I've written several times about so-called campaign finance reform, and there's another aspect that I want to address. I said before that one of the reasons that there is a problem with "special interests" unduly influencing elections is that the legislative branch of our government has usurped too much power from the states themselves, and that's a fact. It would be good to drastically cut taxes and "entitlements", but how could such a thing be accomplished under our current system?

Well, it probably can't. However, the current system isn't the only possible way to do things; until 1913 the federal legislative playing field was quite different. Before the enactment of the 17th Amendment Senators were not elected directly by the people of each state, but were instead selected by the state legislatures. John Dean wrote an essay in 2002 in which he argues that this change to our republic is really what is responsible for the federal bloat we've seen since FDR, and that such cannot be laid solely at the feet of the Progressive movement.

I think Dean has a valid point. The 17th Amendment doesn't account for the explosion of state governments, but I'm sure it at least played a role in the subversion of our federal government. Why was it enacted in the first place? John Dean bases his conclusions on the research of George Mason law professor Todd Zywicki and demolishes two traditional explanations for the 17th. He then says:

Fortuntely, Professor Zywicki offers an explanation for the Amendment's enactment that makes much more sense. He contends that the true backers of the Seventeenth Amendment were special interests, which had had great difficultly influencing the system when state legislatures controlled the Senate. (Recall that it had been set up by the Framers precisely to thwart them.) They hoped direct elections would increase their control, since they would let them appeal directly to the electorate, as well as provide their essential political fuel - money.

This explanation troubles many. However, as Zywicki observes, "[a]thought some might find this reality 'distasteful,' that does not make it any less accurate."

The permanent solution to the corruption in Washington is to split Congress back into its original form, so that state legislatures can provide a balance against the federal government's insatiable appetite for power (and vice versa). The "checks and balances" of our political system are its greatest strength; competition eliminates the long-term problems that arise when too much power is concentrated in any one institution.



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