Friday, January 1, 2010

Evaluating the Progressive Amendments

At around the turn of the century, before or just after World War I, the progressive amendments were passed.  Not since the post Civil War era was there ever such a speedy passage of amendments to the Constitution or since.  In a period of about 10 years or so, we saw four radical amendments passed and ratified into the Constitution.  They are amendments 16, 17, 18, and 19.

The era in which they were passed was one of optimism among the American Left and many of the influential leaders.  New areas of science were opening up as well as new technologies.  The inventers Tesla and Edison were bringing us into a new era of technological advancement.  The Industrial Age had brought about a higher standard of living for everyone.  Things were looking up for humanity and especially America.

The American Left, despite never really gaining much traction in popularity, was able to pass four amendments, all of them of questionable benefit.  Now that it has been almost a century since their passage, I think it is time to re-evaluate them all:

  1. The 16th Amendment reads, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”  This is the income tax amendment.  Originally, it was an amendment that was touted as one that would affect only the super-wealthy (sound familiar?).  In fact, for a long time it did just that.  If you made above a certain amount, you’d get taxed.  But the percentage wasn’t all that high either, at around 2 or 3 percent.  These days just about everyone pays the income tax in the form of withholding, even if you get it all back.  Books have been written about the injustice behind it, but I think this amendment is a great example of the government getting it’s foot in the door and subsequently sneaking in all its friends uninvited.  In short, this amendment contradicts the 4th amendment, which I believe trumps the 16th.  It should be repealed.
  2. The 17th Amendment reads, in part, “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.”  What this changed was that Senators were originally elected by the state legislatures.  It meant that a whole house of Congress was not held accountable to the whims of the dumb masses and required voters to focus just as much attention on their state officials as much as their federal ones.  These days, Senators act against the will of the people and do so without regard for their constituents because they know that voters have short memories.  After all, if you spend four or fives voting against the interests of the people and spend the election year voting in pet projects, you can do almost anything.  This amendment needs to be repealed in order to remove much of the corruption that currently plagues DC.  While there will probably be corruption in another form, at least it will be a different kind from the House and may actually run counter to it.  Sometimes two wrongs do make a right, especially in politics.
  3. The 18th Amendment reads, in part, “After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.”  This was the prohibition amendment and it brought us the rise of organized crime, the rise of the FBI in power, a precedent for Federal involvement in the substances we take, and the Kennedy dynasty.  Even when it was properly repealed, the damage was already done to the political culture of America.
  4. The 19th Amendment reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”  This secured women’s right to vote across all states.  One of the dirty secrets about this amendment, though, is that there were states that already allowed women to vote.  You see, the Constitution didn’t prevent women from voting, it just never required them to do so.  The states were given a lot of authority and say in the matter of determining who had the right to vote.  To some extent, they still do, but the Federal government has since taken over much of that authority without regard for the spirit of Federalism.  If the women’s suffrage movement really wanted the right to vote, going about it state-by-state should have been the proper role, not forcing it through via the amendment process.  However, since the amendment has passed and since I cannot blame women for the expansion of the Federal government since I am a believer in individualism over collectivism, I don’t think it should be repealed.

So that about sums my attitude about the progressive amendments.  Really I think they’ve done more than good as they were originally intended.  I doubt that the progressives could have really conceived of the long-term dangers involved in the passage of these amendments.  For the most part, they were just a collection of people with good intentions and a complete lack of foresight.

This should be a lesson we all learn when it comes to the current administration.  Obama is a deluded fool who probably doesn’t believe half the stuff he says in public and thoroughly believes in the goodness of his private goals, whatever they truly are.  But make no mistake, this will end badly for us if we fail to remain vigilant and prevent him from causing as much harm as we can.