November 29, 2013


Give States More Power, With Caution (KEN KOLLMAN, 11/29/13, NY Times)

While states' rights have (like the Tea Party) been historically associated with preservation of a conservative social order, that association might be changing. That is, states might in some areas better protect civil rights and liberties than the national government.

States arguably have led the way in legalizing same-sex marriage, regulating the environment, and improving education for low-income children. In the face of rapid growth in federal surveillance, states have been in the vanguard of new privacy protections.

Federalism is fundamental to American political institutions. The founders provided for a federal government that would represent both the people and the states. But in the 19th century, the choosing of senators was often marred by bribery, horse-trading and the outright purchasing of seats.

The 17th Amendment was partly a response to this corruption. It was one of many Progressive reforms that led to a strengthening of the national government: the federal income tax; greater regulation of interstate commerce; the creation of Social Security and other social insurance programs; and big fiscal transfers to states and localities.

The Supreme Court has been an occasional check on the growth of federal authority. And states have a role in amending the United States Constitution (which last occurred in 1992). But there is no institutionalized means for protecting states' interests in Congress.

Some critics will say that repeal of the 17th Amendment would exacerbate the Senate's antidemocratic nature.

Posted by at November 29, 2013 7:58 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus