Friday, March 19, 2010

The 17th Ammendment

I'm a bit annoyed.

Not really angry, not really frustrated, not really bothered, just kind of annoyed.

I'm not annoyed at Nancy Pelosi, but she did remind me of something that bothers me a bit. She recently (I don't know when, if anybody has a link to an article or speech or something, PLEASE link it). I'm annoyed at something she said, not because I disagree with it, but because it brings up a complaint I have.

NB. I am not a libertarian, but I was raised as a libertarian. While I do agree with the basics of the libertarian perspective, I DO NOT claim that this is the proper position for a person who is trying to follow Jesus. Jesus is truth, and while I do believe that one's faith should (MUST) inform one's politics, I do not mean to suggest that I have a corner on the market. Let us continue...

Pelosi spoke to a large collection of democrats, asking them to move forward on a certain initiative, regardless of the feelings of their constituents. She spoke, if memory serves correctly, to a handful of senators and representatives.

Sort of.

Really, she spoke to our two houses of representatives. The Senate is directly elected, now, since the passing of the 17th amendment in the beginning of the 20th century after partisanship kept a number of senate seats empty as state governments would not name a senator to send to Capitol Hill. However, this changed the dynamic of the legislative branch of the US government.

Before the 17th amendment there were two houses within the legislature: the house of representatives, who were to do the will of the people, and were numbered according to the number of citizens within a certain area. The second house was the senate, who were not directly elected by the people, and thus did not have a "constituency" in quite the same way. Thus, they had to be less concerned with the will of the people and could be more able to do what they believed to be right (what Pelosi was asking of those to whom she spoke.)

We see this same principle in the Judicial branch of the Federal government -- judges may act on what they believe to be right, to be constitutional, and to be what is best for the country, uninfluenced by popularity. This has allowed the federal government, particularly the judiciary branch, to do a great deal of good, and has kept the will of the people (which is never perfect) in something resembling a checked state.

Our legislative branch was supposed to have two houses, that is, two branches: one that was tied to the will of the people, and thus would support the voice of the average jane (at least to some extent), and one that would have more freedom to do what they believed to be correct, even if it is unpopular. Thus the voice of the people would check the "yammerheads" (Robert Heinlein's term for law/regulation-happy politicians), while the politicians, who are genuinely trying to do what is best, can keep the will of the people in check.

This system comes from the Constitution, first of all, and it stems from the Framers' great distrust of both the average individual AND professional politicians. It allows both to keep the other in check, so that only laws that are approved of by the people AND the politically elite make it to the desk.

When the 17th amendment was passed this system changed, and gave the voice of the people power in both houses, forcing senators and representatives to act on the will of the people. Essentially, according to the original document as I have come to understand it, we now have two Houses of Representatives. Even the executive branch has become something resembling a really powerful representative, what with constant attention given to popularity rating.

There is no "check" against them, with the exception of the Judiciary, which can still be bypassed. There is no check or balance against the will of the average individual, at least the will of the coming together of the average individual. Maybe it is very un-American of me to say, but I side with the Framers. I know I don't understand politics as well as I want, I don't understand economics, I don't understand world politics and international systems and treaties and international dynamics and how the value of the US dollar affects the world. There is a great deal I do not understand, and I am more educated than the average American, and while I may not be smarter than the average American, I am at least AS smart as the average American. I am educated, reasonably intelligent, and relatively thoughtful.

If I don't understand these things as well as I would like and don't trust myself to make these decisions and often am swayed by media or recent conversations or other petty things, why in the world would I believe that the will of a whole lot of people just like me is of such prime value that it should be basically unchecked in the government. I don't trust the average individual because I know that I AM the average individual, and I wouldn't trust ME to make these decisions, and if I don't trust me why would I trust a big group of mes to make the same decision.

This annoys me.

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