Constitutional Amendments

One of the various projects available for government/civics students is “correcting the Constitution.” What one or two or three things would you change, and why? How would it work, i.e. how would you go about getting this amendment made into law? So it really is an essay, with a lot of components.

When I’ve assigned this to students, I’ve gotten the Equal Rights Amendment made law, a beefed-up 2nd Amendment, internet speech added to the 1st amendment, hate-speech defined and carved out of 1st Amendment protections, the 4th Amendment made clearer and firmer, repeal of the 16th Amendment (no more federal income tax), and limits on the Commerce and Necessary and Proper clauses.

Last fall? Term limits, and/or an age and mental-fitness cap. A number of students wanted no more than two terms in the Senate and three or four terms in the House. Others wanted all federal officials and members of Congress to have to pass a cognitive function and emotional stability test of some kind. Two students wanted to repeal the Second Amendment. And one wanted an exception for human sacrifice added to the First Amendment (as in, forbidding it from ever being protected as a religious activity. I didn’t ask.)

24 thoughts on “Constitutional Amendments

  1. Lethal force employed against a person who has made regulations, policy, precedent, or law for over a decade shall rightly be considered self-defense.

    OK, I’m joking. Mostly.
    There’s not much I could add that’s more explicit than the 9th and 10th Amendments. And the same forces that have made those dead letters, would have done the same to any modification I could have proposed.
    The problem isn’t the Constitution.
    It’s that the federal government does not follow it, and that the citizenry allows this to happen.

    Take the issue of judicial supremacy and abuse of precedent. It doesn’t arise from the Constitution. It arises from the Constitution (and Federalist Papers) being flagrantly ignored.

  2. All tax laws to sunset after 10 years, 2/3rds majority of Congress required to pass new taxes, or reauthorize expiring ones. Prohibit omnibus budget resolutions.

    Yeah, I know not a chance in h**l.

  3. ….I know what news articles the human sacrifice kid was reading….

    Yes, I have seen folks making that argument. More seriously than the “lesbian trapped in a man’s body” stuff was, a decade back.

  4. a) Human rights are for human beings. Explicitly recognizing that the druggies should be exempted.
    b) Enemies come over walls, friends come through the gate. Explicitly decriminalizing lethal force against these outlaws.
    c) We should not punish victimless crimes; Explicitly legalize vigilante killings.
    d) Banning people with law degrees earned under ABA accredited programs from practicing law as attorneys or judges.
    e) Common sense education control. Bombs are more dangerous in spree killings than firearms. Education such as reading, writing and arithmetic enables construction of bombs. Therefore, if spree killings are a reason to restrict firearms ownership, they are also a reason to access to education. i) Poverty theories of crime and terrorism imply that the poor and the ‘historically underrepresented’ should not have access to education. ii) Likewise, family histories of mental illness. iii) Throw in divorced parents, unwed parents, and people who do not attend church regularly while we are at it. iv) No education funding should be lawful in jurisdictions with any form of gun control in force. v) Hey, notice that with international students we have zero information about prior patterns of criminality. vi) While we are at it, why are we sealing juvenile criminal records anyway? PS: There are assertions so crazy that an admission against interest is not doing anything to make them more credible.
    f) If we are legalizing corruption of blood, there is not reason not to permit slavery based on ancestral crimes. At this point, not lynching the NAACP and the critical race theorists is a crime.
    g) Research universities cannot receive federal funding if they have medical schools, humanities gen ed requirements, women’s studies, african-american studies, or ABA accredited law schools.
    h) If Trump was not legally entitled and obligated to start the boog, Lincoln was illegitimate, and the 13th amendment should be repealed.
    i) If Trump was not legally entitled and obligated to start the boog, Lincoln was illegitimate, and the 14th amendment should be repealed.
    j) If Trump was not legally entitled and obligated to start the boog, Lincoln was illegitimate, and the 15th amendment should be repealed.

    All that said, sanity tests for office are a tool too easily abused to be permitted. We should have killed Joe Biden when he was just a pot smoking teen, before he was in a position to cause so much harm.

    • In all seriousness, I wonder about amendments to state constitutions to ban graduates under ABA accredited programs from admission to state bars, and opening the state bars to non-degree holders, citing explicitly that letter from the 150 odd law school deans.

      And your students are soft not to try to troll you with common sense education control. I’m soft, for wimping out on using open ended assignments to try to offend the sensibilities of the instructors.

  5. No “regulation” written by an agency in the executive branch shall be enforced unless passed verbatim by Congress as a law.

    “Interstate commerce” is defined as commercial transactions among persons who are not all residents of the same state, at least one of whom is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; and the power of Congress to regulate it shall not be construed to allow it to prohibit, require, regulate or tax anything which does not fall under this definition.

    The states of the Union must assume that all ballots cast in elections for federal office are not valid, unless proof beyond reasonable doubt of their validity has been provided; and Congress shall have power to enforce this.

  6. A half-serious attempts at worthwhile amendment.

    All bills, laws, resolutions, and other instruments passed by Congress must be in clear English, written in 12 point double spacedBaskerville, and not exceeding one side of a standard 11″x8-1/2″ sheet of paper.

    Congress may not outsource its power. It alone has the ability to make law. Executive orders and regulations, and judicial opinions are advisory, and do not have the force of law.

    • Luke, I like your #1, about the length and complexity of laws. I’ve long believed that any law which requires a law degree to understand it should be null and void for that reason alone.

      But your #2 could be problematic. Would “judicial opinions are advisory” include judicial rulings that say laws are unconstitutional? If so, then what stops the legislature from passing unconstitutional laws?

  7. The biggest flaw in the Constitution is its lack of an enforcement mechanism. I should be able to sue politicians for even PROPOSING unconstitutional laws.

      • akshully, the supreme court is not truly supreme, it is just that appealing to the American people is not and should not be standard practice. Appeal to the American people can authorize [remedies some might consider excessive].

        Edit for clarity, because someone reading quickly might get the opposite idea from what Bob intended and ask for this blog to be removed by WordPress.

        • I think the edit is reasonable. Also, that I had lost my temper and was not being as careful in my speech as someone should be would hasn’t yet consigned the whole of their future to ashes.

          This situation is ‘hard cases make bad law’. ‘Bad laws are really costly’ wars with ‘hard cases deserve an appropriate remedy’.

          But the obvious truth here, I still care too much about the possibility of doing good things in this world to believe that the harshest remedy I can imagine is the only one that I can support. Possibly this is illusion, and not hope. I’ve had star crossed projects before, where wanting them to succeed blinded me to the obvious problems for far too long.

          However, there are four concerns with my extremes of feeling.

          1. My worst fears are definitely not things I can mathematically prove.
          2. That better alternatives can not be a suitable remedy is definitely not something I can mathematically prove, and experimentally verify. If the left’s ‘model worship’ in big and small things is wrong for them, it is also wrong for me. It is immoral of me to fail in skepticism of any human’s ability to perfectly model society.
          3. One of the things I am attempting to do in this world has been difficult. There has been some emotional strain.
          4. Family circumstances have been a little difficult, and stressful.

          So, I’m a little prone to false positives. Also, I am absolutely not in a position to act if I had a true positive, so I have no incentive to tolerate a significant risk of false positives. My big motivation for figuring out ‘what we should do’ accurately is dislike of falsehood, even the falsehood in my own thinking.

          If persons should act, that will come out as we discover more of the truth. No one considering acting should trust me enough to act on my words. I could have any number of things wrong with my thinking, anything I say which happens to be correct should be verified independently /before/ acting on the claim. I can’t think of anyone I am in contact with who should trust me to any significant degree on these matters.

          Thank you for the edit. I had crossed a line I did not intended to cross. My position has been, and for the foreseeable future will be that I try not to cross that line.

          • You’re quite welcome. I got what you meant, and someone who knows your style would understand. It’s a rough time right now, and until WP decides exactly where their new red lines are, it’s better to err on the side of clarity.

            Hang in there.

  8. Most of all, we need the Constitution to be respected in it’s written form, interpreted as written with the original meaning. When men no longer respect the law, we no longer have a nation of laws. It is a government of ambitious and power-hungry men, and of their toadies and tools.

    Repealing judicially-created immunities for journalists (“Sullivan”) and government officials (“qualified immunity”) would be a start. Providing protection against arbitrary enforcement of statutes that nobody can understand, in quantities nobody can learn (“Ham Sandwich Nation”, “Three Felonies a Day”) would be another step. Limiting the definition of a felony to severe crimes would be a big help, as would an affirmative defense against crimes under statutes that no longer match their original purpose (wire fraud). Maybe the biggest would be allowing private prosecution of unelected officials and judiciary who show a pattern of abuse. (Family courts–see Insty &c over the last week or so.)

    Finally, giving state legislatures back some control over senators, and abolishing all taxes not on natural persons (business taxes) would go a long way to awakening people to the government-as-vampire, draining the life from the economy and everyone in it.

  9. Here are some modifications that I would make to the Constitution:

    1) ALL elected officials in all states would get a maximum of one term of ten years in that office.

    2) Anyone in any elected office or if your income is over $1 billion, then your taxes will be AUTOMATICALLY released for anyone who desires to see it. Basically, it will be public information as soon as it gets filled.

  10. I can think of a very long list of amendments I would make to the Constitution — mostly to counter things that liberals have done in recent years to weaken it. But there’s one item high on my list that I haven’t seen mentioned yet: a constitutional amendment concerning “standing.” I want an amendment that boils down to “any citizen in good standing can challenge any action of the federal government, and is automatically presumed to have legal standing to do so.” You’d need limits and conditions on it to discourage abuse, but at the end of the day I want to be damn sure that Washington can’t ever again do something that nobody can challenge as unconstitutional because they can’t demonstrate they’ve been harmed by it.

    Also high on my list is an amendment to specifically define the “rights, privileges and immunities” of citizens of the United States. Maybe as part of a larger amendment that defines citizenship in general, including The Rules on how to become one: legal residency within the United States, a passing grade on a simple civics test, and not less than one year of paid service to the United States in some capacity – something like what Heinlein postulated as the requirement for citizenship in Starship Troopers.

    • The ‘standing’ problem was created by the courts themselves. Each denial on that basis emboldened further abuses. The argument that changing the precedent would result in a flood of lawsuits swamping the courts follows from this cascade of abuses. How long do you go before mucking out the stables?

      • True. A lot of the problems with constitutional law have been created by the courts. Con-law is a minor interest of mine, and I’m consistently struck by how difficult it can be to find reasonable ways to apply the Constitution to murky borderline cases. And the longer things go on, the worse it gets as new courts have to find ways to apply existing case-law to new cases without contradicting precedent.

  11. Clearly, the 1st Amendment went on for too long, and should have ended at “Congress shall pass no law.” 🙂

  12. I want an override mechanism (short of a constitutional amendment) to the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review. Make it a simple majority of state legislatures, and make it retroactive.

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