Monday, October 24, 2011

Solo pago quando ricevo


Now, lets take a look at a quote from Federalist sixty-three (James Madison):

Thus far I have considered the circumstances which point out the necessity of a well-constructed Senate only as they relate to the representatives of the people. To a people as little blinded by prejudice or corrupted by flattery as those whom I address, I shall not scruple to add, that such an institution may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next. 
It may be suggested, that a people spread over an extensive region cannot, like the crowded inhabitants of a small district, be subject to the infection of violent passions, or to the danger of combining in pursuit of unjust measures. I am far from denying that this is a distinction of peculiar importance. I have, on the contrary, endeavored in a former paper to show, that it is one of the principal recommendations of a confederated republic. At the same time, this advantage ought not to be considered as superseding the use of auxiliary precautions. It may even be remarked, that the same extended situation, which will exempt the people of America from some of the dangers incident to lesser republics, will expose them to the inconveniency of remaining for a longer time under the influence of those misrepresentations which the combined industry of interested men may succeed in distributing among them.
When I read this, I wonder what President Madison would have thought of the current Senate?

The dogmatic and partisan nature of the current political class is so wide of this founders mark that he could probably only hold his head in shame.  It is a political circus, with re-election money averages of 8.5 million for the incumbent.

I fail to see how the vision of Madison can be transposed onto this greedy monstrosity.  Elections in America no longer have any of the dignitas required of so important an event.

Senators were originally appointed by the state legislatures.  The system appeared to work just dandy for the first fifty or sixty years of the republic.  Then the civil war and our first major national conflict started having unfilled seats and folks started whining about how they couldn't directly elect the senate. Oregon (of course) started us down the path for direct elections.

As part of the process of making the "improvements" the folks trying to fix things noted that:
Intimidation and bribery marked some of the states' selection of senators. Nine bribery cases were brought before the Senate between 1866 and 1906. In addition, forty-five deadlocks occurred in twenty states between 1891 and 1905, resulting in numerous delays in seating senators. In 1899, problems in electing a senator in Delaware were so acute that the state legislature did not send a senator to Washington for four years.
I wonder what the do-goodniks who "improved" the system would think of the current open whoredom of the election process.

2 comments:

Craig Cavanaugh said...

Whoredom is the best word I've seen to describe the political process today. It's equally, if not more repulsive...

Gather ye marbles said...

Regarding Madison's observation that "a people spread over an extensive region cannot, like the crowded inhabitants of a small district, be subject to the infection of violent passions" -- interesting. It was true at the time, I expect, but with the advent of mass media, vast populatoins are subject to infection en masse, really ever since radio, the brainwashing medium of choice for demagogues like Hitler and FDR. (I kid, I kid. About FDR. I think.)


Regarding political whoredom: Would you really want a legislature-appointed senate, or relatedly (though you didn't mention this) a presidential electoral college not bound by the votes of their constituents? I wonder what other, possibly more pernicious, sorts of manipulation and whorage would come into play with this.