I promised more about the APSA filibuster panel, which featured two serious Congressional scholars, (liberal columnist/blogger/MSNBC constant presence) Ezra Klein, and (Heritage Foundationer/Red State blogger) Brian Darling, along with filibuster expert Greg Koger as the moderator. I thought it was a great idea for a panel, but in the execution it was, I thought, somewhat disappointing. That's because instead of deploying any of the available strong arguments for the filibuster, Darling spent most of his time on nonsense: a bunch of partisan rhetoric about big bills being bad, and misguided claims about states.
I'll put this as bluntly as I can: states, as states, do not have interests. That is, the people who live in states certainly have interests, and state governments have interests, but Alabama and New York and Nevada do not have interests apart from the interests of the people who live there and their governments. They just don't, and arguments that depend on state interests are therefore bound to be wrong.
Does this mean that federalism is a bad thing? Not at all. First, it may be practically the case that people's interests, especially minority interests, are best served by a system that is organized by states -- by intermediate-level jurisdictions, which tend (at least to some extent) to group together people with similar interests, which will tend to encourage relatively small interests to have representation in Congress. So even though not everyone in Maine is involved in the lobster industry, and not everyone involved in lobsters lives in Maine, it's not so bad that the lobster interest gets represented by Maine's congressional delegation. To the extent that this actually works, I generally think that the institutional design of the Senate, which leads to each Senator retaining individual influence, is an excellent feature of the American Constitution. Nothing about that argument, however, supports the massive malapportionment of the actual U.S. Senate. Second, there are of plenty of arguments available in support of decentralized governance: on Madisonian anti-majoritarian grounds; on arguments of citizen efficacy; and/or based on claims of efficiency; without having to rely on ascribing mythical interests to the states. Of course, there are also counter-arguments to each of these, but they are arguments based on substance, not myth.
At any rate, there are no state interests. The interests of people who live in states, yes, but generally those interests have nothing to do with which side of a state line they happen to fall in. The interests of state governments, yes (and do conservatives really think that those governments, which after all are, uh, governments, deserve a privileged role in the political system?) . But interests of states as states? Nope.