American people.

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  69. David M says:

    @Justinian:

    Why should we want power returned to state legislatures? They face less scrutiny for their actions than the federal government and are more corrupt. The change to appointed Senators will result in almost all state and federal representation being subject to gerrymandering, which is most definitely not an improvement. And finally, you’ve studiously avoided the implications of Senate seats becoming rewards (bribes) to be handed out by the majority party in each state.

    All in all, a proposal for radical change that is almost certainly going to make things worse.

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  70. @Justinian: To avoid overly long post, let me do some of this piecemeal.

    You write:

    They would just have voted down amendments to require speed-limit laws and legal-drinking-age laws in those spending packages.

    Based on what? This is an assertion based solely on your preferred view of the way things would work.

    Indeed, since only 1 state was even trying to buck the drinking age requirement (Louisiana), it is pretty clear that there was a general national consensus on this issue. The pressure was linked to national concern about drunk driving deaths and an effective campaign by MADD.

    The forces that drove all but one state to adopt 21 as the drinking age and that drove the vote in the Senate would almost certainly have affected appointed Senators.

    The only way for your counter-factual to hold water is to demonstrate that, in reality, most (at least a majority) states wanted a lower drinking age. There is no evidence to support than conclusion.

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  71. @Justinian:

    The Senators would no longer be representing the People; they would only be representing the States, or, as Mr. Taylor puts is, “states qua states.”

    The problem is you are not justifying why states have interests separate from the people living in them. This is the fundamental flaw in your argument.

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  72. @Justinian:

    Under an appointed Senate, the people are not delegating their ability to elect Senators, they would be ceding it.

    I must confess my initial, and decidedly non-scholarly reaction to this is: why the frak would the people cede this right?

    In a more theoretical approach I would point out again: you are not telling me why states qua states ought to privileged over states as places where living, breathing, citizens live.

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  73. DRE says:

    @Justinian:

    People try to keep things safe by placing their valuables in trunks. They take special precautions to bind these trunks shut with chords, and secure the cords with locks. This, they think, is wit. But a big thief comes and take the trunk itself. His greatest concern is that the cords not be strong enough, and the trunk open up as he is hauling it all off!

    Your valuables will be safer if you you just leave them lying around. This sounds like advice that a little thief would give.

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  74. DRE says:

    @Justinian:

    Truly massive transfers of power came only with the New Deal in the 1930s.

    Yes, when the nation faced a massive crisis that the states were unable to deal with. If you believe that an appointed Senate would have blocked the new deal programs, then I would say the 17th amendment proved its value pretty quickly.

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  75. DRE says:

    @Justinian:

    And the concentration of power was, and continues to be, at such a large scale that if not stopped, it will end with such huge power being packaged into so narrow a compass that it will be only a matter of time for a dictator to take it all for himself.

    The solution is for the people to jealously guard their freedoms and ability to control all government, not to cede that right to a different government. It is the states that have a history of abusing individual rights, not the federal government. The people choose to transfer more power to the federal government because it protects their rights from the little thieves in state governments which still maintain the police power.

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  76. DRE says:

    @Justinian:

    I agree: whether I or anyone will support an appointed Senate is whether one prefers the outcome.

    Not really. You support an appointed Senate because you think it would produce a balance between the state and federal governments that is more to your liking. I support an elected Senate because I believe the people are capable of deciding for themselves how to exercise the constitutional power of the states, not because I think they will give more power to the Federal Government.

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  77. @Justinian:

    Second, the Industrial Revolution dates to the 1750s

    The beginnings, yes. The full implications of an industrialized, urbanized society really doesn’t start to come home to roost until the early 20th Century,

    You are truly pining for days that are long gone.

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  78. Justinian says:

    In reply to David M.:

    Why should we want power returned to state legislatures? They face less scrutiny for their actions than the federal government and are more corrupt. The change to appointed Senators will result in almost all state and federal representation being subject to gerrymandering, which is most definitely not an improvement. And finally, you’ve studiously avoided the implications of Senate seats becoming rewards (bribes) to be handed out by the majority party in each state.

    What you have noted are among the manifold imperfections of an appointed Senate! Yet my fear of overly concentrated power into one seat of government is so great I believe that these “imperfections” are the lesser evil.

    In reply to DRE:

    Your valuables will be safer if you you just leave them lying around. This sounds like advice that a little thief would give.

    The quote by Chuang-Tse is among my favorites, but I had not thought of the “little-thief” rebuttal to it. Your comment that the States have the police power, but the Federal government mostly doesn’t (and thus State power is more to be feared than Federal power) is also something I had not thought of.

    In reply to Steven L. Taylor, that industrialized, urbanized society didn’t come “home to roost” until the 1920s, then perhaps rather than looking at industrialization, it is urbanization that was the big cultural shift, together with the automobile becoming widely available, the telephone and wireless.

    Digression: Someone remarked to Czar Nicholas (the real czar, not the blogger): “How is it possible for you, a single man, to rule the far-flung Russian Empire?” Nicholas replied, “I don’t rule the Russian Empire; ten thousand clerks rule the Russian Empire.”

    Perhaps we saw an increase in centralization exactly when government could act in so centralized a matter (with telephone, radio, and so forth). Still, that does not answer whether we would want to be governed in so centralized a manner.

    In reply to DRE:

    Yes, when the nation faced a massive crisis that the states were unable to deal with. If you believe that an appointed Senate would have blocked the new deal programs, then I would say the 17th amendment proved its value pretty quickly.

    The 1930s are an inkblot. People see in them confirmation of their political beliefs. The view given above is taught in the schools. Suppressed, of course, is how totalitarianism was in style at that time, in Germany, in the Soviet Union, and (gasp!) in the United States. Many people believe that the meddlings of F.D.R. extended the economic depression, not solved it. Also, the country had seen economic depressions before (just not so well statistically documented) and the states handled things just as always.

    Finally, in reply to Steven L. Taylor:

    You are truly pining for days that are long gone.

    Perhaps. But so were the leaders of the French Revolution, hearkening back, no doubt with severely rose-colored glasses, upon the old (pre-Imperial) Roman Republic. The American Revolution, too, was (to the people at the time) simply a restoration of self-government that had existed prior to when Parliament arrogated centralized government of the colonies to itself. We now look upon the leaders of those movements as propelling things forward, but at the time they looked terribly old-fashioned and nostalgic.

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  79. @Justinian:

    but at the time they looked terribly old-fashioned and nostalgic.

    Well, no.

    To truly return to a governing paradigm of which you truly want (forget appointed Senators) requires a view of govern appropriate for a society and economy substantially different from where we are now. There is a reason no developed country (or even developing countries) have policy regimes that resemble 1870s America.

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  80. @Justinian:

    The American Revolution, too, was (to the people at the time) simply a restoration of self-government that had existed prior to when Parliament arrogated centralized government of the colonies to itself.

    BTW: this was the original goal, although you over-simplify it. Regardless, a restoration of the relationship in question was looking only a few year back, not well over a century and a quarter to a truly different era.

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  81. David M says:

    @Justinian:

    Why should we want power returned to state legislatures? They face less scrutiny for their actions than the federal government and are more corrupt. The change to appointed Senators will result in almost all state and federal representation being subject to gerrymandering, which is most definitely not an improvement. And finally, you’ve studiously avoided the implications of Senate seats becoming rewards (bribes) to be handed out by the majority party in each state.

    What you have noted are among the manifold imperfections of an appointed Senate! Yet my fear of overly concentrated power into one seat of government is so great I believe that these “imperfections” are the lesser evil.

    Short answer: Your fears are misplaced.

    Long answer: The Senate would certainly change for the worse under what you are proposing, without a doubt. Given this proposal is popular with cranks who want to destroy the social safety net, it’s hard to take seriously, especially given the fact there is really no upside to your proposal. You keep saying “the Senators would be more responsive to the needs of the States”, but never saying why that matters or what you hope for it to accomplish, and “more federalism” isn’t an acceptable reason. I can’t actually think of anything that would improve if Senators were appointed by the States.

    One of the main problem we face as a country is a political party that has gone off the rails, and you keep looking for ways to give more responsibility to the Republican cranks. You may pretend that’s not what you’re after, but you keep pushing things that only help the GOP. Your lack of good explanations for why you want these radical changes makes the reason seem obvious.

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  82. matt bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    [Justinian] are truly pining for days that are long gone.

    He has a habit of doing that.

    In a different thread, on the topic of a modern scientific topic, he wrote the following defense of his objection of what he feels is “unsettled science”:

    There was over a hundred years of sincere, scientific controversy surrounding the Copernican hypothesis that the Sun was the center of the universe (which, in fact, it isn’t, come to think of it).

    This is a topic near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. But, apparently, Justinian thinks we should base our understanding of how long scientific debate should take on a time where there were (a) far fewer scientists, (b) operating with — by modern standards — primitive instruments, and (c) without a remotely modern communication infrastructure for the dissemination and review of said works — many of the substantive discussions on Copernicus’ book took place in the marginalia of the said work.*

    Ah, anachronism. Not to mention pining for the good old, simpler days.

    * – This is not to say that science (or anything) should be immediately settled today.

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