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August 16, 2010

Pillars of Government Week: Part V - Do We Need A Constitutional Convention?

Back in 2006, we had a series of conversations about what I called the Pillars of Government. Part I was inspired by a post of Grim's on the military:

...I have lost all confidence in the Federal institutions governing our country, with the sole exception of the military. The institutions, which have served us well for so long, are breaking or are broken along key fault lines.

Spurred on by his analysis, we looked at the major institutions that make up the federal government. Part I dealt with the military. Parts II and III covered Congress and the Judiciary Part IV dealt with the Executive branch. We never got to what I intended to be Part V: the Constitution. This post is intended to remedy that deficiency.

To those on the right side of the political spectrum, judicial activism and the growing irrelevancy of the Constitution have been perennial topics of interest. The left, on the other hand, looks to the judiciary to remedy the perceived injustices that are a very real result of a representative government in which the majority necessarily retains enormous power. We discussed these issues to some extent in our conversation about the judiciary:

I believe the judiciary as an institution has become corrupt in the sense that it no longer works the way the Founders intended. Arguably change itself is neither positive nor negative in nature; institutions are designed to evolve over time. But that evolution should result in improvement and increased efficiency, not degradation of performance. Instead, the evolution of the judiciary has occurred in such a manner that the system of checks and balances has become disrupted. Consequently the judiciary is no longer accountable to the public it serves, and this presents an issue that must be addressed. Increasingly, judges are usurping the legislative role and overstepping their constitutionally designated function. Many now actively make law where they should be deferring to the will of the people.

Why is this a problem? At the level of SCOTUS, unelected judges are removing important public policy matters from all possibility of debate and effectively writing them into the Constitution, from whence there is no possibility of review or repeal, unless by those same unelected judges. They are carving their own policy preferences into stone.

Because of the long standing practice of stare decisis, their decisions are unlikely to be overturned, even by their peers. Judges cannot easily be removed from office when they overstep their authority and they are almost never held accountable for their actions. They serve for life. Thus, their encroachment on the legislative and executive functions represents a clear and present danger to democratic governance that cannot and must not be tolerated.

When was the last time any of you recall a federal judge being removed from the bench for cause?

Remarkably, in 200+ years only six judges have been impeached. Congress critters may be voted out of office and Presidents have term limits. Judges, on the other hand, unless they are Alcee Hastings, who for his sins was sentenced to hard labor in the House of Representatives, seem to receive their severance notices mainly from the hand of Almighty God, as Chief Justice Rehnquist recently learned to his immense surprise. We'd like to think the boss was not displeased with his performance.

What was the Founding Fathers' original intent for the Judicial Branch? We may look to two sources: the Constitution and the Federalist papers. Grim places most of the onus for the current problems with the judiciary on the 14th Amendment, but we would trace them farther back than that to Marbury vs. Madison and the advent of judicial review.

The gradual evolution of the Constitution from its origins as a document intended to limit the power of the federal government to a set of explicit, enumerated powers to a living, breathing document that actually expands the power of the federal government and aligns policy with the evolving mores of the global community must be the mother of all slippery slopes. But having identified the problem, how do we restore to the Constitution its intended power and functions?

One way would be to hold a Constitutional Convention (or a series of them). In this manner, the People would directly determine the powers granted to the several states and the federal government. Larry Sabato has identified 23 proposals for directly amending the Constitution. Accordingly, I'd like to set forth several questions for the villainry:

1. What, in your opinion, are the most pressing problems with the Constitution (this includes both the original text and court decisions that have interpreted that text, regardless of whether they expanded or limited federal power).

2. Is a Constitutional Convention the right remedy for these deficiencies? If so, what form should it take?

3. What overarching goals should such a convention seek to accomplish?

4. Finally, which of Sabato's suggested amendments appeal to you most, and why? Do you have proposals of your own?

I look forward to the discussion!

Posted by Cassandra at August 16, 2010 08:19 AM

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Comments

I hate to say this, but none of those are attractive; if I had to choose one, it would be a modification of the one to increase the size of the House, as the now-defunct amendment would have had it (one Representative per 50,000 voters, IIRC.)

The first thing that comes to mind is to repeal the popular election of the Senate.

The second is to forbid federal elective office holders from running for any elective federal office (one term and then out for at least a term); and to limit federal employees from holding a position for more than seven years, and then forbidding them from a position for at least another seven years. (The "ruling class" has to spend at least half of its time earning and existing under the laws for the rest of us.)

Posted by: htom at August 16, 2010 12:46 PM

We already have a document that "determine[s] the powers granted to the several states and the federal government. Further, this document includes the People, also. It's called The United States Constitution. Further, none of the powers are "granted" to the several states; the 10th Amendment explicitly recognizes that ...powers are already held by the states and by the people; the powers are inherent in our existence. What would be the point of having a convention to modify the existing, or to write a new, in order for the drift to begin anew and the rights ignored?

Granting that the drift has occurred, the correct response is to redress the drift, not to generate a new document for further drift.

To take a broad brush to Sabato's proposals, I don't like any of them. In their aggregate, they alter the fundamental structure of the United States in ways that I don't like, and they propose requirements that are unenforceable.

Two amendments to the present Constitution that I propose (one of which violates my plaint above of enforceability) are these:

1) Congress shall pass no law whose word count exceeds 5,000 words. Footnotes, endnotes, and the like, documents included by reference, and amendments to the bill shall count against the word count limit.

2) The Congressional staff, the staffs of the individual Congressmen, of the President and Vice President, and of the Cabinet Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries cannot exceed three persons, including paid staff, unpaid staff, volunteer staff, and anyone otherwise working with that staff.

Other than these, the people need to get off our collective duffs and elect representatives that recognize that they work for us and not themselves. If we keep turning the rascals out, we'll get a crop of Congressmen and an Executive that can legislatively redress the judicial ills.

There's nothing wrong with Marbury v Madison. That decision simply made manifest Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution.

Even before that, though, we need to agree on what constitutes judicial activism. Dred Scott and the reversal of Dred Scott both were activist outcomes.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 02:06 PM

1. I honestly think as laid out, the Constitution was fine. Where we began to get into trouble was altering the citizens per Representative ratio, changing the way Senators were selected and failing to have set term limits. Well, that and the willingness of all three branches to ignore those parts of the Constitution they find inconvenient (e.g. the Tenth Amendment). The Senate was supposed to be the ones to look out for the interests of the States. But by making them a second House of Representatives, my State and your State and the other 48 have no representation at the federal level. Sure, the people do, but not the State itself.

2. A Constitutional Convention (in my mind) is the second to last resort. If we cannot get the Feds to play by the rules with elections, we need a Convention. If they fail to obey the dictates of the Convention, THEN an armed revolution would be required. The danger of a Convention is only slightly less than actual revolt. What comes out of it might not remotely resemble what we hope to get. Plus, I believe that logically, if certain States don't agree to abide by the newly redrawn Constitution, then their only recourse is Secession, and that doesn't have a good history itself.

3. If a Convention is held, the goal it SHOULD have is adding enforcement measures to the existing Constitution to ensure the Feds actually hold to it under penalty of treason (or at least loss of office or jail time). The only real failing of the existing Constitution is that it requires the Feds to police themselves. There's no real recourse for the States or the People to kick out officeholders who are engaged in un-Constitutional behaviors other than to wait for the next election cycle.

4. The Sabato proposal I agree most with is number 13: "Eliminate lifetime tenure for federal judges in favor of non-renewable 15-year terms for all federal judges." I understand the need for an independent judiciary, so elections for judges is out. But I think all the other aspects of it would be controlled by having a one term limit of 15 years where they could move up or out. No sideways movement in the system, and once a judge has served at one level, they must progress to the next or never serve at the federal level again. This achieves two goals:

One, you do not have a single judge bottleneck the system by refusing to leave his or her particular post till they're carried out by the mortician. A truly bad judge or justice can then only screw up for a decade and a half (more than enough time) before they get their just deserts. yes, that means the good ones also are forced up or out, but that's a small price to pay.

Two, you only get experienced judges at the appellate and SCOTUS levels. No more "well, I gave a brief that the President liked" or "she's got a good heart... trust me" candidates. You've proven yourself at the appellate level or you're not a Justice. And once out, you better settle in to private practice or ask one of the States for a job. Lifetime tenure is a non-starter with me. Not for judges, not for teachers... no one.

Posted by: MikeD at August 16, 2010 02:11 PM

And for the record, I REALLY like both of Eric's proposals.

Posted by: MikeD at August 16, 2010 02:12 PM

Here's what I'd like to see - either grant the President the line item veto expressly OR pass an amendment that prohibits Congress from grouping unrelated laws into one huge bill.

This would amount to forcing them to have an up or down vote on EACH law they pass. It would also slow them the Hell down - there is no way they could pass as many laws as they do presently and IMO that would be a change for the better.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 16, 2010 02:15 PM

What would be the point of having a convention to modify the existing, or to write a new, in order for the drift to begin anew and the rights ignored?

Well, for one thing Marbury created a gaping hole in the checks and balances system. Most Americans really believe that the SC is the last word on the Constitutionality of a law, but all three branches are supposed to uphold the Constitution.

A President can refuse to enforce any decision he believes unconstitutional. Of course there may be a political price to pay :p

The check on Presidential power is impeachment.

I don't believe the Court should make law. If a law is ambiguous or its Constitutional validity is unclear, the Court should send it back to the legislature and make them fix it. That's not the Court's job.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 16, 2010 02:22 PM

Oh, yeah--I am adamantly opposed to a line item veto by the president. Does anyone really want Barack Obama to have that much power over the purse? Or George Bush? With very good reasons on both sides.

The Congress has the power of the purse. It should not be passed to a single person in a different branch of the government. The president has all the power over the purse that he needs with his ability to veto a bill, including budget bills. He can veto the budget bill, and he can veto the bill that actually spends the money on the objectionable item. Let him have to stones to do so, if he really doesn't like that item.

The alternative, if next to impossible to enforce, is a very good one: require all items in a bill to be directly related to each of the other items.

A law I'd like to see passed (not an amendment) would be to, umm, earmark a small per centage of last year's budget to pay for earmarks. 1% is one number I've seen as the amount of the budget given over to earmarks presently. Then require all earmarks to be openly debated and passed/voted down in their own, separate catchall bill (thereby violating the just above...). I have no problem with earmarks, per se (anyone who's lived near a pig farm can appreciate better an earmark for investigating how to deodorize same); my problem is the secretiveness with which they get slipped in.

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 02:32 PM

If a law is ambiguous or its Constitutional validity is unclear, the Court should send it back to the legislature and make them fix it.

Which is exactly what happens when the SCOTUS decides a law is unconstitutional. Congress is free to try again. As they are presently vis-a-vis Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 02:38 PM

A President can refuse to enforce any decision he believes unconstitutional.

As Andrew Jackson did, without consequence: "[The Supreme Court] has made its decision, now let's see them enforce it!"

And as Barack Obama presently is doing with his refusal to control his AG's walking away from his duties.

And a whole raft of presidents in between.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 02:44 PM

A convention is needed to modify the Constitution so that the Left can't simply pass through the glaring loopholes at their ease. While taking vacations on tax money, no less.

If there is no convention, then I predict what you will see is secession, de fact not de jure. If secession doesn't work, then armed conflict will probably be transitioned to almost immediately.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 16, 2010 03:03 PM

Does anyone really want Barack Obama to have that much power over the purse? Or George Bush? With very good reasons on both sides.

I have to disagree, regardless of who is in power.

Exercising the veto has a political cost and Congress can always overturn a presidential veto. But right now, Congress piggybacks politically charged bills onto other bills to keep them safe.

The cost of exercising the veto needs to be tied to the specific bill that is being vetoed. Passing one bill at a time (my preferred solution over line item vetos) would accomplish the same thing in a manner less prone to abuse though.

I think the proliferation of laws is pretty good evidence that it has become far too easy to make new laws and we need to make it harder.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 16, 2010 03:05 PM

Or George Bush?

George Bush abided by the SC decisions. In fact, he went out of his way to have SC jurisdiction over GitMo.

The fact that he also didn't use the War Powers Act after 9/11, also proves the fact that out of all the recent candidates, Bush was the best of the lot. While he would not have and indeed did not ruthlessly used Executive power to crush all of America's enemies, he would also not have used those powers to excess when not warranted.

The check on Presidential power is impeachment.

It's not the check, it's a check. And it's a check that's going to bounce given the composition of what else is going on in Chicago and the vote fraud.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 16, 2010 03:06 PM

Exercising the veto has a political cost and Congress can always overturn a presidential veto.

As the Congress could do with a line item veto override. The present system isn't broken so badly that a line item veto by one person is warranted.

I agree with you that a better solution to this--as well as to several other problems--would be to require one subject per bill.

"Proliferation of laws--" yeah, and this isn't limited to the Federal government. In the USAF (and I suspect in more than one of the other branches), the all-to-easy solution to a failure or mistake was to write a new regulation to "fix" the mistake or failure. Heaven forfend that any actual work be done to understand that failure and then to set about better enforcing existing regulations....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 03:22 PM

The problem with impeachment (as a deterrent) is that it apparently is completely dependent on the will of Congress (not the People). Bill Clinton lied in sworn testimony in order to deny justice to a victim of sexual harassment. Pretty it up how you like, but he did. But because there were too many Democrats in the Senate at the time of his trial, he could not be found guilty. By the same token, there were those on the Left who were desperate to impeach George W. Bush, even though the "high crimes" they were able to come up with seemed to be "he lied to get us into a war." Not in sworn testimony (a.k.a. perjury), but in general. Last time I looked... there's no such statute. But whatever... they REALLY didn't like him.

I suspect the only reason that they didn't try to impeach him is that there really was no actual crime they could accuse him of without looking completely stupid. They were REALLY hoping the Valerie Plame thing would shake out, but no such luck.

Impeachment is a flawed system based on a flawed premise... that Congress owes more loyalty to the law and justice than towards their own political party. And I'm sorry, believing that takes more faith in them than I am willing to concede.

Posted by: MikeD at August 16, 2010 03:46 PM

Knowing the likely composition of the constituent delegates to a purported new constitutional convention, all I have to say is: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

Posted by: Boquisucio at August 16, 2010 03:58 PM

There were two other impeachment failures, also--the failed attempt to impeach Andrew Johnson and the failure even to try to impeach Richard Nixon (his resignation could have been held irrelevant to the proceedings. By allowing him to resign, Nixon was allowed to remain eligible for a host of things that he would have forfeited had he been impeached and convicted).

It is imperfect, but it's the design of the Constitution. The people also can "impeach" the president by refusing to re-elect him. I have been unable to find better mechanisms for removing an incumbent president.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 04:00 PM

Thomas Paine had it right when he wrote about the duad of power to the people--as individuals--and personal responsibility to the people--as individuals.

We can bellyache to our heart's content about the failures of the Federal government and/or of The United States Constitution, and it's often useful to correct those ills directly. However, we the people are sovereign in this country, and the responsibility begins and ends with us. If we don't hold up our end of the Locke-ian bargain, no amount of "fixing" of the government or of the Constitution will matter.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 04:04 PM

It is, indeed, our fault. Stop voting for incumbants! There are many smart, honest, and honorable men and women in this country, and there is absolutely no good reason to subject any of them to the temptations of continuing in elected office. One term and out!

Posted by: htom at August 16, 2010 04:17 PM

It is, indeed, our fault. Stop voting for incumbants!

Well of course it's our own fault. But the problem is everyone is of the opinion "all those guys are bums... well... except for my guy... he's fighting them!" No... they're all bums alright, but so's your guy. You just don't know it yet. In my mind, term limits are a must have. I'd say one term tops... MAYBE two for House members... but I'm squirrelly on that even. I hate the whole "campaigning while in office" bit. I'm sore tempted to say one term to elected office and never serve at the federal level again, or perhaps one term on one term off mandatory break before anything else. But even then I'm not so sure.

But if it's not mandatory that they exit the office, by the Constitution, they won't ever quit voluntarily (the good ones will, but they're not the problem).

Posted by: MikeD at August 16, 2010 04:50 PM

If we're going to have term limits for Congressmen--and I'm not convinced that we should--then I suggest that simple term limits aren't enough. I'd get more Draconian: once the term limit is reached, that individual is barred from Federal service in any guise: can't work for Federal government, can't lobby the government, can't work for a company that has a lobbyist lobbying the government now or during the period of Congressional service just completed (all terms, if there was more than one term to the limit), can't work for a company that works for the government. Can't do unpaid work of this type, can't do voluntary work of this type,...see my proposed limits on staff above. Can't work for a candidate who wants to hold Federal office.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 16, 2010 05:17 PM

"As the Congress could do with a line item veto override."

The point was always to prevent and block the aggregation of power. Not to increase its ability to be harnessed in one person or body.

A veto is not power exercised to increase somebody's power. A veto is power exercised to block the exercise of government dictates.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 16, 2010 06:18 PM

However, we the people are sovereign in this country,

Slaves aren't sovereign on the plantation just because they want to be. Desire and reality aren't always in synch.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 16, 2010 06:20 PM

I'd get more Draconian: once the term limit is reached, that individual is barred from Federal service in any guise: can't work for Federal government, can't lobby the government, can't work for a company that has a lobbyist lobbying the government now or during the period of Congressional service just completed (all terms, if there was more than one term to the limit), can't work for a company that works for the government. Can't do unpaid work of this type, can't do voluntary work of this type,...see my proposed limits on staff above. Can't work for a candidate who wants to hold Federal office.

I don't disagree. It's supposed to be public service, not public employment. But I do have a question why "If we're going to have term limits for Congressmen--and I'm not convinced that we should--"? What's the great evil in preventing members of Congress from gaining employment for life (97% re-election rate for Congresscritters is close enough to 'for life' in my opinion)?

The only arguments I've ever seen against are as follows:
"Well if there's term limits, we can't keep good people in there."
Less than 10% approval rating and we can't possibly find better people? We seriously can't get better people than Arlen Spector, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Lindsey Graham and the rest? THESE are irreplacable folks? The hell you say!

"If there are term limits, then our State can't hold the prestigious Chairmanships."
Where is it written any State has a right to those? It rewards States who are stubborn enough to keep putting the same fool in the same seat longer than the others can. That's no meritocracy I've ever heard of. Also, if we have one term limits, the whole "seniority" thing is out the window. Let em get committees and chairmanships by random and rotating draws.

I seriously cannot think of an honest downside to letting citizens step up to political office then (draconian though it may be) have nothing to do with political office ever again. At the Federal level at least. Let the States push more of their legislators up to Congress and Governors to the Executive. End the permanent political class (at the Federal level at least... let the States figure how to clean their own houses internally).

Posted by: MikeD at August 17, 2010 09:34 AM

That's no meritocracy I've ever heard of.

Oh? You haven't heard of the meritocracy of stupidity, heh.

Let em get committees and chairmanships by random and rotating draws.

better than engineered disasters, which is the current system. They engineer disasters with those positions.

Random chaos can't do as much focused damage as engineered disasters. Cause random is spread out, while focused damage is not. It's better to get an earthquake that kills 5k people every 20 years than something that kills 5k people for every month.

Basically, if the Left cries foul when you try something, you know you need to push it through their chest and into their black heart. If the Left says you shouldn't do something, do it. Cause it'll decrease their power. If they say "do this", then don't do it.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 17, 2010 12:48 PM

What's the great evil in preventing members of Congress from gaining employment for life....

No particular evil, but there is a third argument against Congressional term limits that I've seen more often than the two you describe, and that is it's the voice of the people. If that's who they want in office, as demonstrated by their repeatedly returning him to office, then that's who they should have.

The NBPP notwithstanding, no one is making the people preferentially select the incumbent for their vote.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 17, 2010 01:28 PM

it's the voice of the people. If that's who they want in office, as demonstrated by their repeatedly returning him to office, then that's who they should have.

I really do mean no offense with what I'm about to say, and never doubt that I believe this is the best nation on earth... but I'm sorry... the average American is no smarter than any other human being, and as a species, we're pretty damn dumb. I'm not saying that dumb shouldn't be painful to the practitioner, and I'm generally in favor of letting people make mistakes so they can learn from them. But in this particular case, we all suffer from the stupidity of others, and the term limits aren't to protect the folks who keep voting for corrupt and bad politicians, it's to protect the rest of us from those corrupt and bad politicians that we (otherwise) have no control over.

Posted by: MikeD at August 17, 2010 01:40 PM

...term limits aren't to protect the folks who keep voting for corrupt and bad politicians, it's to protect the rest of us from those corrupt and bad politicians that we (otherwise) have no control over.

Yeah, 'cause my corrupt and bad politician is better than your corrupt and bad politician, and it's my turn. That's only fair. :P

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at August 17, 2010 03:11 PM

How about a Constitutional amendment to require every piece of legislation to cite Article/Section, etc. from which that federal power is derived? So much of federal law is outside the purview of the Constitutional mandated Enumerated Powers...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 17, 2010 10:12 PM

I am a resident of the State of Illinois, recently decried by the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois as "the most corrupt state in the Union". A great deal of that is due to the lack of turnover in the politicians.

Amendment #3, requiring non-partisan redistricting of Congressional districts, is a good idea. I would add to that a proviso that what I will call the "eccentricity" of the districts (the ratio of length of it's border to it's area) cannot exceed some low amount. The idea is to create reasonably contiguous districts and get rid of the kind of political chianery that produces an outrage such as this - a district that should cause Elbridge Gerry's name to be struck and have the new word be "Gutierrezmandering". That vertical stripe is Interstate 294 - no one actually lives in it. It was specifically engineered to ensure that two separate communities of a particular ethnicity would be joined together so that someone of their race would be elected to Congress.

#5, expanding the House, is not a bad idea. It would make the representatives be more accountable to their constituents.

#22 could be called the "Starship Troopers" amendment. A modification would be that you would be free to choose whether or not to serve the country for two years prior to the age of, say, 25 - but if you failed to do so you would no longer have the right to vote (but that would be the only difference). A right, BTW, that should start at 21, not 18. If you're not mature enough to be trusted to drink responsibly, you're not mature enough to be trusted to vote responsibly.

If a Constitutional convention was called, it should concentrate on pushing the USA closer to a Federal style of government.

Elimination of direct election of Senators? Hm. I'm not so sanguine about letting the Illinois General Assembly determine who my Senators are - they did that just recently and gave us Senator Burris.

Let's see -

Fix the Velo decision so that governmental entities cannot convey private property to another private owner within, say, 50 years of having taken it from the original owner - otherwise it would have to be first offered back to the original owner (or their heirs) at either the current assessed value or what the owner was originally paid for it, whichever is lower. The government would retain liablity for any pollution, etc., that it may have left on the property.

Restore the original definition what is meant by an "established religion" so that it is clear that the State cannot suppress religious expression on public property as long as it treats all religions equally. That does not mean, however, that it can be required to fund such expression. For example, if the 900 Jews in town put up (at their own expense) a menorah on the public square at the appropriate time the town's taxpayers cannot be required to put up a manger scene at Christmas for the 3 Christians in town.

Strike the prefatory clause from the 2nd Amendment. Or else make it explicit that the reason that Americans are free to have guns is so that they have a resort against State tyranny, and that the estimate by either the State, it's elected or appointed officials or the electorate that no such threat exists is immaterial.

Political parties may not receive favorable treatment in election laws. Note that the Constitution is silent on political parties.


Example 1: Here in Illinois a prospective candidate for State office from an established political party needs 5000 signatures to get on the ballot. An independent candidate needs 25,000.

Example 2: An established party gets to have the State pay for it's candidate selection process (a.k.a. "primary election"). A new party does not. Public funding of primary elections for private parties should be entirely eliminated.

Marriage is a bond between one man and one woman.

And something - I don't know what - that ensures that "rights" != "entitlements". If the majority is free to do or buy something, that doesn't mean that that the taxpayers can be required by the State to pay taxes to fund it for those who lack the resources to do so. That does not forbid the electorate (or their representatives) from choosing to do so, but it would mean they cannot be required to do so by the judiciary. Either that, or the first right the taxpayers should fund for those who cannot afford it is their right under the 2nd Amendment.

Posted by: RonF at August 17, 2010 10:45 PM

Oh, yeah:

No one shall be a natural-born citizen of the United States unless at least one of their parents is an American citizen.

Posted by: RonF at August 17, 2010 10:48 PM

that is it's the voice of the people.

There is no such thing as the voice of the people. For humans are not a hive mind.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 18, 2010 08:01 AM

Btw, it's not term limits that tells people they should shut up about voting in more slaves. It's the Constitution itself that tells them to shut it.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 18, 2010 08:04 AM

I suspect that tinkering with the structure and distribution of power among different pieces of the Federal gov't won't really change things much. We have a pretty good system/process, but it is peopled with imperfect partisan humans. That isn't going to change.

The things I think that would help (not solve) our structural governance problems?

The states need to reassert their (admittedly limited) power and sovereign authority in the federalist system. They've rolled over and played dead for the past 150 years, partially because of the "chilling effect" of the War Between The States and partially because they've allowed themselves to become addicted to Federal dollars dangled in front of them. It's a spoils system.

The people need to assert their power of revolutionary veto. Whether this is merely through civil disobedience,(e.g. jury nullification, noncompliance, peaceful demonstrations) or more depends greatly upon the response by authorities. But it would be helpful if more of the authorities understood their role in our form of society (like the Oathkeepers do) as not the ultimate, but rather as the penultimate bastion.

Most laws should have sunset provisions, including all legislation that levies taxes. Period. Refreshing of a law that is being sunsetted should require a 75% majority vote.

Given our current level of technology, more issues should be put to a national popular vote, and taken out of the hands of Congress. I'd rather be at the mercy of 300 million ignorant voters than 500 ignorant narcissitic congress persons. But it should take significant majorities to pass... e.g. 75% or more. None of this bare majority stuff.

Approving expenditures should be taken away from Congress. They clearly can't make or live up to a budget. I think a method by which the actual taxpayer allocates their tax dollars to the programs they wish to see supported would go a long way to creating some fiscal sanity, and prevent the current system of earmarks/votes bribery/extortion that we have now. We have to stop those that do not produce and do not pay taxes from having such a large voice in how much money gets spent and on what.

Eelcted officials need to quit believing that they have been elected to "lead" us. They've been elected to take care of the mundane housekeeping of the State, more like clerks or accountants, than leaders. I can't think of any politicians that I want as my "leader." I'll reconsider that if we mobilize the country for real self defense, or in the realm of foreign affairs, but otherwise, internal national "policy" should be laissez faire.

Finally, I'd like to see a way to force individual recall of elected officials through votes of "no confidence". Waiting until a next scheduled election is really just not sufficient, given the incredible amounts of damage that can be done in relatively short order. Witness the past 18 months.

Posted by: ruralcounsel at August 20, 2010 10:41 AM

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