Saturday, April 27, 2013

Meta-EE and the Constitution Part 13: Seventeenth Amendment

"Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?"

"A Republic, if you can keep it."

-Ben Franklin
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.
The point of a bicameral legislature is precisely to guard against  the excesses of unchecked simple majoritarian democracy. Prior to 1913, if you wanted a gig as a Senator, you'd get it through the political elites in your state. After W.J. Bryan's triumph, you have to petition the people directly.

What effect does this have on the institutions that support euvoluntary exchange? It's tough to say exactly. The median constituent didn't change, but the temporal buffer sure did. The Senate is now marginally more exposed to the whims of the public, for whatever that means. It's sort of difficult to posit a counterfactual America where the 17th never happened. I think it's fair to say that a lot of the Congressional activity that's happened in the interim would have been at least delayed a bit, if not outright nixed.

But flights of fancy aren't particularly convincing. It's kind of tough to lay the arrogance of the FDA's efficacy requirement at the feet of the method by which Senators are elected. In this case, I think I'd simply say that the 17th represents a step away from a Constitutional Republic and a step towards a Popular Democracy. As a Public Choice student, that makes me nervous, but as a Euvoluntary Exchange thinker, I'd have to say that the effects are probably on the slim-to-none side.


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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?