Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on, as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.”     Robert A. Heinlein,    Address at the U.S. Naval Academy April 5, 1973

September 17, 2010

Constitution Day Open Thread: Top 3 Amendments You Would Make

by Stephen Littau

Today marks the 223rd anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, allegedly the supreme law of the land. The framers of the Constitution recognized that over time changes would need to be made through an amendment process. In the intervening 223 years, this document has been amended only 27 times.

This brings me to the question I want to pose to readers: what top 3 amendments would you make if you could and why?

Here are my top 3 in no particular order:

1. Rebalancing the Scales of Justice Amendment: The 4th 6th Amendment’s guarantee for the accused to have a court appointed [see comments below] lawyer is a wonderful idea but incomplete. Sure, the accused can be represented by a public defender but does not have nearly the resources available as the prosecution. My proposed amendment would go further than the 4th 6th Amendment and state that the accused would be guaranteed the same resources in his or her defense as the prosecution. For every tax dollar spent to prosecute a dollar would be made available for the defense (whether or not the accused uses a court appointed attorney). This amendment would also guarantee compensation for the wrongfully accused, hold prosecutors criminally and civilly responsible for withholding exculpatory evidence from the jury, and clearly state that a compelling claim of “actual innocence” (due to newly discovered evidence or technological breakthroughs) would be reason enough for a new trial for the previously convicted.

2. Term Limits Amendment: A single 6 year term for president, 2 terms for senators (keep the current 6 year term), 6 terms for representatives (keep the current 2 year term). These terms would be limited for consecutive terms only; if a president wants to make another run, s/he could do so after sitting out a term while senators and representatives would have to sit out a full 12 years (and make them deal with the consequences of their laws as private citizens for awhile) or run for a different office.

3. Accident of Birth Amendment: This would revise Article II, Section 1 removing the requirement that the president must be a natural born citizen and changing the requirement to match that of a U.S. senator. While this requirement might have made sense 223 years ago when the nation was getting started, we are now to a point to where we can do away with it. I don’t like the idea of disqualifying an individual for something s/he had absolutely no control over. Also, this would force the birthers to think about something else other than Obama’s birth certificate : )

Now it’s your turn.

TrackBack URI: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2010/09/17/constitution-day-open-thread-top-3-amendments-you-would-make/trackback/
Read more posts from
• • •

16 Comments

  1. Hmm… Off the top of my head…

    1) A revision to the commerce clause to more explicitly define it as the Framers had intended and to close the gap the statists have used to expand Federal power;

    2) Term limits: 12 years for senators and representatives, President stays at two four-year terms.

    3) Allow states to repeal federal statutes and regulations on a vote of 3/4ths of the state legislatures.

    4) Ban unfunded mandates imposed by the Fed on the states.

    Comment by Phineas — September 17, 2010 @ 11:26 am
  2. Nice! Agreed on 1, 3, and 4.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 17, 2010 @ 11:38 am
  3. I would also support #2 if it were a real amendment being considered.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 17, 2010 @ 11:45 am
  4. I would like to see an amendment that deals with individual property right of the ordinary citizen. I agree that pubic welfare is a must in the overall, however when citizens are robbed of the value of their land which happens everyday, then the current law is only being bent to serve government needs not the community. I propose that any government wishing to take citizens property must pay double the value of the land WITHOUT any encumbrances of the current land planing authority’s limitations. This will ensure that government only takes land absolutely necessary and that the citizen is protected and compensated.If those who want to “run everything” had to really pay for what they take from others there would be a lot less taking. Prime example why we need a amendment change for this is the Florida Keys, where property owners are continually raped and robbed by the DCA, FEMA and Monroe County Board of Commissioners.

    Comment by Dgee — September 17, 2010 @ 11:53 am
  5. I’m not such a big fan of the Constitution. I think the Articles of Confederation were better.

    Comment by darjen — September 17, 2010 @ 12:16 pm
  6. Stephen,

    I’m not sold on your #3. Not that I think we need to keep that requirement per se, but that it’s simply nowhere near important enough to be in a top 3 list. Just my humble opinion, of course :-)

    My three:

    1) Repeal 16th Amendment

    2) Repeal 17th Amendment

    3) A balanced budget amendment coupled with a hard limit on public debt as a percentage of GDP, say 20%. I.e. it would be written such that a balanced budget and zero/low gov’t debt is always required, except in cases of war or national emergency, and then limiting debt run up to a more reasonable level.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — September 17, 2010 @ 12:31 pm
  7. I’ll just offer two:

    1. A Right to Privacy amendment.

    I DO think that it is already to be found all over the place in the constitution, but only implicitly – I just don’t think it even occurred to the Founders to write that one down, so much is it fundamentally assumed. Unfortunately, it being implicit has created some really horrendous case law as people had to twist and bend plain meaning around to serve the purpose (leading to some terribly reasoned precedents). And it not being explicit has allowed a lot of very weasely go-arounds.

    So, make it crystal fucking clear. Cleave it from 4th amendment (which is more due process than privacy), cleave it from said case law. Not sure what the precise language should be, but it should be chiseled into the damn document. Rather than having to spend all our energy even finding a right to privacy, have all our energy being on grappling with it.

    2. Election reform.

    This would include stuff like the electoral college, and it would include stuff like requiring paper trails and transparency, etc., and it would probably also include a fair few party-fighting measures (say, a federalization of third party requirements in elections to federal office, that kind of stuff), but more than that, I find myself persuaded by the range voting crew. Plurality voting is dumb.

    Comment by BradCrossedPond — September 17, 2010 @ 12:39 pm
  8. Brad:

    #3 probably isn’t really in my top three (top 10 for sure) either…I’m so very annoyed at the birthers though.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 17, 2010 @ 12:46 pm
  9. Amendments 16, 17, and 18 were 3 terrible amendments in a row. Thank goodness 18 is long gone.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 17, 2010 @ 12:49 pm
  10. Brad, funny you should mention repealing the 17th Amendment. Here in Colorado, the Dems are running these commercials critical of senate candidate Ken Buck who said he would like to repeal the 17th Amendment. I’ve been meaning to write about this but haven’t got around to it…hopefully I will soon.

    The ads say “Ken Buck wants to re-write the constitution” and “he wants to take away our right to vote for our senators” There’s absolutely no context, no mention that if Buck could “re-write” the constitution he would only be changing it back to the way it was originally.

    Personally, I’m not going to vote for Buck though because I think he’s a prick (and he said that he’s opposed to abortion even in the case of rape or incest). The funny thing is, these negative ads that say he would like to repeal the 17th Amendment, thinks Social Security is unconstitutional, etc. makes him a more attractive candidate. If I had a gun to my head and was forced to choose between Ken Buck (R) and Bill Bennett (D), I would most likely end up choosing the latter. Fortunately, there won’t be a gun to my head and I can vote Libertarian and have a clear conscious.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 17, 2010 @ 5:40 pm
  11. A strong second on Brad’s suggestion #3: no more inflation tax. Balanced budget. Starve the beast. I also support as many term limits as we can establish. We need citizen legislators, not career politicians.

    I’d also love to see them implement Robert Heinlein’s idea as voiced by Professor Bernardo de la Paz in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”:

    “I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent—the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority . . . while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?”

    Comment by Akston — September 17, 2010 @ 9:25 pm
  12. The 4th Amendment’s guarantee for the accused to have a court appointed lawyer…

    Um, Sixth Amendment. And not to be a Scalia, but the Amendment actually says nothing of the kind. It merely says you have a right to an attorney, not a free attorney. Just saying…

    Comment by KipEsquire — September 18, 2010 @ 6:00 am
  13. Kip:

    You are correct; the 6th Amendment was the amendment I should have referenced rather than the 4th.

    This is the part I was referring to:

    “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right […] to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

    Does having the right to counsel necessarily mean the government has to provide the council or is it up to the accused to pay for his or her own defense? I can see how you can make that argument.

    Right or wrong, the case law seems to support the notion of public defenders. The infamous Miranda warning that every criminally accused person receives states “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

    If your argument is that the case law is wrong and interprets the 6th Amendment incorrectly then this is all the more reason to pass an amendment like the one I suggested.

    I understand why some, especially libertarians, would argue that the sate should not pay for public defenders for those who cannot afford an attorney. My argument is that number 1. the state is trying to take someone’s freedom from him or her, 2. its up to the state to prove that taking away his/her freedom is justified because s/he violated the life, liberty, or property rights of another individual and number 3. I don’t think most libertarians would say that the victim or victim’s family of a crime should have to foot the bill to prosecute someone they accuse of committing the crime.

    It seems to me that if the taxpayer is expected to pay all the costs to put someone behind bars, seize his or her property, and/or possibly take his or her life that in the interests of justice for all concerned the taxpayers should also pay an equal amount of costs for the defense of someone accused of a crime.

    Justice should not be a luxury reserved only for the rich and famous.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 18, 2010 @ 7:31 am
  14. I have to say, I’m not hating many of these proposed amendments. We have quite a good virtual constitutional convention going on here!

    My favorites so far in no particular order:

    -Revise the interstate commerce clause (Phineas)

    -Ban unfunded mandates imposed on the states (Phineas)

    -Revise the takings clause to better protect property rights (Dgee)

    -Repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments; balanced budget amendment (Brad)

    -Right to privacy amendment (BradCrossedPond)

    -Eliminate plurality voting; replace with range voting [is this similar to instant runoff voting?] (BradCrossedPond)

    -I’m also a big fan of Robert Heinlein’s idea in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (Akston)

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 18, 2010 @ 8:00 am
  15. I’ve remembered two other concepts that would be useful additions as amendments (not that they’d ever actually make it):

    1. Require every bill to include a section at the top referencing which enumerated power in the constitution authorizes it. I realize that nearly every bill would evoke one of only a few powers (interstate commerce, general welfare, necessary and proper, etc), but it would be educational to document that pattern. The way we’ve slid from a constitutional republic toward a pure democracy (with all the latter’s tyrannies) is by allowing sloppy, twisted, and speculative interpretation of what should have been simple limiting language. Let’s document the slide and give ammunition to constitutional advocates.

    2. Read the Bill (http://readthebill.org/) is a movement to have congress post all bills 72 hours before a vote so the public can review the contents. I’d go a large step further. Add an amendment where every bill – in its entirety – must be read aloud to the full membership of the house where it’s proposed. I wonder how many 2700 page bills would follow such an amendment.

    Comment by Akston — September 19, 2010 @ 12:04 pm
  16. Akstson,

    I’m a fan of the RTBA as well for the reasons you pointed out. I think simple legislation could accomplish the same thing without a constitutional amendment though.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — September 19, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

Comments RSS

Subscribe without commenting

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by: WordPress • Template by: Eric • Banner #1, #3, #4 by Stephen Macklin • Banner #2 by Mark RaynerXML