The Seventeeth Amendment provided for direct election of Senators, which, say some, is a Bad Thing. This Mises Institute piece presents the case against the Seventeenth:
[T]here are no checks and balances available to the states over federal power or over Congress itself in any area. However, in the history of our country, it was not always this way. In the original design by the Framers of the U.S. Constitution, there was an effective check on Congress through the state legislatures' power to appoint (and remove) United States Senators.
Practicality over principle? Not necessarily, Crank says:
Federal power, federal spending and federal regulation, of course, have grown exponentially in an almost unbroken march since 1913, and opponents of the 17th Amendment often argue that making Senators once again answerable to the States would thus shift power back from the federal government to the states. In my view, that bell cannot be un-rung, at least in this way, and the desire to make Senators into creatures of the state legislatures fundamentally misunderstands the way politicians behave. More specifically, critics of the 17th Amendment fail to understand that the goals of repeal would fail utterly so long as its companion, the 16th Amendment, remains on the books.
"The way politicians behave," in fact, may be at the heart of it all. The Framers surely never envisioned the Professional Politician as we know him; they trusted that the people would put up their best men, yet year after election year we're presented with a panoply of the worst. Term limits, you say? Fine, if you make them stick. In Oklahoma, what we see on a regular basis is the ghastly spectacle of the term-limited politician seeking another term in a different office with no such limits, or contriving to have his former ballot position occupied by another family member, be it child, spouse, whatever. The lust for power, it appears, never quite goes away.
Which may be why we'll probably never get rid of the 16th Amendment and the hated income tax, even if alternative financing should become available. (Fritz Schranck's suspicions are typical: "I fully expect some future Congress to return to the income tax whenever it felt the need for more cash.") What power, after all, is greater than the power to compel the population to pay for things they may or may not want or need? The Democrats have long been infatuated with the idea; the Republicans of late have tried to outdo the Democrats, with the results you'd expect.
Is there any hope? Maybe, maybe not. I console myself with the thought that at least one bad Amendment the 18th was rooted out of the Constitution. And if this sort of thing can be done once, I have to believe it can be done again.
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Copyright © 2006 by Charles G. Hill