Recently, Bill Ferguson wrote in his column that our government is fundamentally broken at this point, and I dont see it getting any better unless we somehow shake things up and change the status quo. His solution is to call for a constitutional convention to set things right. That idea, of course, is a very bad one.
Why? Because there is no consensus as to whether a convention of the states can be limited to a single or a few subjects (e.g., a balanced budget or term limit amendments). There is considerable writing expounding on this subject, and most authorities fear instead of a single or a few subjects on the table, a convention would not be limited. In fact, an all-powerful constitutional convention could convene that would abrogate the entire U.S. Constitution and a new form of government created, as in fact happened in Philadelphia in 1787.
A little history is helpful. The Founding Fathers convened a national convention in Annapolis in 1786 to discuss interstate commerce among the states under the Articles of Confederation. It was ineffective but was used as a sounding board for another convention on the same subject a year later. Instead of limiting the discussion to interstate commerce, James Madison immediately seized the opportunity to overturn the Articles of Confederation, which he thought completely inadequate for an effective federal government.
Led by Madison, the founders then framed a completely new constitution, which was not what was originally intended. Thus the Convention of the States in Philadelphia became, in fact, the path blazing Constitutional Convention of 1787 that completely altered our form of government. Obviously, that was for the better at the time, given the talent, erudition and wisdom of the founders.
But in todays flagging educational establishment and the rudderless political climate, as Ferguson described, imagine the outcome of a new convention. So lets be serious.
Presently, we have but few statesmen of the caliber of the founders, the intellectual giants of 1787 who framed our Constitution. Where are we going to find men and women of the caliber of James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, George Mason and Richard Henry Lee?
What kind of constitution would the modern politicians draft? Our founders were well read, and they based our founding documents on historical precedents of government, the classical political philosophy of the enlightenment, and natural rights theory. Todays politicians, urged on by the progressive academicians and the biased liberal media, would write a living constitution -- likely authoritarian, oligarchical and collectivist, or a travesty of a consensual document not worth the paper it is printed on!
Ferguson writes: We need to make the same sort of radical change. Its time for the states that make up this union to call for another constitutional convention. I would not suggest throwing out our current Constitution as I think it is a worthy foundation to build a government on.
Frankly, I think that last statement is a red herring evincing the possibility that Ferguson is not completely frank with his readers and wants to have it both ways. Nevertheless I will extend him the benefit of the doubt and sincerity when he says he doesnt want to throw out our current Constitution.
Ferguson continues, the U.S. Constitution has loopholes that our representatives have exploited much to the nations detriment, and those loopholes need to be closed. He then lists three amendments he would suggest: First, a balanced budget; second, term limitation; and third, an amendment reiterating congressional power to declare war.
I disagree with the loopholes bit, but I agree with these proposals including: No more nation building or peace keeping exercises at a presidents discretion. But convening a constitutional convention is not the answer.
These three sound principles of governments proposed would have been de facto accomplished if our progressive politicians and consensual representatives had kept their oaths and obeyed the Constitution as it stands.
There are already civic mechanisms to accomplish them: For term limits -- vote the rascals out. For balancing the budget -- enforce Article I, Section 9, paragraph 7 of the Constitution. For illegal wars -- enforce Article I, Section 8, paragraph 11 of the Constitution authorizing Congress to wage war, implicitly just wars.
And if common sense and the existing constitutional constraints are not enough to fix the problems, the present Constitution already has a simpler mechanism in place for amendment, a process that has already been used successfully 27 times. Article V reads: The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, should propose amendments to this Constitution... which should be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by three fourths of the several states.
Granted, there is much insanity in Washington, but President Obama is at the helm, and much of the fiscal profligacy, economic mayhem and irresponsible misuse of military power, as in Libya, has emanated from the White House supported mostly by his Democratic Party.
Let us not tamper with the U.S. Constitution but elect legislators who will abide by the venerable document -- and vote out those who dont. There is still time to enlighten voters and preserve our Republic.
Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. is Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International.