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The real tragedy of the Texas SBOE changes to the Texas curriculum standards is not that the history being taught is revisionist. It’s not. It’s not that white people are trying to pretend that Hispanics don’t exist; that’s not true either. It’s not that the curriculum is now a mountain of conservative propaganda; it’s not – it just has a marginally less progressive slant.

The real tragedy is that there is a state entity deciding what your children will learn in the first place. Curriculum decisions ought to be made by parents and teachers and local school boards, and textbooks ought to be published for those who want them, just like every other kind of book.

I watched zefrank’s “the show” back in 2006-2007 when he was going it. It was hysterical. On it, he made an offhand comment on the show that I found wildly mistaken (albeit an easy mistake to make, I think). He said:

The courts, the underpinning of American society,…

Aaargh! The problem is, this is what many (possibly the majority) believe. The courts were never intended to be any kind of government baby-sitter, it wasn’t intended to be superior to the other branches of government (if anything, it’s supposed to be the weakest branch, if the Federalist Papers have anything to say about it), and it certainly wasn’t intended to make broad, sweeping rulings on cultural issues.

No. The underpinning of American society are the strength if its families and the character and values of the people therein. The underpinning of the American government, then, is the representation of that character and those values by elected representatives at all levels of government, from local to federal.

Over at mercatus.org, Robert Nelson asks, Is the U.S. Senate Obsolete?

He answers by arguing two main points:

  • the U.S. senate has been the primary cause of usurpation by the federal government of powers traditionally (and constitutionally) reserved to the states
  • because of population growth, the power structure in the senate has changed, giving small states an even more disproportionate level of representation than what they had in the beginning.

I agree with his conclusion, but not his argument.  The U.S. Senate is indeed obsolete, but not because of the usurpation of power, or because of shifting power structure.

Let me insert the following caveat: I am not a lawyer.  However, the flip side of that is that U.S. law, particularly the constitution, was never intended to be for a special class and impenetrable to the masses – the philosophical foundations of U.S. law included the idea that any well-educated individual should be able to read and discern the meaning of the law.  Of course, this is a topic for another post on another blog, probably, so back to the topic at hand…

Firstly, the shifting power structure isn’t really shifting.  While the differences in population between large states and small states are wider (and widening) thus making the small-state representation in the senate respectively more powerful, it also makes them equally less powerful in the U.S. House.  This is as the founders designed it – it’s not broken.  It’s also the only way that the original small states could be coaxed into ratification of the constitution.

Secondly, the usurpation issue doesn’t necessarily mean the Senate is obsolete; it merely means that it is a power monger.  Power mongering is never obsolete.  Also, this usurpation wasn’t owing solely to the Senate, which – as I last recall – doesn’t have an enumerated power of usurpation.  Rather, our elected leaders have acted in various ways to make this happen at every level.  The Senate has certainly done it’s fair share of usurpation via legislation and treaty, but so has the house, as well as the executive.  The Supreme Court has also gotten in on the act; at times actively, and at other times, simply shirking its duties as a defender of the constitution.  Even the states have allowed the erosion of their sovereignty for a little bit of federal candy called “highway funding”, among others programs.

No – none of these point to the obsolecence of the Senate.  They are lamentable, but yet correctable with time (albeit it took us about 90 years or so to create this mess, and it will take probably as much time to unwind it all).

The Senate is obsolete because of the 17th amendment.

“Huh?”, you say.

The power structure between the federal government and the states was broken the moment that amendment was ratified, and state sovereignty was one of the bedrock supports of liberty in this country.  What’s so bad about the 17th?  Let’s have a look:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies:Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution. [Wikipedia]

It looks pretty benign, right?  It just says that the people of each state will elect two senators.  Remember, though, it’s an amendment.  What changed?  Article I, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote. [Wikipedia]


Do you see what happened here?  The Constitution was designed so that both the sovereign interests of  individuals was represented in the government through the U.S. House, and that the sovereign interests of the states themselves were represented in the U.S. Senate.  The 17th Amendment has taken representation of sovereign state interests, and placed them in the hands of a popular vote in each state.  The effect is essentially that states are no longer represented at all in the federal government; thus federalism is broken.  The people are now represented in the same way in two houses.

The Senate is obsolete because it’s redundant.  The way to fix it is not to abolish the U.S. Senate, but rather to re-establish representation of sovereign state interests in the federal government (in other words, put federalism back together again).  The way to accomplish this is to unravel the 17th Amendment.

I was just skimming the Sunday news.  Most of the top headlines are about the dreaded Mexican Pig Virus (sounds like a Southpark episode title to me), but I noticed this one:

A Hundred Anxious Days: In a South Carolina Town Where the Downturn Has Deepened Since the Inauguration, Two Obama Supporters Have Struggled, Going from ‘Fired Up’ to Tired Out

The striking thing in this story was not how Obama hasn’t helped these people who were so “fired up” about him.  No, it was this:

Her cordless phone stores 17 voice messages, and tonight the inbox is full. Edith Childs, 60, grabs a bottle of water, tosses her hat on the living room floor and scowls at the blinking red light. A county councilwoman, she spent the past 12 hours driving rural roads in her 2001 Toyota Camry, trying to solve Greenwood’s problems, but only now begins the part of each day that exhausts her. Childs slumps into an armless chair and steels herself for a 13-minute confessional.

“Hi, Ms. Edith, this is Rose, and I’m calling about my light bill. It’s $420. . . . There’s no way I can pay that.”

“Edith, it’s Francine. . . . They stopped by my house again today, talking about foreclosure. I don’t know what to do. Can you call me?”

Childs leans her head back against the wall and closes her eyes. Her hair is matted down with sweat, and thin-rimmed glasses sink low on her nose. Every few minutes, she stirs to jot notes on a to-do list that fills most of a notebook. She has to remind herself that she ran for county council in 1998 because she coveted this role: unofficial protector, activist and psychologist for her home town. Back then, the hardships of Greenwood — 22,000 people separated from the nearest interstate by 40 miles — struck Childs as contained. Now she sometimes wonders aloud to her husband, Charles: “When does it stop?”

“Yes, councilwoman, this is Joe Thompson calling. Uh, I’m having a bit of an emergency.”

Who calls their city councilman or councilwoman about their utility bills or mortgages?  I live in a town very much like this one (slightly bigger, and on an interstate, but in other respects very similar), and I can’t imagine that happening much here (and the city is its own utility company!).  Where are the churches in this town?  Doesn’t this seem odd to anyone else?  There’s something very off about this story, generally.  I’m not sure what it is, but…..it just ain’t right.

Has it occurred to anyone else that the kind of government spending that incurs generational debt (which is a significant portion of each budget) is taxation without representation?

Take New Deal programs for example. The large debts incurred by those programs has been passed to my generation (I’m a working man between the ages of 18 and 55), and my tax burden will be directly impacted by debt spending that occurred long before I was born. I had no opportunity to elect representatives to protect my interests, and those debts have turned into a system of taxation without representation. So it is with the deficit that we run each year at the federal level.

My grandchildren (who haven’t been born) will still be paying off this national debt, which they had no part in creating or opportunity to oppose. It’s likely that my children’s relationship to their government will be dominated by this debt. They also had no say in the matter.

Am I the only one that sees this as immoral?

 

Update:  I just read today’s Dilbert and had to embed it:

Dilbert.com

I think anyone who has worked on the Hill or in the White House has to chuckle a little at conspiracy theories about Washington. The fact is, no one around here, in either party and on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, has nearly the information, ability, or competence to pull off any kind of complex four-steps-ahead type maneuver, and the system works in a way that makes it pretty much impossible to seriously try. Most of the time, people are barely managing to keep their heads above water amidst the rush of events and to respond to the latest unexpected and ridiculous screwup. — Yuval Levin

This, of course, one of the the saving graces of the American system.

I just saw my state senator change his facebook status to “So-and-so is in session.”

Awesome. I’d love to see some stream-of-consciousness stuff coming from the legislature. That, my friends, would be entertainnent – and probably honest.