In his recent article, Dr. Miguel Faria responded to Bill Fergusons column which called for a Constitutional Convention to fix our fundamentally broken government. Faria is a patriot and is correct in his assertion that a Constitutional Convention to set things right is a bad idea. I share his love of freedom, respect for the Constitution and our Founding Fathers. However, the procedure which has recently gained much media attention after being proposed in Mark Levins book The Liberty Amendments is a Convention of States, not a Constitutional Convention.
A Convention of States is simply one of the two methods in Article 5 of our Constitution for proposing and ratifying amendments. This is not the sort of convention that has the power to propose a new Constitution or to change the Constitution. The only thing an Article 5 convention can do is to propose an idea for how to fix a broken system -- a system that has become corrupted by a Congress that cant function.
When the framers wrote the first draft of the Constitution its provision for amending the Constitution said Congress had the power to propose amendments to the Constitution. George Mason expressed opposition to the provisions limiting the power to propose amendments to Congress. According to the convention records, Mason thought that no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.
A second path
If Congress is the problem then we cant count on Congress to propose the reforms necessary to fix it. Understanding this problem, the framers quickly changed the draft of the Constitution to include the essential backup to protect the liberty and democracy they were creating. The essential backup was the state legislatures. What the framers did in Article 5 was to create a second path to amending the Constitution.
Article 5 of the Constitution states: The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.
Runaway convention idea
Professor Rob Natelson is one of Americas best known constitutional scholars and an expert on Article 5. He writes that the runaway convention scenario was conjured up in the 19th century to dissuade state lawmakers from bypassing Congress through the state application and convention process. He also confirms through a fact based argument that there are far more political and legal constraints on a runaway convention than on a runaway Congress.
Rather than calling a convention for a particular amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article 5 to call a convention for a particular subject -- reducing the power of Washington, D.C.
It is important to note that a convention for a particular amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea, however Congress could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.
To quote Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Harvard: We should strongly support state legislatures around the country creating the movement necessary to hold this Article 5 Convention. We have to recognize that Uncle Sam has an addiction. He is a drunk. We have to organize an intervention to give him a chance to begin to legislate in a way we can be proud of. We need our state legislatures to do their job and their job is to stand up and organize the political force necessary to take on the corruption that is preventing our Congress from functioning.
This is not a partisan issue. Washington, D.C., will never voluntarily relinquish meaningful power -- no matter who is elected. The only rational conclusion is this: unless some political force outside of Washington, D.C., intervenes, the federal government will continue to bankrupt this nation, embezzle the legitimate authority of the states and destroy the liberty of the people. Rather than securing the blessings of liberty for future generations, Washington is on a path that will enslave our children and grandchildren to the debts of the past. To learn more visit: www.conventionofstates.com.
Paul Boland is a resident of Macon.