Amending the Constitution

There is an article in the New York Times including offerings from multiple different contributors which the NYT refers to as “bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment”. They include:

  • All workers shall have the right to form and join labor unions.
  • Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
  • The word ‘person’ shall apply to all human life — born or unborn.
  • International law shall be part of American law.
  • The right of the people to have privacy and be secure against searches and seizures of their persons, houses, papers and effects, including their data and metadata.
  • The Supreme Court shall be expanded and its powers limited.
  • No state or city shall restrict people’s movement.

To my eye those proposals vary from those that can never be passed as an amendment, those that are unnecessary, those that are ill-considered, to those that are extremely ill-considered. I suspect that which category you would assign them to varies depending on your ideological preferences. Spoiler alert: I think the last is extremely ill-considered. I get his point. It’s just excessively broad and will horrible run-on effects. I also think that only one of them is particularly bold and that one has absolutely no chance of passage.

I have a number of changes I would like to make but I think that this one is the most important:

Every law shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, and the subject shall be briefly expressed in the title.

7 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    “Every law shall embrace but one subject…”

    I would note that log-rolling and back-scratching is how people get their pet projects enacted, and your rule would eliminate log-rolling and back-scratching. The new infrastructure bill would require a few hundred separate votes to get passed, and none of it would.

    I think a real problem is delegation of legislative authority to the regulatory agencies (which cannot be constitutional). That delegation should be narrowly restricted.

    I also think that clarifying the Supreme Courts’ power to judge the constitutionality of laws and regulations would be a good idea. The current system depends entirely on Marshall’s usurpation of the power and its subsequent evolution. There is no provision in the Constitution nor any tradition that permits it. Until a generation ago, no other common law country allowed its courts to judge the legitimacy of acts of parliament. But the fact that our Congress and Presidency tolerated Marshall’s innovation, and that other common law countries have adopted versions of it, suggests its utility. Of course the real utility is that Congress can get stuff it wants without voting on it, like abortion and school integration.

    I would support the expansion of the right to privacy and security in one’s possessions and data. We especially need to clamp down on the DoHS, DoJ, FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA et al. It might be a good idea to eliminate one or more of them. (In the 60’s, I knew a guy in US Army intelligence who job was to infiltrate domestic activist groups. I knew another guy, SP, whose favorite activity was starting bar fights on the Boston waterfront.)

    I would strongly oppose every other item on the list, most especially the adoption of international law. No other country has a Bill of Rights (none), and every other country in the world regularly limits speech and the press. Britain has a set of prior censureship laws that allow the government to suppress mention of news items that would be embarrassing to the government. There are very strong factions in this country that would like to suppress speech, the press, peaceful assembly, religion (especially Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism), and, of course, gun rights.

  • There’s precious little logrolling now. But that’s a risk; the omnibus spending bills are an issue. I think the “you need to pass it to see what’s in it” phenomenon is noxious.

    every other country in the world regularly limits speech and the press

    I think it’s more accurate to say that the U. S. has a more absolutist view of freedom of speech.

    There are different rights recognized in different countries. For example in Britain there is a “right to cross the land”. Here it’s called “trespassing”.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I have to say, the idea of making international law a part of American law is repellent, it would be the end of what Lincoln would have called self-governance, and what we would call democracy. There is no “law,” it would be the enforcement of principles articulated by international lawyers based upon their readings of history and view of the greater good.

  • bob sykes Link

    Right now the logrolling is occurring between the communist and liberal wings of the Democrats, but it is still happening.

    As to freedom of speech, it is not that we have an absolutist view, we don’t, there is literally no freedom of speech or press in any European or non US Anglophone country. If you think otherwise, you are not paying attention. Todays Britain is much closer to Stalinist USSR than to us. Twice in recent years black clergy have been arrested in London for reading the KJV bible on street corners.

  • I wouldn’t call what’s going on now “logrolling”. I think the progressives are driving the car.

    Logrolling would still be possible with single subject matter bills. It would need to be from bill to bill rather than within bills.

  • steve Link

    We are too tribal now to amend the constitution.


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Those who forfeit their citizenship to evade taxes should forfeit their property as well.

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