Saturday, September 4, 2010

Repeal the 17th Amendment

Ezra Klein criticizes the idea of repealing the 17th amendment—the direct election of US Senators:
I've never understood this sort of thing, and said so in the panel. The Founders didn't wisely orient the Senate around states. They pragmatically oriented the Senate around states. But now that we've been the United States of America for a while and none of the states seem likely to secede, the fact that California has 69 times more people than Wyoming but the same representation in the Senate is an offensive anachronism, at least to Californians.
Well, Ezra, you might be mistaken that "none of the states seem likely to secede." No less than the governor of Texas has suggested succession. I don't think they will, largely because they don't want to defend all of their borders from illegal aliens. But I also don't think there would be the political will to stop Texas from seceding. Those interested in repealing the 17th amendment tend to be on the right while those interested in preserving it tend to be on the left. I'm quite confident that Texas's bitter-clingers will be ready to bear arms for such a cause while the leftist peaceniks try to figure out whether the muster goes better with arugula or curly endive.

There's also a pragmatic reason that Washington would not be willing to go to war to preserve the union: the departure of Texas's Congressional Delegation will swing the political pendulum to the left. There's no way Rahm Emanuel would let that crisis go to waste in a pointless war to reduce Democrat influence in DC.

You implied that the pragmatic reasons for orienting the Senate around the states are no longer extent. Just because the great compromise has been made does not mean that the logic that drove that compromise is no longer pertinent. Obviously, in your world view, with the foundation of the great compromise dismissed, you can take a flight of fancy into some social engineering claptrap (emphasis added):
I went on to say that at this point in history, if we wanted the upper body to be based around quotas, then income, age bracket and education made more sense than states. Then I came home and read Kevin Drum's post echoing Larry Bartels's research (pdf) showing 'that the responsiveness of senators to the views of the poor and working class Or maybe even negative. And that's true for both parties. The middle class does better — again, with both parties — and high earners do better still.' Conversely, the body's responsiveness to the views of North Dakota's farmers is really incredible.

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