T Nation

The Constitution If I Were King For A Day


#1

Im at work and bored so I thought I would entertain myself by posting what I would do with the Constitution if I were king for a day. Before I get started I want to point out that this is completely theoretical and I realize that a lot of what Im going to say couldnt be implemented over night...if at all. This is just my own little thought experiment...

I wouldnt completely rewrite the Constitution:

--I would begin with the definition of a U.S. citizen: every person (irrespective of gender, race, religion, etc), whether native born or naturalized, above the age of 18. With this, there is no ambiguity...no need for a 14th Amendment; one group of people wouldnt be able to claim superior status over another and that would be clear right from the get go.

--Next, I would have a Bill of Rights very similar to the one we have now. However, I would better define a few things:

a)Free Speech- Government has no right to regulate any form of expression that does not employ some form of punitive force, violence and/or coercion (i.e. things like child pornography).

b)Freedom of Religion- no state religion, no govt control over religious institutions, and no religious symbols in or on governmnet property unless there is historical significance (i.e. the missions on some califonia city seals) or that property is for recreational purposes (i.e. parks) and the symbol was not paid for with public funds.

c)The Right to Bear Arms- every citizen has the right to keep an bear arms and only the individual states, by popular vote, have the right to regulate which type of firearms are illegal.

d)Private Property- a citizens use of his or her private property cannot be regulated by the state so long as that use does not prevent someone else the use of their private property (i.e. damming a stream that crosses a property line) and it is not being used in any way to deny the rights of someone else (i.e. slave labor).

e)The 10th Amendment- I would simply use all caps, highlight it, and end it with an exclamation point. And just to dispel any confusion I would put, "p.s. this, and the powers given to the federal govt, are to be read and understood exactly as written."

--After the Bill of Rights I would lay out the structure and powers of the federal gov't:

a)the basic structure remains the same: bicameral legislature w/ an independent executive and jusdiciary. However, I would restore the state legislature's responsibility of electing senators.

b)The federal govt would have absolutely no right to tax the people (no income tax) except for the provision of a common defense. A voluntary tax can be placed on an individual state for some sort of collective disaster fund if a majority of its citizens agree. Any state not contributing to the fund will not receive federal help when faced with a natural disaster. This would basically eliminate all federal social programs; leaving it to each state to decide for itself how best to help its citizenry(50 individual political experiments). Furthermore, except in times of war, the federal govt must have a balanced budget.

c)the federal government would still be able to regulate international and interstate commerce, issue a common currency, and legislate environmental policy where state borders are involved (i.e. dumping into a river when it flows across state borders). Oh ya, when I say interstate commerce...I mean INTERSTATE COMMERCE! If a product is being sold across state lines, the federal govt can regulate its sale...it cannot prohibit its production for fear that it might find its way across a border and it cannot regulate its sale within the borders of a state. The federal govt's police powers begin and end at the border.

d)The only time the executive branch can use the military unilaterally is when the United States are under direct attack. All other uses must be approved by Congress.

c)Congress would have no right to legislate morality except in the protection of the Bill of Rights (i.e no murder, rape, ect.)

d) except for the above, everything in the Constitution remains pretty much as is. The states are left free to structure their economy and govt pretty much however they want provided they uphold the Bill of Rights and representational government.

Thats about it...Im sure Im missing a lot though. Any thoughts?


#2

Lets start with your no federal tax thing. Does not work, there has to be some sort of income tax, be it a federal sales tax or a flat tax. I agree with some of what you wrote I really don't have time to go point for point but some sort of flat or fed sales tax is necessary even if it's only like a 3% sales tax.


#3

Well, you'd end up with a fairly loose confederacy of semi-independent states. If that's what you were aiming for, you'd get it.


#4

Well, no need to go point by point. I wasnt really looking for a debate,; just opinions. Its not that there wouldnt be any federal tax...like I said, the government could tax for the purpose of providing a common defense...but thats it.


#5

This is the basic problem with libertarianism: this concept that the states can do anything right. As we saw in Katrina, the states have their collective heads up their collective asses.

No federal programs except the military? Great: you be the first person to fly in the FAA-free skies. Also, while it may be fucked-up, our FDA does a respectable job of keeping the meat edible.

How about the Intersates? That was a federal program, started by Eisenhower and still partially controlled by the government because in times of was they will be the only efficient way to ferry mass amounts of troops/materiel across the country.

How about the dams, bridges, levees, etc? Federal -- Army Corps of Engineers.

Here's why we can't leave jackshit to the states: because state governments are full of people who are too incompetent, lazy, or corrupt to go to the Big Show. In the words of Dennis Miller, "The states can't pave fucking roads."


#6

Thats pretty much what I was aiming for. It needs to be slightly stronger than what the Articles of Confederation called for but not much (ability to pay for a common defense, regulate commerce,ect).


#7

Well first of all, its not that libertarians believe the state can do no wrong...its just that when a state does wrong, its effects are limited. I could make that same argument about the Katrina disaster with respect to the feds and Texas handled themselves pretty good. I could also make the argument that the last hundred years of federal dependency is exactly what has made state govt so incompetent.

I did say I probably left a bunch out but Im curious what European countries or African countries do as far as air traffic control and flight regulations (I really have no idea)...being that most of our states are as large as most countries. You do have a point with that one though...

Well, Im no expert but I believe the FDA does a lot of harm along with the good it does and I think we would all be better served if individual states had sole control over that type of regulation.

Good point with that one too. However, I dont see any reason why states cant pay for that themselves (I thought they already did in terms of upkeep anyway?) All I know is that when I travel the I15 from Cali to Las Vegas the roads go from crap on my side of the border to pretty damn good on there side of the border.

Why do you believe individual states cant pay for their own damns, bridges, ect? I realize thats not how things have been done up until this point but that doesnt mean its unreasonable.

I fail to see why the feds are inherently better than the state governments. You cant really compare how state govt's behave while being cared for by the feds to how they might behave when the safety net is removed. Its all run by people..the difference is that the states havent had to be responsible because they've had the feds to cover their ass. Just like with private individuals, being forced to take care of yourself breeds responsibility.


#8

I tend to agree with harris that this would leave states with too much power. I'm a "multi-level" libertarian in that I believe that ALL levels of government should be limited, not just the federal.

The theory that you can always move to a different state if you don't like a law passed by your state's legislature doesn't really hold up in the real world. You'd need to find a new job or jobs if a married couple both worked, you'd need to sell your old house and buy a new one. In short, moving is a pain in the ass.

The part about no legislating of morality is kind of vague.

I would put the Ninth Amendment in capital letters and beef it up by saying that individual rights are inherent and are not given to them by the Constitution or the government, nor are they subject to the opinions of a majority of citizens. Among these rights is a right to be free from excess intrusion by the government at all levels.

There are some good ideas here and you're off to a good start.