Friday, October 01, 2004

Repeal It, I Say!

Drudge linked to a report in The Harvard Crimson detailing a speech given there by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past Tuesday, September 28. Predictably, Drudge linked to it because the Honorable Mr. Scalia suggested that orgies were good for relieving social tensions. However, what I found to be most significant in the article was almost an afterthought. Key quote:

"In one of the more bizarre moments of the evening, Scalia mentioned—in passing—that he thought the 17th Amendment was 'a bad idea.'

The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of senators."

Bizarre? Not so!

I've only seen this argument one other place. A book titled "The Five Thousand Year Leap" by W. Cleon Skousen that was first published in 1981. Dr. Skousen is well known to members of the LDS church, particularly for his scholarly treatises regarding ancient scriptures, and for his writings regarding his constitutional studies. "The Five Thousand Year Leap" is one such study, and details 28 principles directly related to the Constitution and its importance as a living document today.

In his chapter titled "19th Principle" he outlines the necessary limitations placed upon the government. At the end of the chapter, he discusses the seventeenth amendment, and details precisely why it was a bad idea.

The entire Constitution is a series of checks and balances intended to prevent any one branch of government from gaining too much power. However, it also provided for checks and balances between the federal and state governments for the same purpose. The House of Representatives was always intended to represent the several states by direct popular vote, to act as a direct "voice of the people" so to speak. The founders realized that popular voting would inevitably lead to some form of power-mongering, and so they created the Senate to counter that influence. Senators would be appointed by each state's legislature, and be answerable to them, rather than the people directly, thus providing a check and balance to the House.

The seventeenth amendment destroyed that check by making the Senate vulnerable to the same popular influences to which the House is subject. Thus, the interests of each state's government are no longer accountable to that state's legislature, but rather to the whims of the populace at large.

Granted, we've seen days in this country when corrupt political machines have created an equally corrupt government by and for the rich and powerful. But our ability as a public to stay informed and put pressure on corrupt politicians has increased a thousand fold in the last several decades.

I, for one, would be very interested to see what may happen if we repealed the seventeenth amendment and put senators back under the control of the states that they're supposed to represent.

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