Can You Have Too Much Democracy?

In the United States of America, we are taught, incorrectly, that our political system is a democracy. While there are certainly democratic characteristics present within our system of government, we are far from a true democracy. In a true democracy, the voting population votes directly for or against proposed legislation. Our system is one of representative democracy. We vote for representatives who are empowered to vote on legislation on our behalf. This provides a much more efficient form of government over having each eligible citizen vote on every single issue.

The Constitution is the founding document that spells out the details of how Americans are to be governed. As every school child is taught, is document provides for a system of "checks and balances" to keep any one branch of government from gaining too much control over the other branches of government. In this discussion of the branches of government, the only branches included are usually the executive, legislative and judicial branches. While the balance of authority that is spread across these three federal branches of government is certainly important for the maintenance of our liberty, there is one very important player that gets left out of the story far too often. The states also have a role to play in keeping the federal government locked within the strictures imposed upon it by the Constitution of the United States of America.

Starting in the early years of the twentieth century, there has been a concerted effort to erode the role of states in governing the citizens of the United States. When the constitution was originally written and adopted by the states, it was a compact agreed upon by sovereign states. The states agreed to relinquish a portion of their sovereignty to the newly formed federal government in exchange for improved cooperation and collective security. The legislative branch of the government is composed of two legislative bodies.

The House of Representatives and the Senate. The house is the body that is directly accountable to the people who vote for those that will represent their interests. The senate was designed to protect the interests of the sovereign states and not the citizens directly.

Section three of the constitution defines the senate. This section begins with the following sentence:

    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. As of April 8, 1913, the selection of senators was radically altered by the ratification of the 17th amendment to the United States Constitution This amendment says:

    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 ill 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 radical change contained within this amendment is shifting the selection of senators from the sovereign states to the people of those states. Isn't this a good thing for freedom? Doesn't allowing the people to choose their senators make the people more free and the government more responsive to their needs? In some respects yes, however, this amendment radically altered the dynamics of our federal government. The sovereign states no longer have a voice within the federal government. This is a usurpation of their role within our political system and has directly lead to a greater concentration of power within the federal government. More power pulled into the federal government results in less freedom for the people. This shift in power resulted in numerous pieces of legislation being passed that further undermined the states. One recent example is the health care overhaul that passed both houses of congress and was signed into law by the president. This law vastly increases the responsibilities of the various states to provide health care for their residents without providing them with the money to provide these additional services.

If the states still had their share of presentation within the government, there is a much smaller possibility of such legislation being passed and the burdens placed upon the states increased. When the senate was directly responsible to the state legislatures, senators could be recalled at any time, therefore if a senator acted outside of the interests of his only constituency, her state legislature, she could be immediately recalled and replaced.

The path toward increasing the balance of powers and returning to the wise equilibrium envisioned by the members of the original constitutional convention is to repeal the 17th amendment. While on its face, such a move seems to be stripping power away from the people, it will result in the freedom of all Americans being increased and not decreased. The federal government is supposed to play a narrow and clearly defined role. This role has been expanded and the strictures imposed by the constitution have been ignored. After almost 100 years, it is time to move forward by looking to the past and correcting this serious mistake.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger