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The Case FOR Amending the Constitution

This is part three of a three part series on controlling the power of our representatives. The first in the series was on term limits.  The second was on seniority in congress.

After having read my first post in this series, I am sure many believed that I am opposed to amending the constitution.  I wish to state now very clearly I am not against amending the constitution.  I feel that amending the constitution is a very constitutional act.  Conner Boyack addresses this very well, and I will let you read his comments instead of spending too much time on that issue.

However, as Boyack mentions, there should be at least some measure by which a constitutional amendment must be measured.  Among there 27 amendments, there are several that I feel should never have passed.  Boyack expresses at least two of them, but his reasoning for opposing them are different from mine.

To understand that difference, we need to take a closer look at the first 10 amendenments, better known as the bill of rights.  Here’s a quick rundown just to help refresh your memory:

  1. Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc.
  2. Right to bear arms.
  3. Freedom from quartering soldiers.
  4. protection from unlawful search and seizure.
  5. Right to due process and protection from double jeopardy, self-incrimination and eminent domain.
  6. Right to criminal trial by jury.
  7. Right to civil trial by jury.
  8. Protection from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
  9. Protection of individual rights not specifically mention in the bill of rights.
  10. Protection of state’s rights.

Let’s take a look at these amendment as a whole. What do each of these amendments have in common. It might be easier if you look at just the first nine. Each of the first nine are focused around individual rights and liberties. While the tenth is often though of as the state’s rights clause we must not forget that it grants the same rights “to the people.”

While history tells us that these amendments were added because of the demand by the people for an enumeration of the rights of the people, I think that it sets a very interesting precedent. When amending the constitution, we must look at it’s effects on the rights of the people.

Of the remaining 17 amendments, the most problematic one are those that limit people’s rights. One example of this is the 18th amendment. By prohibiting alcohol, we limit individual freedom. Fortunately, the 18th amendment was repealed by the 21st amendment and individual freedoms were restored.

The amendments that have be beneficial to us are those that are about clarifying individual rights. The best examples of this are the 13th and the 19th amendments which granted freedom to slaves and allowed for women’s suffrage, respectively. These are generally celebrated amendments and that is because the have at their hearts the same thing that was at the heart of the first 10 amendments: individual rights and freedom.

I don’t oppose amending the constitution. I support it, when it is about guaranteeing rights, freedoms and protections.

One such amendment would be repealing the 16th amendment that made it legal to impose an income tax on the citizens. Not so much because I don’t like income taxes. Rather, because I feel that an income tax is an attack on my freedom as a person.

I would also support repealing the 17th amendment. You might question my reasoning on this. Doesn’t the 17th amendment give individuals the right to vote for their Senator. However, I would argue that the right to vote for your Senator was clearly not granted in the original constitution, and for good reason. That reason being that the founders didn’t want a democracy. And that the original intent was for the Senator to represent the state’s and not to represent the people. But that is a lengthy constitutional discussion that is beyond the scope of this post.

Another reason I support repealing the 17th amendment, such an amendment would effectively remove the desire for Senators to try and “bribe” the people with earmarks and entitlements. The Senators would now become servants of the states and not servants of the masses. It would be easier to replace an incumbent Senator under the original program, and would thus remove the need for term limits. It would also take care of the issue of seniority to a great extent.

I support amending the constitution. But only when those amendments are clearly in the interest of establishing the rights of the people, and the rights of the states as we see by the precedent established by the Bill of Rights.

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9 comments to The Case FOR Amending the Constitution

  • JBT

    If the 16 amendment were repealed removing the income tax, how would the important essential government functions such as national defense, FDA, CDC, etc. be funded?

    • I have been a big supporter of the Fair Tax (or a national sales tax). However, I have heard recent talk about implementing a tax system where the Federal Government sends a bill to the states, and then the state raises the funds in the way best for that state and then pays the bill. I have some problems with this idea, however, if the Senators are elected by our state legislators, then I think that this system could work because it would institute a nice balance of powers. So, if we can repeal the 17th amendment, then implement this type of tax system, I would be in favor of it.

  • JBT

    The essential problem with your national sales tax is its regressive nature. The poor who spend most of their income on living essentials would pay the same rate as those at the highest income levels.

  • This is not the case. Most nation sales tax system have several methods to counter for that. First, it will not be a tax on food, second many of them have systems for a tax rebate for all people who make less than the poverty level. Check out the Fair Tax proposal to help remove the regressive nature of a flat sales tax.

  • “Amendenments”? I like the Fourth Amendment, the one that says the U.S. government can’t institute widespread illegal warrantless surveillance of Americans. But they did anyway.

    But thanks for taking a brave stand against progressive taxation and democracy. You’d be right at home in the 18th Century.

    • “You’d be right at home in the 18th Century.”

      Thanks Richard. I consider that a great compliment.

  • Ronald D. Hunt

    A sales tax is very far from fair and no one should argue for a national sales tax on the nonsense basis of fairness. A National Sales tax would be a good partial replacement for corporate income tax’s as corporate tax’s are forwarded to the consumer in the end price point anyway and it makes a good “sidebar” tariff to keep jobs in the USA, and encourages personal savings(a claim I can buy but not everyone will).

    Lowering/ending the corporate income tax and replacing the revenue with a Cap and trade co2 tax, a exchange market tax(see: RobinHood Tax and a national sales tax(I would suggest the Value added tax sales tax model would have the benefit from removing a great deal of corruption in corporations fighting for tax benefits, create tax’s that corporations can’t evade because frankly generally speaking they have so many holes in the system they don’t pay their fair share, and have the beneficial environmental effects while not actually increases tax’s.

    I don’t believe that ending income tax’s for the individual would be a good idea, its a good effective tax model that works very well. Their are reforms I would like to see as I believe that the current model is needlessly complex.

    Their are other reforms aside that I would like to see as well that are while not directly part of the tax system do effect it. I would like to see the Federal tax revenue sharing program that Nixon ended returned and allow States to fully fund mandated programs from the revenue sharing program. I would like to see all the Federal subside programs dollars(corn, wool, etc) rolled into a general business promotion and development system for states where the states could choose how to distribute their business promotion dollars(this avoids the political suicide of trying to kill the corn subsides as the corn states can continue to distribute them that way). It would be easier to cut to size the wasteful subsides dollars that are throw around if you are not attacking one particular lobby.

    I would also like to see a 20cent increase in the Federal gas tax to pay for a new coast to coast high speed rail system and a grant system for city’s to build street car and other mass transit systems. China’s new high speed rail system not only provides passenger travel at 210+ MPH but also provides freight travel at 155 MPH at that speed ups/usps/dhl/fedex could use it for anything that would otherwise require air travel to ship quick enough, that sounds like a big economy booster to me.

    Anyway back to the original subject, I believe the strongest voices for tax reform(fair tax or otherwise) are really just wanting a system that has better tax equality and the system we have definitely needs reform I haven’t seen anyone actually propose something yet that is actually practical.

  • Wow, did nobody get the point of the post? It wasn’t about the income tax. Sure, I used it as an ancillary example of a bad amendment. But my point was more about repealing the 17th amendment. But that is a typical tactic in a debate. Don’t argue the real point but redirect it towards something you think you have a stronger hold on.

    Sorry, it won’t work here. Just about any tax system is better than the income tax system that we have now. But the bigger issues is that repealing the 17th amendment would lead to better representation, and ultimate lead to a better tax system.

  • Ronald D. Hunt

    You are arguing for the return of Senators to being appointed by the States legislatures they represent rather then elected? Even considering the blatant Corruption that happened under that model, For its flaws the 17th amendment had a purpose if we are seeking reform here I would suggest a move towards a Proportional Voting system of some type. Multiparty reform would do wonders for the United States system. Several European Governments are elected via proportional voting and it works wonderfully, Swedish Parliament for example has 7 sitting party’s, Ireland’s SVT voting system is also very interesting in their last election a quarter of the new members replaced members of the same party as their voting system allows a party to put up more then one candidate in a particular race.

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