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Importance of Rules

Here’s a letter that I sent a couple of days ago to the Wall Street Journal:

Chris Daly correctly argues that the 17th amendment – which provides for direct election of U.S. senators – is unwise (Letters, Sept. 9).  As George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki shows in his pioneering research into this amendment, it eased the way for special-interest groups to pick the pockets of consumers and taxpayers.

Prior to ratification of the 17th amendment, to achieve their goals interest groups had to persuade both the representatives of the populace (in the House) and the representatives of state governments (in the Senate).  Members of this latter group were eager to maintain their own power rather than cede it to Washington.  The high cost of persuading these two diverse groups to support any piece of interest-group legislation kept such legislation to a minimum.  Now, however, because members of the House and members of the Senate are elected from the same pool of voters, interest-groups’ costs of lobbying Congress for special privileges are greatly reduced.  The result is the explosion of special-interest dominance over politics that we’ve seen during the 20th century — and continuing into the 21st.

Donald J. Boudreaux