Friday, January 27, 2006

SB 156

One of the strange habits I've developed while working for Mormon dominated firms is that I often intentionally say the opposite of what I mean. Mormons love to correct the errant gentiles in their midst. Giving the faithful a clear opportunity to refute the gentile is often the only way to build support for a project. In a culture where people are taught to "read between the lines" of every argument, coming out with a clearly stated plan rarely works. A clear plan with clear objectives almost always results in people perceiving convoluted intentions between the clearly stated goals and objectives.

The fact that I find myself continually engaged in nonsensical argumentative styles makes me far more cynical than I care to be.

Here is a is a post called Good Old Fashioned Federalism by the Utah majority caucus. The Utah Senate wants to pull off a "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment. The 17th Amendment is the one that made Senators directly elected by the people. The idea is that Utah would forego the Senate Primary. Essentially the Utah Legislature would pick the Democratic and Republican candidates for US Senate. Utahns would still vote between the two. Having control over the nomination process, however, would make Utah's US Senators beholden to the state legislature.

There are arguments for and against this "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment.

What is really bizarre is that the Majority caucus puts a return to "Good Old Fashioned Federalism" as a primary justification for the move. They even link to Federalists No. 51 as the intellectual justification for SB156.

It is like something out of Kafka. For those who forgot US history: Originally, the United States operated under the Articles of Confederation. Under these articles, the United States Government was 100% beholden to the whims of the state legislatures.

The Federalist movement came about because many people saw the Confederacy as too weak. They saw the dependency between the state legislatures and the US Government as a source of corruption. The primary goal of the Federalists was to strengthen the central government and reduce dependency on the State Legislature. The Federalists 51 clearly states their belief in the article referenced by the Utah Majority Caucus. Here is the Federalist opinion:

"In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the
different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all
hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each
department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so
constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in
the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously
adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme
executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same
fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication
whatever with one another."
The Federalist objective was to reduce dependencies between branches of government. It was the Anti-Federalists favoring "states rights" who wanted to preserve the central government's dependency on the states who argued the position that US Senators should be appointed by state legislatures. The great compromise that gave the US one house elected by the people and a second house elected by the state legislature was a compromise between the Federalist position and the Anti-federalist position. The 17th Amendment was a win for the Federalist ideal.

There is a good argument for the Great Compromise. The Great Compromise gave us a legislature with two clearly different perspectives. The Senate (elected by the State Governments represented the states and the House represented the people.) The Great Compromise is a compromise between Federalist and Anti-Federalist beliefs. Personally, I think Amendment 17 was an improvement, as direct election of senators provides a better view of the whole state.

Arguments for and against the 17th Amendment aside. I am stuck wondering why the Utah Majority Caucus got the Federalist /Anti-Federalist debate backwards.

I really fear that the wanks in charge simply selectively choose whatever justifications they can for broadening their power without even thinking the arguments through. I am left hear imagining a LDS seminary teacher in a political science class droning: "When you read the Constitution, don't think about what the founders were saying. Open your mind to the spirit and feel what the Heavenly Father intended when HE REVEALED the Constitution."

I guess what I hate most about the dialectical styles that came out of the 1800s (Mormonism, Communism, Modern Liberalism, etc.) is that you can't say what you mean. You are always forced to word things as their opposite with a vain hope that people will "feel" your intentions. It is enough to make one want to simply crawl in a hole and hide.

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