majority rule

Senate on a slippery path with filibuster change

The manufactured crisis last week that led to extraordinary, unprecedented change to the filibuster, prompted by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Democrats, is the first step down a road that undermines the nature of the chamber and will, almost certainly, lead to bigger changes.

The Senate was meant to be the more prestigious body of Congress and its members, given six-year terms, were selected to be responsive to state interests in Washington. Members of the House of Representatives, on the other hand, were meant to serve as the voices of the people, subject to re-election every two years.

Contrary to what President Obama said in his statement after the filibuster change, that “if you got a majority of folks who believe in something, then it should be able to pass,” the upper chamber was never meant to serve as a “voice of the people,” nor was meant to rubber stamp majoritarian views or interest.

It was meant, as James Madison once said, “to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” Passing legislation and approving nominees based on consensus. The filibuster — which has existed as a concept since the chamber was created and in practice since 1837 — was a tool to achieve consensus.

But, over time, the Senate has become more and more like the House, beginning in 1913 with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, which mandated direct election of senators by voters in their respective states.

The Founding Fathers were concerned about a legislative branch that was too responsive to the whims of majority views, which could potentially be dangerous to essential liberty. In Federalist 10, Madison warned about the problem of faction.

Book Review: It Is Dangerous To Be Right When The Government Is Wrong

Fox News analyst and best-selling author, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, released a new book Tuesday October 18th entitled, It Is Dangerous To Be Right When The Government Is Wrong: The Case For Personal Freedom. I have not read any of Judge Napolitano’s prior books, yet I have watched his television show on Fox Business, Freedom Watch, and I find myself agreeing with nearly everything that he says.

Many of you know that I am a Libertarian (card-carrying, candidate-supporting Big “L” Libertarian), so it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the latest work by Judge Napolitano. While most libertarians or Libertarians use the Constitution as their basis for political philosophy, the Judge goes beyond the Constitution to its roots as a protection of natural rights and Natural Law for all people. As someone who believes that the Constitution serves as our protection from the government trampling on our natural rights, I found this book aligns nearly identical to my political philosophy, as well as my sense of morality. Do not let that alignment keep you from reading what I found to be one of the best cases for personal liberty and the responsibility that an individual pays for such liberty.

Michael Munger on majority rule and individual liberty

During an election year, voters frequently hear politicians point to public to prove support for their agenda. In trying to push through his tax hike prospoal, President Barack Obama has noted on several occasions that most polls show that Americans believe higher-income earners should pay more in taxes. Another example would be polls that show opposition from Americans to the Citizens United ruling, which protected political speech for domestic corporations.

But should the majority rule? During the debate over ratification in New York, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, explained the problem of majorities, or, as he called it, “faction.” Madison wrote, “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

This is why Madison and other Founding Fathers concluded that a democracy was not consistant the idea of free society that they sought for a new nation. Instead, as Madison wrote, “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”

Madison went into great detail about the problem of faction in Federalist 10, which is worth a read, if you have a few moments. But one can read Madison’s missive and see clearly that the vision the he had for the United States is one that has been largely lost, especially in the last 80 years or so.


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