Saturday, July 25, 2009

The 10th Amendment was great idea

Should a people blindly trust their government? I worry that as long as Democrats control the Congress and the Presidency the answer is yes. Apparently even disagreeing with Democrats is considered unpatriotic:

Despite all logic, the many calls and efforts for the federal government to take over as much of the private sector as possible seem to be met with little resistance. Thankfully there is growing conservative resistance to federal takeover, a takeover which many Americans would call a Marxist or Socialist movement. This resistance includes grassroots Republicans, Democrats and others alike, all in the name of the Tenth Amendment. This "second revolution" as some call it has spread even to state legislatures and governors, evidenced by their publicly reclaiming the constitutionally recognized sovereignty of their states, also citing the 10th Amendment to the constitution.

But one problem with this common sense revolution is that all the calls for change and returning the government to its people are largely symbolic. Even the fairly recent sovereignty resolutions of 36 states had no legal power. The rules of the political game are unchanged. The Tenth Amendment is actually part of our constitution, yet has been ignored for decades. And why shouldn't it be ignored, what incentive have our elected representatives to honor it? If an entire amendment to that venerable document can be utterly disregarded and done so with the blessing of tens of millions of voters who want the government to take care of them, how are we to trust any future claims by those representatives that they will turn away from an obviously politically lucrative status quo?

In the modern American tradition we should expect calls for new legislation to compel the Congress to recognize and honor the 10th Amendment for each new law they make. That is, after all, the result of this leftist training we have endured for so long: let the government regulate the problem away - though rarely does such a thing ever actually happen. But a problem arises here - why should a law be required to force Congress to do what the constitution already says? They have ignored it for so long, and we the people (and the states) have allowed Congress to ignore that amendment for so long what possible reason is there to believe anything will change with a wave of public pressure, which is no doubt sincere but likely temporary?

Let me propose an alternate approach. Rather than find new laws to accomplish the desired goal, why not repeal some? Or better yet, start with only one.

The men who invented the United States were well aware of the slow, creeping tyranny of government. They knew that without a balance between the people, their representatives, and federal power capable of doing what ever the representatives wanted, despite any input from the people, federal power would usurp anything it could.

James Madison, widely considered the author of Federalist No. 63, describes exactly why the Senate was necessary. In this paper the writer does not discuss only the importance of a bicameral Congress, with the powers of making law divided into two separate houses. Here, Madison also describes the vital importance of tempering the passions of the people, who can be lied to and tricked into supporting legislation they themselves would later regret. Madison says:

Thus far I have considered the circumstances which point out the necessity of a well-constructed Senate only as they relate to the representatives of the people. To a people as little blinded by prejudice or corrupted by flattery as those whom I address, I shall not scruple to add, that such an institution may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind?

I am not unaware of the circumstances which distinguish the American from other popular governments, as well ancient as modern; and which render extreme circumspection necessary, in reasoning from the one case to the other. But after allowing due weight to this consideration, it may still be maintained, that there are many points of similitude which render these examples not unworthy of our attention. Many of the defects, as we have seen, which can only be supplied by a senatorial institution, are common to a numerous assembly frequently elected by the people, and to the people themselves. There are others peculiar to the former, which require the control of such an institution. The people can never wilfully betray their own interests; but they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people; and the danger will be evidently greater where the whole legislative trust is lodged in the hands of one body of men, than where the concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies is required in every public act.

And here, after indicating ancient governments knew well the importance of representative government rather than direct democracy, Madison warns that the failures of the ancient representative governments were linked to the fact that the very officers elected to represent the people in government transcended their representing roles, and essentially cut off connections with the people in order to form an aristocracy for themselves.

From these facts, to which many others might be added, it is clear that the principle of representation was neither unknown to the ancients nor wholly overlooked in their political constitutions. The true distinction between these and the American governments, lies IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE PEOPLE, IN THEIR COLLECTIVE CAPACITY, from any share in the LATTER, and not in the TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE from the administration of the FORMER.

How true: that the governed "may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people" and that allowing a governing body comprising elected representatives could easily devolve into "the total exclusion of the people". Madison was warning Americans about the dangers of career politicians. What Madison is talking about here is the necessity of having a Senate comprising two members of each state, chosen by the legislatures there of. Originally, in the American Constitution, the Senate was accountable to the states, not to the people, as was the House of Representatives. And being accountable to the states made the Senate less susceptible to the whims of fickle and flamboyant popular movements, because the Senate's constituents were their states' legislators. But with the ratification of the 17th Amendment this changed: now the Senate would be just as dependent on placating and pandering to the people as was the House, until they could assume so much authority they could pretend any disagreement between Senators and a citizen automatically meant the citizen "didn't understand" the situation.

The benefits of having a cool headed Senate ready to slow down the heat of public sentiment and allow reason to dominate any given situation has long been lost. With the 1913 amendment in place the states lost their representation in the federal government. Now any special interest, any lobbyist or popular and temporary wave of fury could influence both houses of Congress equally. And when so many people want the government to take control of an issue there is now no one left to protect the states' rights against federal usurpation. Today we are seeing the results of this tragedy. A federal government which took control of public education and forced us into Social Security has now taken over banking and largely the automotive industry. And taking over our health care is just around the corner.

As big a deal as it is to ignore the 10th Amendment, sadly this is a symptom of a much larger problem. Until the balance of power is restored by repealing the 17th Amendment I fear there will be no stopping the effort to turn the United States into a socialist nation in which we all have so many rights and entitlements that we the people can no longer do anything. In the American government, the ratification of the 17th Amendment spelled the death of the 10th Amendment. Before 1913 Senators responsible to their respective states respected and protected the 10th Amendment, and all the implications that go with it. Without this dynamic of the balance of power federalism is doomed, as is the freedom of the people.

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