The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
It seems that the greatest danger comes from the idea of precedent. That the decisions of those who came before do not simply bind those who come after (as does all law), but are on a higher plane beyond the reach of future generations.
I could list examples from the Jewish tradition, which has had some 2500 years or so to accumulate precedent, but I'm sure you get the idea.
When later generations feel incompetent to even examine the decisions they must suffer under, errors accumulate. Think of how Roe has become a totem, somehow beyond analysis, for no reason resting in law.
On the other hand, if all decisions ever where open to reversal, than what?
I suspect that legislators would have little difficulty creating a mechanism to "review" all existing laws/regulations/etc without their actually doing any such time consuming thing. A simple blanket statement of concurrence or endorsement of the status quo comes easily to mind. Perhaps more effective would be a constitutional ammendment requiring any proposed act of legislation be either A) addressing a previously unaddressed topic, or B) that any existing law (etc) that addresses the topic (whether in whole or in part) be automatically revoked as part of the enactment process. They can pass all the laws they want, but only one law per crime.
I doubt we can keep "law-makers" from doing what they are, but we can certainly make them work a little harder to do so, I think.
Requiring that all new legislative mandates must be paid for directly by the citizenry (the taxpayers actually have to write a check to initially fund any new government expenditure) would also bring most legislative shenanigans to a screaming halt too I expect.
Are you aware of some legislative or judicial decision that isn't subject to subsequent legislative or judicial review?
I would submit that the constitutional ammendment process itself would fall into at least the legislative catagory, so I'm afraid I don't quite understand your point. Unless of course you're talking about social codes and mores, in which case I think you're mixing the fruit with the veggies as it were.
Perhaps if the rules mandated that for each new law enacted, TWO laws must be removed. Of course, they would start with the easy ones, but eventually they would be forced to start hacking away at the vast accumulation of freedom restricting crap. And then, some day, they would reach the point where they might go a complete cycle without being able to agree on what to pass and what to strike. After, say, a certain number of law-less sessions, it could be switched to a one-for-one law swap. This sort of ramping down over a period of years might be more workable than trying to hang them, although not as satisfying.
How about a Constitutional Amendment that says that any law passed by congress will sunset six months before whoever submitted it for a vote stands for election.
One of the fundamental problems here is the notion of judges who rule on the constitutionality of government acts being selected by that very same level of government. A step above being the judge in your own case, but a very tiny step indeed.
This was less of a problem prior to the 17th amendment, as federal judges had to be confirmed by Senators who were at some point accountable to state governments.
At the state level you can see a distinct difference between the propensity of state judges to rule against the people, depending on whether they're appointed or elected.
So, I'd propose this as a principle: Assuming that the US 2.0 is going to be a federalist system, the federal judges have to be selected by the states, and the state judges elected by the people, so as to obstruct the tendency of a level of government to select judges biased in it's favor.
The question is: what refinements might correct oversights in USG v1.0?
First, I would urge the adoption of something like Ayn Rand's commerce amendment to the Bill of Rights. Congress shall make no law... Not quite sure of the exact wording, and my copy of Atlas Shrugged is in storage, but I'm sure some commenter here could come up with it.
Second, I would straiten the limits on government. In too many places, eager-beaver statists have weaseled their way around vaguenesses in the wording.
Term limits. I'd trade longer terms for the House for a single-term or two-term limit. In any case, I would organize the House and Senate so that no representative served more than a single term on a committee, let alone as chairman.
Built-in sunset provisions. Congresscritters today pay lip service to the concept that "no Congress can bind its successors." I'd formalize that. No Federal may can remain in force longer than two years. At the start of every Congressional session, the entire USC is up for review. No renewal, no appeal. Might make for chaos, but -- still -- "The only time a man's wallet and freedom are safe is when Congress is not in session." This could change that to "Now you have a fighting chance."
And to stop wholesale renewals of bad laws, I would strengthen what I see as a limit in the original Constitution that's been utterly ignored -- no omnibus bills. Each bill must be raised as prescribed, cover a SINGLE subject, be debated, voted on, and passed onward. Each Department's budget must be a single bill. Revenue and appropriations are to be separated. Refine as appears necessary.
I would create a fourth branch of government whose sole job would be to say, "NO!" (Or incorporate these functions into the other three -- whichever seems to work better.) Something like Frank Herbert's idea of the Bureau of Sabotage.
I would institute Citizenship tests. Yes, there are myriad objections -- probably all valid. But we MUST enforce the notions that: 1) citizenship has its privileges. This is an exclusive club, and you have to earn your way into it. 2) voting is a privilege, and you have to be prepared to exercise the franchise.
Finally, I would institute -- somehow -- and enforce the idea of citizen-initiated plebiscites. Frex: if enough people register protest votes -- either by write-in, or by "under" voting -- then the election is declared a draw and a re-vote, (preferably with new candidates) called for. IOW, None of the Above would become a valid option.
Sorry that ran on so long.
Don't apologize for verbosity! Remember where you are!;)
Actually, Alger, this is the kind of thing I was looking for.
Ever since reading Moon is a Harsh Mistress I've loved the idea of two-house legislature, where one passes laws and the other repeals them. Suddenly the definition of "legislator" is not "lawmaker"only half of them are; the other half are law-repealers. To justify their jobs, they'd have to repeal laws.
Term limits for senators and probably representatives (especially in this era of gerrymandering) would be a good idea. The idea mentioned by Mark Alger above to prevent omnibus bills would be amazing, slowing things down dramatically and keeping politicians (relatively) honest.
The problem is, you can't stop people from wanting to fix things. The reason everything changed at the end of the 19th century was because we believed that what we had would never go away, and that by fixing a few things, we could make things even better. The 17th amendment got tacked on because the state legislatures weren't picking senators efficiently enough. Gridlock is good, unless you want government to solve all your problems. So just like that, because the people felt like the government wasn't doing enough, they got an amendment passed (no easy feat) to make it easier.
Can we prevent that by making it harder to pass amendments? Maybe, but then there's the risk of lawmakers ignoring it completely instead of paying lip service to it now.
Bottom line is that even a "better" constitution won't make a difference. Two centuries later, if we're lucky, our posterity will be having the same issues we are having today.
I've been thinking about this for a long time now. I'm not sure the failing is in the structure, but rather in the people. A certain type of person made up America. We, for the most part, were a volunteer people. A group that had similar ideas of what it meant to be free. Of how to run a country. There are always others who disagreed... But not as many. Those men and women weren't interested in that boat ride over.
Generations pass, and we moved farther from the self reliant. The values of the parents and grandparents ignored.
It seems to me about half the people on this planet want to be free, the other half want to be safe (poor dumb bastards).
We started as a free people, now we are "normalizing" to the 50% safe people.
Our only hope is finding a way to separate again... segregate. And I can't think of a way to have that happen (Mars?)
As I read through these comments, I kept thinking of Heinlein's idea of one branch of the legislature enacting laws and the other repealing them. Then I read William's comment and realized that beat me to the punch. I consoled myself with the thought that great minds think alike.
Here are the pithy parts about that idea, from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:"
"... the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the 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 not be better off without it?
"But in writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do ...
"What I fear most are affirmative actions of sober and well-intentioned men, granting to government powers to do something that appears to need doing. ...
"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
I have this strange urge to quote the whole book.
The descent of this nation is not measured in years or in decades, it is measured in generations of people. It was affected not by changing what any person thinks, rather it was done by indoctrinating young people as they first begin to think, beginning, in my day, with kindergarten, and now beginning in day care before they learn to talk.
When Benjamin Franklin left the Philadelphia state house after the signing of the new Constitution, he was accosted by a Mrs. Powell, who asked him, point blank, what kind of government they we now have, a republic or a monarchy? He replied, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."
The difficulty we face is teaching people to think and to understand the benefits of a constitutional republic governed by the rule of law, as opposed to teaching people that the gubmint exists to tax someone else and give them free stuff. The odds are sorely against us because our side requires teaching people to think well, and the other side doesn't require them to think at all.
As far as pragmatism goes, I think, in general, you're getting somewhere with this idea that's floating around in your head.
However, I am solidly in a philosophical state of mind on the whole matter (yes, what I am proposing simply will not work, and I know it. Too bad.) and I say GET RID OF GOVERNMENT. PERIOD.
Are there problems with this? Sure. Is that cure worse than the disease? I can hardly imagine that it would be, honestly.
(See "Somalia." Yes, it could be worse. Much worse. And it has been worse for most of human history.)Edited By Siteowner
The ones who make the rules cannot be the ones who enforce them.
The ones who enforce the rules cannot be the ones who make them.
The ones who decide which is which cannot be allowed to do either.
Those are the principles that we were founded on, and we have abandoned all three.
To quote Heinlein again, man can no more escape saddling himself with governments than he can escape his lifelong bondage to his bowels.
It's a nice idea and all, but I don't think it's possible to actually make it happen.
Everything having a sunset is a good idea. A branch of government whose sole responsibility is to do away with poor laws is a good idea. Prohibiting bills that address multiple subjects is a good idea.
However, what I consider an even more vital notion is to prohibit the creation of a government run school system. Think about it. If the government can mandate what must be taught, what must be learned, then those in power can mandate that everyone they represent must be taught to agree with them. All the "benefits" of totalitarianism without any of that messy revolution stuff.
Isn't that precisely what has been happening for all of our lives?
There needs to be a penalty, written into the constitution, for violating it. Something of the nature of: Any lawmaker found to have voted in favor of a law later overturned as un-constitutional shall be thereafter ineligible for [re]election to any public office or any politically appointed government position. i.e. if you support something un-constitutional - it is GAME OVER for you vis-a-vis public service.
Also, we need prosecutors judges willing to use USC 242.
Public attorneys need to be completely independent of mayors/governors. The situation now where most Prosecutors/AGs are just lapdogs to the politicos is unacceptable.
The penalty for public corruption shall be death.
We need greatly expanded use of the death penalty to punish violent or repeat offenders. A huge chunk of our most oppressive laws are _meant_ to deal with these criminals but are abused by prosecutors. If we just rid ourselves of the mutants early on, we won't need most of these laws.
Lastly in recognition of the fact that democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves [other people's] money... I propose that anyone suckling at the government teat be ineligible to vote (social security, welfare, unemployment, medicare, public office, government employee, public school employees, et, al)
Two points perhaps unrelated, but I suspect there is a connection, just not an obvious one.
First, limiting the power of government means limiting the money they can beg, borrow, or steal they can pass all the laws and regulations they want, but if the enforcers aren’t getting paid, the enforcement isn’t happening.
And second, the internal contradictions of public education are fundamental and insoluble most states have both mandatory attendance laws, and constitutional guarantees to education. In other words you have a right you are required by law to exercise, and a legal burden, which the state has obligated itself to provide the means of fulfillment thereof that which is not prohibited is mandatory and that which is not mandatory is prohibited.
From the standpoint leviathan, this is a great deal. You are forced to surrender your children to the indoctrination the state is forced provide, and how is anyone who has been through the machine going to work up the spirit to attempt denying the state the resources (money) it requires to keep the cycle going?
One of my solutions to this would be to require that every 2 or so years, every single law would have to be individually re-affirmed.
The initial passage would require a majority of those in attendance, so 50.1%.
Then the percent goes up by 1 every renewal period until it's at 3/4.
If it failed to renew, no new law with the same focus could be established for a period of at least 2 renewal periods - unless it received the % required for the first law.
I have always liked heinlein's double house setup.
But the main problem is that the bastards who want to rule us are the ones running for office.
Solution? I don't know, but I've come up with something that would make them reconsider.
This could only be done after a major reboot but make voting an up/down affair. What do I mean, each voter gets to vote for one option
Candidate A for Office
Candidate A to be killed
Candidate B for Office
Candidate B to be killed
Kill Both Candidate A and B
Any Candidate with more votes to die than for office gets killed, If both die rerun election with new people. Should keep the power hungry from office.
No, Brian, I would think the first thing to be suborned there would be the voting process. As Stalin said, who votes does not matter. Only who counts the votes matters.
I was thinking something more along the lines of a National Draft:
"Greetings: You are hereby directed to report to -
E Capitol St NE & 1st St NE
Washington, DC 20001
on January 1 to begin basic training for your upcoming X year term as (Congressional Representative or Senator) for the Xth District of (Write State Here)."
Draft 'em. Or pick 'em like we pick juries, but pull 'em from the general population, vet them for intelligence and general knowledge, run 'em through a 4-week Basic Training on the Constitution, Parliamentary Process, etc., and have 'em serve ONE TERM.
And ABOVE ALL - do NOT let a "bureaucrat class" form that has all the REAL power, leaving the representatives as figureheads. You know, a permanent staff that "takes care" of whoever got drafted this year. Hell, put a limit on the time ANYBODY can be a government employee. Five or six years TOPS, then they have to get a REAL job. Military exempted.
Another key element is to keep the SOBs impoverished by withholding any taxing authority except by specific, sunsetted legislation to effect an updated and much shortened list of enumerated powers derived from the current Art I, sec. 8.
It is NOT coincidence that the 16A (permitting income taxation), the 17A (requiring direct popular election of Senators versus the former system of state appointment), and the National Defense Act of 1916 (federalizing the former state militias) all occurred during what I now see to be the "first wave" of Progressivism.
FWIW, I believe wave 2 was Frank the Commie's reign from 33-45, and wave 3 was LBJ's Great Society/SE Asia war Games/Guns-and-Butter festival.
Wave 3 culminated in Nixon's 1971 finagle with the gold window and our defeat in VN.
Wave 4 will be the Obamessiah's tenure, which will not go well for any reader of this blog.
To paraphrase the Temptations:
"Get ready, 'cuz here they come!"
This is a hard one. Entropy is a bitch, and given enough time, it will destroy any given system we could come up with. This is just as true as government as anything else.
"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."
My college adviser was hired by Visa a couple of summers ago to work on some of their code. Apparently, their security software -- which was designed to detect suspect purchases in order to prevent loss from credit card theft -- broke down, flagging purchases by customers as suspect, even if they weren't.
The fix to this was a small program that periodically "reset" the system, restoring it to a near-pristine state that prevented complete degradation that eventually occurred if the program was left to run without supervision.
Perhaps we need such a reset switch. Right now, the only reset switch we have is the second amendment, and the "code" has to get pretty degraded before its likely to be used. In truth, by the we do attempt to use it, it may be too late; the government may have so much power by the time we decide to throw off our yolk that we may find the chains that bind us too strong to break. It may even be too late right now.
If I WERE to propose a fix to the system, I'd have a built in reset switch; every twenty years or so, the body of law would be required to be reviewed, in its entirety, with those laws failing to pass muster being thrown out. However, even this type of system may be manipulated.
It is, undeniably, a hard nut to crack. If it weren't, we'd have stumbled upon the best system 75,000 years ago.
"(See "Somalia." Yes, it could be worse. Much worse. And it has been worse for most of human history.)"
I can't believe you can make that kind of comparison. It isn't at ALL accurate. Lack of government has nothing to do with what has been an ongoing problem in Somalia for more than a couple of generations. What you are grasping at is more than a little disingenuous, and you know it.
Where human history does bear your thoughts out, and I'll capitulate this point here, is that most everywhere, you are correct, but only to the extent about the fighting and bloodshed. We've done that bit here, too, and it was a nasty place to be, circa 1861.
Yes, in recent history, this is an issue as well, and worldwide, but only for those who are looking to actually start a conflict. I don't need to go into the details of the Balkans, or Chechnya, or Irag or Afghanistan, or South Africa, or Sudan, or any of the the other two or three dozen places that can be recited from the top of your, or my, head. I know why these people fight, and it's almost always to do with the issue of self-determination (religiously skewed, often, inversely related to our own value structure in 1A); an issue that you are constantly beating a drum about, too much government (and thanks for doing what you do, BTW).
What I am talking about is here, NOW, We are Americans. We can do without government and without devolving into slaughtering each other over tribal associations and loyalties to strongarmed "militia" leaders, like Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
Ask yourself a fundamental question; would you really be living much differently if tomorrow, all laws in this country were repealed?
I think the answer is no, and I think it's largely the same for most in this country, don't you?
Hell, put a limit on the time ANYBODY can be a government employee. Five or six years TOPS, then they have to get a REAL job. Military exempted.
Actually, Kevin, there's a simpler way to do that.
Don't have any retirement/pension benefits accrue to any government position. Possibly with the military excepted, but that's argueable as well.
At a IDPA match, someone made the comment that we screwed up when we let people retire from the government, and really screwed up when we let elected officials accrue pension benefits.
That is insane.
Lots of good suggestions that I had had in mind already (mostly from the same sources, too!). Quick list of my choices:
Unix-Jedi's implementation of the sunset principle is awesome, the best one I've seen.
Strict limits on suffrage based on merit or demonstrated ownership of one's franchise. A term of national service is a decent one. I balk at civics tests since I feel they would either become fact-centric (therefore irrelevant) or partisan (thus eventually becoming an indoctrination tool in the manner of our public schools). I think the aversion to the poll tax is an outdated reaction to its misuse during Reconstruction, but even so it's not necessarily the best method.
More well defined and more limits on governmental power with swift and harsh consequences for those that break their oaths and violate those limits. I wouldn't go as far as death, but exile might be appropriate. Total disenfranchisement would be a minimum.
And finally, while I'm not sure how to codify it (or even whether to do so!) I would want to see a tradition of not providing awesome material benefits for the people in power. If we provide an executive residence, let's make it a townhouse, not a palace. That sort of thinking. I think it would help blunt the cult of government by reducing its image. People these days seem to look at government buildings like most suckers look at casinos: they see the glitz and forget that people like them are the ones paying for it.