The 17th Destroyed the Constitution

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The 17th Amendment made senators elected by the people, rather than the state legislatures. This had a reverberating effect on all parts of the constitution, namely, the abandonment thereof. Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy explains.

It is important to note that the constitution set in power a government in a precarious balance. All the evil in men’s nature was set in opposition to itself, while all the good was magnified and multiplied. That is, the yearning to be another man’s master would be frustrated in the federal government, while the yearning to protect men’s freedoms would be amplified.

The senate was to be composed of a bunch of elitist snobs who disdained American democracy, that is, the actual power of the people to determine their government. These elitists were to temper the will of the people as expressed in the House of Representatives.

Now, imagine the people electing a brand new House of Representatives in a throw-the-bums out fashion like we see today. Now imagine that congress goes into session and starts proposing all kinds of strange things that disrupts the way government is setup and working. The natural reaction from the senate is to say “No, thanks.” But how can they say it?

If the say, “no thanks” in the way they’d like to say it, by pointing out how stupid the people are, then the people will rightfully become upset with the senate and work to replace them through their state legislatures. Any corporate executive knows that even if the board is on your side, if the shareholders get upset with you, the board will quickly change their opinion of you as well.

So that’s off the table. What methods remain?

Really, the only way the senate can effectively argue against the will of the people is to put the argument in terms of our natural rights and the constitution. Does this sound familiar? This is what the Supreme Court has to do every day, at least now that the senate doesn’t do it for them.

If we want the constitution to be important, then we have to make it the only useful tool in the senate’s hands.

Now that the senate is elected directly by the people, the reaction people have to an opposing senate is to simply wait two or four more years to replace them along with the House. In fact, oftentimes a sweep is enough to change the balance in the senate as the mood of the people change. This means the senators are nothing more than big representatives, where 2/3rds can safely ignore the will of the people at any given time.

Is it any wonder that the constitution has eroded under such a system? The Senate need not argue about the constitution. They only have to appeal to the people’s emotions, the same way the House does.

And so the only branch of government who considers the constitution is the Supreme Court, and even then, it is not always in their interest to do so.

Folks, if we want to enshrine the Constitution as the law of the land, we have to repeal the 17th Amendment. We have to surrender the power to elect our own senators and establish a body of elitist snobs whose only weapon to defend their snobbery is the constitution. This, tempered with a raucous and wild House, a power-hungry president, and a judicial system whose sole purpose in life is to convince people never to bring a case to court, and you have the makings of a wonderfully balanced government. A government that only unifies on questions that protect all of the people’s rights, and never aligns when only a small group of people are to be served.

Democracy can be our friend, but it is still our enemy. We must temper democracy with republicanism, and we must temper republicanism with dictatorship and democracy, and so on and so forth. That is what separation of powers and the balance of power is all about: taking the best parts of all the forms of government and using them to subdue the bad parts of other forms of government.

One day I’ll write an article about why we need to eliminate the popular vote for president. It has something to do with the fact that our best presidents have been dictators unpopular with the people.

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