T
H
E

L
I
B
E
R
T
A
R
I
A
N

E
N
T
E
R
P
R
I
S
E


I
s
s
u
e

43


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 43, December 25, 1998

1912

By Vin Suprynowicz
Vin_Suprynowicz@lvrj.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

          In recent discussions of the great 1912 watershed, I think I neglected to mention the constitutional amendment which changed U.S. senators from election by the state legislatures to popular election.
          This is generally shrugged off, today, as an unimportant historical footnote, perhaps given a positive spin as "extending democracy." But in fact, it went a long way to gutting the sovereignty of the states, by giving us not two houses substantially different in method of selection, in allegiance, and therefore in outlook and voting behavior, but rather (in effect) 535 popularly- elected congressmen, of whom 100 simply have four times more personal power than the "junior" 400.
          Before 1912, it was not standard for the most popular, best- looking young congressman in a given state to seek a quasi-permanent senate seat after two or four years in the House. Since a senator was chosen by the state Legislature, specifically to do the bidding of the state government in Washington, he was often a retiring governor or state legislative leader. Already white of hair, it was expected he would serve six years (or at most 12) and then die. Such a gentlemen (think of it) never faced a popular election. No need to kiss babies and prattle nonsense about "saving the children from drugs", "bringing more jobs to Palookaville with a fine new industrial park", et nauseating cetera.
          Instead, the senator's job was to go to Washington and exercise a veto power on behalf of state sovereignty ... as though a state today could send its attorney general (bearing specific, written instructions) to a meeting of the attorney generals of all 50 states, where a 26-24 vote could repeal any and all laws enacted by congress!
          No wonder the big-government populist/collectivist/socialists made this such a high priority for "reform", and why the change is so little mentioned by today's union/socialist government school teachers.
          Yes, the popular election of senators "extends democracy" ... which is precisely what the founders didn't want. Democracy was one element of their successful formula. You can have all the democracy you want when you vote for your congressman. And because laws were only to begin in the House, the other "estates" -- the moneyed aristocracy, etc. -- would have a devil of a time initiating legislation opposed by the populace at large.
          But it also worked the other way. The "will of the mob", as expressed by the hunger of baby-smooching congressmen to introduce ever more laws and enactments and agencies and subsidies and pork allocations, was to be subject to multiple vetoes, first by the senate (in other words, by the state capitols), and only then by the president, by the juries, and by the U.S. Supreme Court.
          Reintroduce this system today, and the press would scream about "gridlock; nothing getting done!" ... which is indeed what the system envisioned by the founders would look like, compared to the national diarrhea attack of unnecessary and evil legislation that inundates us, today.
          Yet, I bet if you asked 100 randomly selected Americans what was changed in our method of electing senators in the year 1913, and what effect it has had on the volume of legislation produced each year after 1913, as opposed to the volume enacted before 1912 ... not five could remember.


Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at vin_suprynowicz@lvrj.com. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.


Next to advance to the next article, or
Previous to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 43, December 25, 1998.