with permission from the author
by Steven LaTulippe
Lately, I have noticed
a rash of libertarian commentators proposing various Constitutional
amendments which, they believe, will help to correct the dangerous course
on which our nation is traveling. After pondering these for a while,
and not wanting to get left out of a fad, I have come up with a few
of my own.
I should first confess
that I am fairly certain that this is an exercise in futility, since
I am not optimistic about the direction of our society and doubt that
changes of this sort will alter its course.
In particular, there
is a zero possibility that any of these suggestions (or those of any
of the other writers) will ever actually be implemented by our political
leaders. Our elites thrive on the accumulation of power that results
from the disintegration of our Constitutional protections. As a result,
their class interests lie in the opposite direction. They have effectively
hardwired our political system to resist fundamental change and to continue
our drift towards despotism.
If one looks at
the history of the modern state over the 20th Century, it is obvious
that governments now have at their disposal a variety of technologies
and techniques which render them impervious to fundamental reform.
Modern propaganda, law enforcement, and the "soft powers" of
economic coercion serve to stifle any real change. Those profound
transformations that have occurred (the collapse of the USSR,
Eastern Europe, etc.) have been the result of external attack
or internal collapse. To the bitter end, those elite classes
maintained control over their societies and prevented genuine
reform. There is no reason to assume that America will be any
Furthermore, a constitution
is only worthwhile so long as it codifies the ideals and beliefs already
dominant in a given society. If the principles of the document are present
in the hearts and minds of the populace at large, it will have real
influence on government. If the ideals of the document do not exist
or have decomposed in the society, then it is merely a piece of paper
to be ignored. (Take, for instance, the constitutions left behind by
the British after de-colonization in many parts of the world. Those
documents have been largely ignored and are now mere historical curiosities
in a string of Third World dictatorships.)
In my estimation,
not more than 30% of the population of the United States understands
the structure of our Republic and holds conscious allegiance to its
ideals. The remainder now believes in a medley of failed European ideologies
that loom hideously on our collective horizon.
society has thus made the transition from a Republic to a social
democracy. As such, our Constitution is rather like the British
Monarchy. It is a relic from a previous age to which respect
is paid for public consumption, but which is largely devoid of
real meaning or power. The general trend at this point is towards
the continued accumulation of arbitrary governmental authority
and increased fiscal irresponsibility ending in economic crisis
and political chaos. History shows that from this crisis usually
emerges a "savior" who disposes with the last remnants
of Republican values and imposes autocratic rule (Caesar and
Napoleon being prominent examples).
Having said this,
one might wonder why I bother writing this at all. Wouldn' t it make
more sense to convert one's assets to gold and move to Bermuda? Isn't
it more reasonable to relax in a tropical paradise and watch the collapse
on satellite TV?
The only answer
that I can offer is that I really do love this country and hate to see
it go down the drain without offering some ideas to prevent the emerging
political and economic debacle.
Besides, tax havens
are notoriously boring places to live.
So, in that spirit,
I offer my amendments:
Ban the stationing of American troops on foreign soil
Fathers steadfastly believed that we should lead by example. While
they held that our system was superior to other previous ones, they
were firm in their commitment that America should avoid foreign entanglements.
We should have friendship and commerce with all, but should decline
to intervene in situations that are none of our affair. This idea
has been totally abandoned by our current government, which has stationed
American soldiers in over 100 different nations around the globe.
To rectify this
situation, amendment #1 would require all American military troops
on duty abroad to return to US soil. The only exceptions to
this rule would be during a declared war (requiring a simple
majority of both houses of Congress) or a legal national emergency.
I would require a ¾ majority in both houses to declare an emergency, which
would have to be renewed by a ¾ majority on an annual
In addition, this
amendment would ban the stationing of foreign troops on US soil, would
prohibit American soldiers from serving under foreign command, and
would forbid American troops from taking part in international peacekeeping
Ban foreign aid
I strive in vain
to find in our Constitution where it allows the federal government
to hand out federal taxpayers' dollars to foreign governments. In
general, these funds end up in the Swiss bank accounts of the recipient
nations' corrupt leaders. In addition, the oppressed populations of
these nations become aware that their autocratic system is being financed
by the largess of Uncle Sam, and they naturally resent us for it.
Since we also
happen to be going bankrupt, this is a luxury which we can no longer
X and Tyrant Y are going to have to find a new sugar daddy.
Cap annual federal outlays to a fixed percentage (10%) of the previous
Our current budgetary
system is hurtling our nation towards insolvency. One of the problems
is that there is no overall limit to how much money congress is allowed
to spend. Without a cap of any kind, congress naturally shovels cash
at each powerful special interest group in order to garner contributions
and political support.
If congress was
only permitted to appropriate a sum equal to 10% of the previous year's
GDP, then they would have a known quantity of money to spend before
they even begin to plan the budget. They could divvy it up any way
they choose, but the overall amount would be predetermined.
The only exceptions
to this rule would be, again, a declared war or a national emergency
(which again would require a ¾ annual majority in both
Alter the constitutional amendment procedure to cut the federal government
out of the process
The greatest single
mistake that the Founders made in constructing our Constitution
was to give the federal government a say in amending it. Currently,
an amendment must pass both houses of congress by a 2/3 majority
before going to the states for ratification, which requires ¾ of
the state legislatures. (I realize that the other method of
amending the Constitution, a Constitutional Convention, bypasses
the federal government. But most experts believe that such
a convention could not be limited to only one amendment, and
would therefore open the entire Constitution up for revision.
Because of the potentially catastrophic results of this process,
it has never been done.)
Since the purpose
of the Constitution is to limit and define the powers of the federal
government, this was a major error. Congress, being a branch of the
federal government, has an institutional interest in preventing any
amendment which limits the power of that federal government. This
has helped to create the one thing that the Founders feared most:
a government which defines the limits of its own powers.
I would eliminate
the congressional step altogether and allow ¾ of the state
legislatures to amend the Constitution directly. There would
then be an outside center of power which could limit the feds
without giving Washington a voice in the matter.
This would render
all three branches of government (and the Washington bureaucracy)
mere horrified bystanders of the amendment process.
Remove the Federal Judiciary confirmation and impeachment process from
the Senate and place it in the hands of the state legislatures over
whom the judges preside
sit on circuits which preside over defined groups of states (with
the Supreme Court presiding over the nation as a whole). In this new
system, the president would nominate a candidate for a position on
the federal bench, and the nomination would go to the states in question
for confirmation (instead of the US Senate). In order to take his
seat, a judge must obtain a majority vote of the state senates in
at least 2/3 of the states over whom he will preside. Judicial impeachment
would likewise be in the jurisdiction of the state legislatures in
Our federal judiciary
has torn loose from its moorings and is ruling our nation as an unelected
super-legislature. Time and again, it flaunts the will of the people
and ignores the text of the Constitution as it imposes its will on
our nation in an arbitrary fashion. The other branches of the federal
government have proven themselves incapable of curbing the judiciary.
Perhaps the states
will have a better chance. The state governments are more responsive
to the actual needs of the people, and giving them power over the
federal judiciary might just ameliorate the problem.
Change the House of Representatives to a random selection system mimicking
One would be hard-pressed
to find a legislative body in human history more overflowing with
hacks, demagogues, and charlatans than our House of Representatives.
The one thing that they have accomplished is to contort our electoral
system in a manner that renders them nearly impervious to political
defeat. By selling themselves to various entrenched special interest
groups, gerrymandering their districts, and abusing the powers of
incumbency, they are essentially Representatives for life.
The result is
that our federal legislature responds mostly to donations and threats
from lobbying groups, with the needs of the nation and its people
being a mere afterthought.
Since I believe
that the previously mentioned manipulations of the process have rendered
House elections as meaningless as Soviet plebiscites, I propose that
we abandon it altogether. Campaign finance reform, term limits, etc.
would likely also be fruitless.
In its place,
I suggest that Representatives be randomly selected for a single,
four-year term from the voting rolls of each congressional district.
So long as the selected individual is a citizen of sound mind, has
a high school diploma, and is without a felony conviction, he would
go to Washington and represent the district for one term. This person
would be paid at the same rate as his current salary. Having served
once, this person would be forbidden to hold any other government
job or elected office in the future.
Before being taken
over by neoconservative mind-control, William F. Buckley Jr. once
said that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the
Boston telephone book than by the faculty at Harvard University. I
agree. Without the motivations of political careerism and the accumulation
of a war chest for future campaigns, these Representatives might just
make decisions based on the needs of his community and the demands
of the Constitution.
It could be a
disaster, but we must try something.
Enshrine jury nullification in our Constitution
is the process by which a jury not only evaluates the facts in a given
case, but may also render judgment on the law itself. This is an old
principle of English Common Law that was created as a last-ditch barrier
to the arbitrary prosecution of citizens.
In theory, juries
already have this power now. But in practice, the system has gone
to great lengths to keep juries ignorant of nullification. The reason
for this is quite simple. The political elites and their puppeteers
go to great trouble to craft our laws, and they intensely dislike
the idea that 12 jurors chosen from the great unwashed have the power
to ignore their laws in a given case.
The argument against
nullification is that the people already have legitimate input into
the creation of our laws, and therefore it verges on anarchy to allow
juries to engage in nullification.
This is nonsense.
Our political leaders have created a system whereby the opinions of
the people, as expressed by voting, are irrelevant to the crafting
of policy. Voting is a mere mirage which gives the citizenry the fantasy
of participation. In reality, our laws are made by legislators who
have rendered themselves impervious to electoral defeat (as mentioned
above). These congressmen respond only to backroom deals and pressures
from powerful special interest groups. The system is hardwired and
the fix is in.
In practice, nullification
if a prosecutor brings charges against an elderly lady for importing
her prescription drugs from overseas (a practice which, despite overwhelming
public approval, has been made illegal at the behest of the pharmaceutical
industry) the jury could not only judge the facts in the case, but
may acquit the accused merely because they disagree with the law and
refuse to apply it in this particular case. The accused would walk
free even though the jury admits that the evidence indicates that
she really did break the law.
It is not hard
to see why special interest groups and the governing elite hate this
idea. They have gone to a lot of trouble to cut us out of the system,
and this would allow the people to insert themselves back into it.
would formally declare that juries have the right to nullification,
and would require each presiding judge to read a statement describing
nullification to the jury before deliberation.
problem revolves around the fact that various elites have managed to
undermine our Republic and its safeguards against abuse. Proposed amendments
which could significantly ameliorate this situation would be bitterly
opposed by these elites for just this reason. They don't want our Republic
to be restored, because doing so would drastically decrease their power
to craft legal outcomes which benefit their own narrow economic and
Like an airplane
with a jammed autopilot steering towards a mountainside, our system
is frozen and is immune to fundamental reform. While crafting amendments
may be an enjoyable intellectual exercise, I really don't see anything
changing our trajectory short of a massive systemic crisis.
But if for no other
reason than the dread of spending my life's prime years lawn bowling
with old geezers in the Caribbean, something has to be done.and the
sooner the better.
LaTulippe is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an
officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.