April 28, 2004

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING (via Matthew Cohen & John D. Hendershot):

Miller: Legislatures Should Pick Senators (JEFFREY McMURRAY, 4/28/04, Associated Press)

Zell Miller, Georgia's maverick Democratic senator, says the nation ought to return to having senators appointed by legislatures rather than elected by voters.

Miller, who is retiring in January, was first appointed to his post in 2000 after the death of Paul Coverdell. He said Wednesday that rescinding the 17th Amendment, which declared that senators should be elected, would increase the power of state governments and reduce the influence of Washington special interests.

"The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic," Miller said on the Senate floor. "It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists."

The Constitution called for voters to directly elect members to the U.S. House but empowered state legislatures to pick senators. The aim was to create a bicameral Congress that sought to balance not only the influence of small and large states but also the influence of state and federal governments.

Miller said that balance was destroyed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment. He has introduced a resolution, which he acknowledges has no chance of passage, to repeal the 17th Amendment and again let state legislatures pick senators.

Along with all the other Progressive initiatives tending towards more direct democracy--recall, initiative and proposition, banning of poll taxes, female suffrage--the 17th should be repealed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 28, 2004 5:36 PM

OJ, are you saying that women should not have the vote?

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 28, 2004 6:29 PM

Chris --

Perhaps he just means they should be taught HOW to vote RIGHT.

Posted by: MG at April 28, 2004 6:43 PM


I don't understand, you think women should be allowed to vote? Ha, OJ when did you start letting these radicals in here.

Posted by: h-man at April 28, 2004 8:14 PM


Yes. Women are naturally dependent as a group and vote against freedom generally.

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2004 9:07 PM

It's true, the railroads have been shamefully underrepresented in the Senate since Boies Penrose left.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 28, 2004 11:02 PM

Yes. We're all worried about the railroads. Especially those Christian railroads. We hear that they're planning on accusing the steam boats of witchcraft so that, after they've burned them, they can steal all their money.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 28, 2004 11:17 PM


I thought he was serious. We were better off with railroads.

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2004 11:35 PM

We may not have the railroads controlling the Senate, but is really better to have a bunch of millionaries buying their way in because they need a hobby?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 29, 2004 1:54 AM

David, do you know who Penrose was?

Imagine the most corrupt politician you ever encountered. Then double that.

Penrose represented Pennsylvania.

But the senators Miller's state sent to Washington before 1913 were no prizes either.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 29, 2004 2:19 AM

But if we repeal women's suffrage, will Eric Roberts still be eligible to vote?

Posted by: Andrew Moore at April 29, 2004 5:21 AM

Women are naturally dependent as a group and vote against freedom generally.

Does your wife read this blog, OJ? If so, you are a braver man than me.

Posted by: Paul Cella at April 29, 2004 8:09 AM

Mr. Moore:

Depends on which he/she really is. :)

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2004 8:17 AM


We have reason to think that, if the dependent Judd doesn't get to vote, it won't be Dr. Judd staying home in November.


Are railroads railroads, or are they a metaphor for big, powerful business interests? If railroads are just railroads, then I'm not worried.

If you're worried about big business using friendly state legislatures to gain power in Washington, than (a) the Hawaiian legislature is much different from the Massachusetts legislature, and (b) we have different ideas about what's currently going on in Washington.

I would much rather that some state other than mine sent Penrose to the Senate than Robert Byrd.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2004 9:03 AM


The question is, ought MA be sending Kerry and Kennedy or Bulger and Finneran?

A close call, I'd say.

Posted by: mike earl at April 29, 2004 10:29 AM

I am not at all sure we would get a worse group of senators than we have now. There would probably be more professional politicians and fewer multi-millionares. Ohio's senator's would most likely be the same. There might be more turn-over and less advantage to incumbency.

94 year olds incapable of holding their water let alone carrying the states water, would not be returned to the Senate.

A real advantage to the states would be to give them a voice in limiting the tactic of the Federal government in mandating expensive programs (e.g. medicaid) and leaving the financing to the states.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 29, 2004 10:48 AM

States were once considered 'countries' by their citizens...now we're lucky if countries are considered countries.

Referenda cut both ways; a lot of liberal excess would be peeled back in a national referendum. But the elites would simply invent new voters, ala the Gore citizenship program in '95.

Another benefit of repeal might be the routinization of the impeachment of judges. One can only hope.

Posted by: Noel at April 29, 2004 11:33 AM

I'm interested to know what other dependent groups OJ feels is best to disenfranchise. Do women who own property get a special dispensation to vote because they are less dependent?

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 29, 2004 11:44 AM

oj-The national government of the USA was, at one time, a model of self-limiting and self-regulating power without precedent. Senators appointed by state legislators was, along with direct taxation to be apportioned among the states, probably the most innovative feature of our old constitution. Not a perfect system but it guaranteed that the interests of the states and the people would be above those interests which inevitably develop within a unchecked central authority. The framers knew exactly what they were doing.

Posted by: Tom Corcoran at April 29, 2004 12:09 PM


Anyone who is dependent on government should be disenfranchised if your concern is liberty rather than equality. It's said that an aristocrat is someone who controls the votes of others. In the modern state the aristocrat is the state itself or the party of statism (the Democrats in our case) which wields the power of kept populations.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2004 1:47 PM

The 17th amendment is not as much of an issue as the fact that the state legislatures refuse to exercise their sovereign duties in any meaningful way. If they are not willing to take back more of their rightful jurisdiction than repealling the 17th is not particularly effective.

Posted by: J.H. at April 29, 2004 3:36 PM

David, I'm not so concerned about big business or any other bigness. I believe in the right of people to misgovern themselves, as opposed to having some despot misgovern them.

However, we need to climb to such heights of abstraction. We have already had a system of appointed senators. How did it work?

Not well. I direct you to an obscure book about an appointed senator from S. Carolina, "Secret and Sacred."

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 29, 2004 11:09 PM


It worked brilliantly--we had small government.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2004 11:16 PM


I've said it before. You are an interesting guy. This attachment to 19th century progressivism and all of practical application regardless of results seems to be purely ideological. In this particular area you are not very "scientific", unless you honestly think that the so-called progressive reforms of the early 20th century and what I believe to be the idiocy of the "New Deal" and "Great Society" policies of such progressives were helpful for the general welfare of the nation.

Posted by: Tom Corcoran at April 30, 2004 9:44 AM


But he does. He even thinks Bolshevism improved Russia.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 9:54 AM

To be precise, I believe Bolshevism improved the military capacity of Russia by the early '40s, compared with what tsarism had or could have done.

Bolshevism also improved literacy, and as an admirer of 19th century progressivism (in general), I applaud that, though I realize Orrin would think that was going backward.

On balance, I don't think Russia was improved. It has always been a failed society. But it would have been even worse under German occupation, which is not nothing.

Tom, the Great Society was a mixed bag at best, a good example of pressing ideology in advance of experience -- something we're getting from Bush, too. The New Deal was abandoned after less than two years, so it makes little sense for me to applaud it or Orrin to disparage it. It worked pretty well at first, though, and I think it might easily have continued to thrive. TVA was certainly a great thing and improved the lives of me and my family, after their livelihood had been destroyed in the '20s.

I bet I'm the only poster here who had a family member starve to death (one of my great-grandmothers) in the United States. You bet I believe in meliorist policies.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2004 8:23 PM

Our great-great-grandfather was kicked to death by a horse--doesn't make cars a good thing.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 9:55 PM

I agree with Mr. Schwartz. With senators selected by state legislators, no unfunded mandates would get through Congress. I'd rather have my corrupt senators more interested in money than power.

Posted by: Mike at May 1, 2004 3:22 PM