July 15, 2010
Zywicki at Cato: Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment
The Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, provides for direct election of U.S. Senators by the people (and not, as in the original Article I, Section 3, by process set by the state legislature). The change, Zywicki argues, means that U.S. Senators no longer answer to their states. As a result, the Senate no longer plays its state-protecting role that it once played--that individual U.S. Senators (and thus the Senate as a whole) lack the incentives to control federal encroachment upon the states. Moreover, questions of federalism that were once resolved by the political branches (with the Senate as protector of the states) now go to the Supreme Court under the Tenth Amendment. But the Supreme Court has "fumbled," upsetting the federal-state balance that the Founders so carefully framed.
These and similar arguments have gained more vocal followers recently, especially within the Tea Party movement, as we've covered here.
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The Senators today do think about the states they represent in their calculus of how to get reelected. The interest of the state is just less significant than it was in times past. That is because the key to reelection is collecting direct and indirect campaign financial support. For a Senator, that can come from anywhere. So, recent examples of some Democrat and most Republican Senators voting against the obvious interest of their constituents is the result of the calculation that campaign financial support from other interests is more important than the interest of the state they supposedly represent. This happens even though no one does anything illegal.
The cure for that is not to hand back the selection of senators to the state legislatures. The effect of that would be to make the "purchase" of a Senate seat move to a different venue. History suggest that corruption would be even more rampant than the present "corruption" of democracy that we have now.
Posted by: Mike Zimmer | Jul 17, 2010 8:03:08 AM