Some basics of the Constitution 2.0

Improve the greatest secular document in human history?  No problem…now.  Not after a few centuries of power-mongers assailing and subverting it.  We’ve got plenty of abuses to address.  And for all their rightful pessimism about flawed humanity, the Founders still gave us too much credit.  So here’s a few ideas of mine, feel free to join in.

Keep it simple and shyster-free.  

The Constitution is a meta-legal document, there’s no need for it to be in Legalese.  And after teeny loopholes get reamed by the legal profession, again and again and again, activist government can “legally” drive through anything.  Force us to buy insurance, forbid us to defend ourselves from unlawful entry by that government.

Look at this:    

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 

We can’t clean that up a bit?  Sure, it worked fine when most people believed in limited government.  But FDR changed that attitude, and modern “elitists” managed to disarm half the country.  Millions of Americans can’t reliably defend themselves because local governments think they outrank the Bill of Rights.

We keep it simple.  “See Spot run” simple.  As simple as the idea can be communicated. 

Forrest Gump simple.

Government is a necessary evil.

Look at the Ruling Class.  It’s far more enraging than a pickpocket.  When thieves steal your money they don’t spend it to limit your liberties.  And they sure as heck don’t expect to be thanked for it.  

The role of government is to minimize bad, not maximize good.  In fact, I don’t think governments are even capable of doing good.  This will be expanded later, and if you guys can’t fault my argument it’ll turn into an axiom.

Government is a necessary evil.  At the federal level, think surgery.  Think cancer radiation treatment.  We need it, but no American should want it beyond the absolutely necessary. 

The Founders made this obvious; what they didn’t do is make it undeniable.  I’d like version 2.0 to rub everyone’s noses in the fact, repeatedly if possible.  Americans should regard necessary government as Dr. Christian Bernard and excess government as Jack the Ripper.  

Unnecessary government is unnecessary surgery. 

And as a good friend of mine notes, “if you want fewer criminals, make fewer laws”.

Checks, balances, and negative feedback.

No one taking a federal job can join a union or vote in federal elections. 

“Conflict of interest” applies in the public sector, too.  This should be noted and dealt with.  Unions are adversarial entities, and we won’t be creating enemies of the taxpayer, thank you very much.  If soldiers can’t go on strike, neither can other government employees. 

I want our public servants to get decent pay and benefits, with the best of them getting excellent pay.  And they should have the best job security there is.  When government is only doing what’s absolutely necessary, anyone doing that work should sleep very soundly at night.  They can have the job for life, which is more than the rest of us can count on. 

But in exchange, no voting.  I love this idea, because it’s an elegant feedback mechanism.  Anyone in government has a vested interest in expanding it.  They must not be given the opportunity to do so.  They are public servants, not masters.  Awww, you wanna vote?   Then be a tax generator, not a consumer. 

As wards of the state, obviously welfare recipients shouldn’t vote either.  But then, federal reallocation programs were never Constitutional in the first place.  If states want to let recipients vote in state finances, let ’em.  We don’t stop a pair of parents from letting their three children vote on family expenditures, do we?  So go right ahead, states.

(You’ll be sor-ry.)

I’d also like to require supermajorities to pass certain types of legislation.  Maybe all of it.  If you can’t get two out of three people to agree to obey a law, you’re better off ignoring it at the federal level and let states do as they choose.  This falls under my “maximize consent” axiom. 

Of course, I have no problem with a simple majority being able to repeal a law.  Thus endeth “tyranny of the minority”, such as with the Senate digging in against repeal of Obamacare.  When more than half the country doesn’t want a federal law, it should not exist.  Land of the Free, remember. 

I know the Founders feared passion in politics, with momentary majorities making bad laws.  But I’m talking about doing away with laws.  You can always re-enact it if the fickle insist. 

We also need to do something about regulatory fiat.  Where does the Constitution permit the Executive Branch to create law?  If you won’t do what’s in your job description, Congress, get a new job.    

Okay, time for your ideas.  But remember we don’t simply want “good ideas” in the Constitution 2.0.  You know, things that could as easily be laws.  Although specifics in the “checks, balances, and negative feedback” department are highly desirable.  Just look for holes punched in the Founders’ intent and bring the spackle!

Over to you.

About wormme

I've accepted that all of you are socially superior to me. But no pretending that any of you are rational.
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30 Responses to Some basics of the Constitution 2.0

  1. MAW says:

    Here is the best Entitlement I have heard:”That wage earners are entitled to keep their full wages”.

    • wormme says:

      This country did go longer without an income tax than it has with one. I’d have no problem with that, though I don’t know if it should be a Constitutional edict.

      Taxing something tends to curb it, subsidizing tends to expend it. With that in mind, you’d think environmentalists would favor consumption taxes over income tax. We’d save a lot more and have wealth at hand when we need to lower the Earths’ thermostat, or whatever.

  2. waytoomanydaves says:

    I think we could fix most of the problems without a full reboot if we could just reign-in abuses of the Commerce Clause.

    • wormme says:

      Sure. That’s the epic loophole. Though, they’ve sure taken the government’s right to borrow to infinity and beyond. I’m just looking to “blue sky” things. How to take what we’ve learned from injuries to the Constitution to make future liberty-lovers better prepared.

      • waytoomanydaves says:

        I don’t see it as a loophole. I see it as the government’s refusal to construe the plain language of the Constitution to mean what it actually says. And when I say “government”, obviously I’m talking about the courts, too.

        But overall, I do support the basic concept here. I like your idea to eliminate legalese. Legal English supposedly exists because it is precise, so when the imprecision of a given bit of language is amply demonstrated by the fact that large numbers of people are not able to agree on it’s meaning, obviously it was flawed from the get-go. (See: Second Amendment)

        • wormme says:

          You’re right that it shouldn’t be a loophole, but we’ve let the legalites use it as such. And they’ve repaid us by, as in this recent Indiana case, returned us to pre-Magna Carta levels of freedom.

  3. nate says:

    I have also suggested that public employees should not be permitted to vote for officials in the level of government in which they work. It doesn’t make me popular with teachers.

    This also brings to mind a suggestion the the Heinlein novel “The moon is a harsh mistress” in which a character suggested a bicameral legislature where one house required a 2/3 majority to pass a law, with another house could repeal a law with a 1/2 minority. The theory being that a law needs to maintain at least 2/3 support to be really effective and necessary.

    • D.J. says:

      I’d be slightly wary about the not being permitted to vote part…does that mean that the military would not be able to vote at the national level, for instance?

      Perhaps something like the following: those who receive more in in non-salary benefits and compensation from government than they pay in taxes (as shown on the most recent tax return) are not eligible to vote?

      • nate says:

        Its not really workable on several levels. What about government contractors, for instance? We’d just replace all employees with contractors in a big hurry, and we’re in the same place.

        It’s more a starting place to start thought than a workable plan.

        • wormme says:

          It would still be a vast improvement. I know from experience how easy it is for contractors to get laid off. Contrast that with full-time unionized government workers. Our economy is contracting yet the government is growing. That should never happen. And any “private” business that exists due to government contracts isn’t a private businesses.

          But you do highlight a problematic area, the government/private business interface and “public projects”. It’s on my list, hopefully we can get to it soon. There’s just…so…much…stuff.

      • D.J. says:

        I can see that. Of course, government contractors means there’s ways around public employees not voting either.

      • wormme says:

        You hit immediately on the sore spot. I want to spin it thusly: military personnel give up consideral First Amendment rights, which other government workers won’t. They surrender other freedoms as well, not leahaving control over how their lives will be spent.

        So, soldiers vote, civvie feds don’t. If they don’t like it they can be military reservists. If you place yourself in a chain of command where disobeying orders can lead to your execution, you get to vote. Obviously. Otherwise, work in the private sector.

        Since we’re fbrainstorming about a near-perfect government, why not idealize?

    • wormme says:

      I re-read that less than a year ago and somehow missed that bit. But I remember it from earlier readings. God, my aging brain.

      The “two out of three” really does feel right. If you can’t get that, leave it alone and let localities deal with it where they do have 2/3rds approval. Epic changes at the 50.1/49.9 mark are insane.

  4. thepi says:

    The sole point of taxes is to raise revenues, not social engineering, thus no exemptions or deductions are to be allowed in the tax code.

    • wormme says:

      You’re 100% right, with one possible caveat. I’m totally, absolutely in agreement that using taxes to encourage or discourage behavior is not permissable.

      But we have discussed having a single, universal tax deduction for every tax payer. So, a flat tax with a single deduction. I like this slightly better, as long as the deduction is very low. There’s no social engineering problem because there’s no social engineering. And it makes the code very slightly progressive without discouraging anyone from earning more by hitting a higher bracket.

      And, at the very bottom of income, it means not collecting taxes that are less than the effort going in to them. Let’s say the deduction is $1000 and it saves $150 in taxes. The infrastructure to collect that might still exceed the revenue. So I propose to end employer deduction of taxes (it’s not their job) and have taxpayers fill out a form that consists of “(income-universal deduction)*tax rate=tax bill”.

      That saves a few hundred million man-hours and billions in tax preparation fees as well. Thus increasing productivity, thus increasing tax revenue.

      If you don’t like that, I’m still with you all the way on the “social engineering” thing. It’s wrong and not permissible.

  5. D.J. says:

    Put in specific language limiting things, for instance:
    “The United States Constitution is the highest law of the country, followed by treaties and federal law. International law may not supersede this, nor may treaties grant any part of government powers which they do not otherwise have granted under this Constitution. The Constitution may be amended (unless specifically noted otherwise) to grant the government additional powers to comply with treaties. This paragraph may not be amended or superseded.

    I’m doing various writing and patching, and once I get a first draft, I can either email it to you, W.O.R.M., or I can post it as a comment. Then there’s a base to work with.

    • wormme says:

      Oooh, good stuff! My brain has been doodling around with “C-2.0” for years and never dealt with the internation considerations. It’s basic and obvious, so absolutely it should be in there. 2.0 should make it plain where we stand when it comes to international “law”.

      You’re doing the text? Wow. If we gear up I can probably make another page on this site. Or even find a way to “wiki” it.

  6. thepi says:

    The Congress is the only body with the ability to make and define laws. The executive may not make, define, or clarify the conditions under which it applies the law.

    The Federal Government established under this Constitution may only do what it is specifically empowered to do by this Constitution. If it’s not in here, you can’t do it. Period.

    I would recommend 2 bills of rights as well, one for what no government may do (local/state/federal), and one for what the federal one can’t do. Thus free speech and the right to bare arms can be protected from all, while you could restrain the federal government from instituting welfare programs.

    “No government shall make laws restricting the ability of citizens to own, carry, and use firearms so long as the use is legal.”

    and

    “The Federal Government may not redistribute wealth. It may not give money to any entity except as compensation for goods and services received.”

    • wormme says:

      I agree with both arguments, without necessarily conceding that the Constitution is the best place for them. If FDR and company had amended the Constitution, as was required, social programs would certainly have been legal. Of course they didn’t have the votes for it. But I’d prefer ruling out mandatory socialism in the Constitution than take the chance that it be illegally implemented. Your proposal is much better than the reality we have.

      As for guns, I think you stated a tautology. “Guns shall be legal unless they are illegal”. Perhaps your intent was, “law-abiding citizens will not be deprived of the right to own and use guns.” Is that correct? I suspect you worded your argument with felons in mind. Violent criminals could certainly have gun rights restricted even after getting out of prison. Very few people will have a problem with that.

      And thank you for contributing!

      • thepi says:

        I was attempting to make a distinction between the ownership+ability to carry, and the use of the weapons. That you could own and carry under any circumstance, yet you could only use so long as you weren’t violating other non-gun related laws with that use. But I wasn’t very clear (trying to be concise) and upon further reflection the point should be assumed and thus unnecessary.

        As for felons, I have some serious issues with how felons are treated. The original framers didn’t have to carve out an exception for felons because anyone who did something that bad was hanged, not sent to prison for 20 years or longer. Felons are also stripped of their right to vote in our current system, which I have a hard time believing is constitutional as well. I agree with the ends in both cases, but the means seem unconstitutional. Perhaps we need a provision to strip felons of their citizenship instead, but I don’t like the idea of the government having the ability to remove people’s citizenship in general. Maybe just a clause like “Convicted felons forfeit their rights to XXXXX” at some point in the constitution. I haven’t given it as much thought as other things; definitely open to some good ideas there.

        And I assume amendments are still allowed, so they could always repeal the section outlawing the redistribution of wealth and put in a section allowing it. This way there is a specific protection built in that makes it clear and unambiguous that it isn’t allowed barring an amendment.

        • wormme says:

          I hadn’t given thought to addressing lawbreakers’ rights in a Constitutional clause either, it’s very intriguing. And it’s always nice to welcome a hardcore freedom lover. I know your argument isn’t “better to hang them than take away their rights”, but putting it that way is throat-cuttingly awesome.

          As for non-violent felons, I’m a proponent of the catch, flog, release program.

          • thepi says:

            With respect to addressing lawbreaker’s rights in the constitution, I feel that anytime you deprive a citizen of his rights — for any reason — it MUST be addressed in the constitution. I don’t believe a law can strip anyone of any of their fundamental rights unless it is authorized in the constitution.

            I’d consider the “better to hang them than take away their rights” for violent criminals if our justice system was perfect, but that is a whole other issue.

            In another separate issue, not all non-violent criminals are the same. A drug user that has committed no other crimes and Bernie Madoff are worlds apart. I’d personally get rid of victimless crimes, but baring that I’d support caning as an option for that category. For straight up thieves (grand theft auto, not armed robbery or carjacking) and white collar criminals I’m not so sure. Perhaps if they can also make their victims whole.

          • wormme says:

            Yes, I use “non-violent” as generic label, with black market participants in mind since they’re the bulk of the crowd. But folks like Madoff and, especially, officials abusing their power should never get off that easy. Instead, of course, we have the reverse.

  7. D.J. says:

    /**************************************************************************\
    * Constitution 2.0 *
    * *
    * This is a first draft only. Comments that are not to be part of the *
    * text will be included in C++-style comments, both box and in-line. *
    * Such comments are only to show what I am thinking. *
    * *
    \**************************************************************************/

    Constitution 2.0, v0.1a
    /* This is an alpha release, incomplete and buggy. */

    Article 0: Preface and Purpose

    Section 1: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    Section 2: The government’s powers are restricted; granted by the people. In certain areas it is absolute, in others, it is not existent. No branch may attempt to expand beyond the guidelines.

    Article 1: Citizens, Voting, and Elections

    Section 1: Citizens
    Paragraph 1: A citizen is a human being with a parent who is a citizen, or has given allegiance to the country. Anyone born to a parent who is a citizen is a natural-born citizen. Anyone who gives allegiance that was not born a citizen is a naturalized citizen. Children who are born to parents going through the process of obtaining citizenship are natural-born citizens once their parents become naturalized citizens.
    /* Yes, this means that the children of illegal immigrants are not citizens. That is the point. */
    Paragraph 2: The United States will recognize those born in its territory as citizens of whatever country their parents are citizens of.
    // They still have citizenship, mind, just in a different country.
    Paragraph 3: The United States does not recognize multiple citizenship. Part of the process of obtaining citizenship requires renouncing all other citizenships. If someone has citizenship in the United States of America and another country, then the other citizenship must be renounced by the age of eighteen years and six months, or at least steps taken to renounce said citizenship, or else the United States will strip citizenship.
    Paragraph 4: Citizens may have more rights and privileges under federal law than non-citizens. The chief right and privilege that a citizen has that a non-citizen does not is that of voting in elections for Federal office.

    Section 2: Voting
    Paragraph 1: A voter for President & Vice President, United States Senate, and the House of Representatives shall be at least eighteen years of age, a citizen, and not a felon. A voter may be resident of only one precinct and may vote only in that precinct’s elections. Identification is required to vote.
    Paragraph 2: If a state allows other voters than those described above, it must have ballots that leave off the federal offices in order to give to voters that do not meet the requirements.
    Paragraph 3: A felon is one who has been convicted of a felony, unless the jurisdiction where the conviction took place, or a higher one, restores the felon’s civil rights after all other parts of a sentence, including, but not limited to, fines and incarceration. Example: A felon convicted in a city may have civil rights restored by the city, county the city is in, or state the city is in. A pardon restores civil rights automatically. Commutation of sentence does not restore civil rights.

    Section 3: Elections
    Paragraph 1: /* Define when elections are to be held. */
    Paragraph 2: /* Define how they are to be conducted. */
    Paragraph 3: The President is elected in the Electoral College. The elections held determine the votes of the Electors in each state as follows. Each state has a number of Electors equal to the number of Representatives it has, plus two for the Senators. Two Electoral votes (the ‘Senatorial votes’) must go to the winner of the popular vote in that state. The other Electoral votes either all go for the winner of the popular vote in that state, or each one goes for the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district.
    /* Should pluralities be allowed? Only outright majorities? If pluralities are not allowed, is there a runoff? A second/third/fourth choice preference indicated so that the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the votes go to the next candidate on the preference list? */

    Article 2: Legislative Branch

    Section 1: Composition
    Paragraph 1: All legislative powers are granted to the Congress. Congress shall be composed of two houses: the House of Representatives with representation allocated to the States based on the latest census, and the Senate with two members from each State.
    Paragraph 2: Congress may not cede any of these powers to the other branches, especially in the form of regulatory agencies: the function of the Executive Branch is to enforce laws, not to create regulation. /* Should there be a ‘This paragraph may not be amended.’ here? */

    Section 2: House of Representatives
    Paragraph 1: /* Define what the House is and who is eligible. Note that you have to be a resident of the district you want to represent. */
    Paragraph 2: /* We need to put in a paragraph on how to draw congressional districts to try to cut out gerrymandering. */
    Paragraph 3: /* Internal structure of the House. Basically, they can choose their own officers, etc. */

    Section 3: Senate
    Paragraph 1: /* Define what the Senate is and who is eligible. */
    Paragraph 2: /* Define internal structure of the Senate, similar to the House. */
    Paragraph 3: /* The Vice President presides as President of the Senate, but may cast a tie-breaking vote only, and has no vote in impeachment trials. */

    Section 4: Powers
    Paragraph 1: /* Define what powers we want Congress to have. */
    Paragraph x: These are the only powers that Congress has. Others may be added through amendment. This paragraph may not be amended.

    Section 5: Restrictions

    Article 3: Executive Branch

    Section 1: President

    Section 2: Vice-President
    Paragraph 1: /* Eligibility */
    Paragraph 2: /* Re-iterate role as President of Senate. */
    Paragraph 3: /* Role as liaison between Congress and President? */
    Paragraph 4: /* Succeeds to Presidency upon Resignation, Conviction of Impeachment, Death, or Incapacity of the President. */

    Section 3: Military

    Section 4: Intelligence and Security

    Section 5: Other members of the Cabinet

    Section 6: Enforcement Agencies

    Article 4: Judicial Branch

    Section 1: Supreme Court

    Section 2: Lower Courts

    Section 3: Constitutional Interpretation
    Paragraph 1: The United States Constitution is the highest law of the land: nothing may supersede it. No treaty may give any part of the Government any powers that this Constitution does not. This paragraph may not be amended.
    Paragraph 2: Any law that goes beyond the powers granted to the Legislature is unconstitutional.
    Paragraph 3: Lower courts are bound by the decisions of upper courts and their own precedents. They may consider the decisions of equal courts, but those decisions are not binding.
    Paragraph 4: /* How binding should Supreme Court precedent be on itself? */

    Article 5: Modifying the Constitution
    /* Say how we can go about modifying the Constitution. Allow for both Congress-initiated/State-ratified and State-initiated/Congress-ratified amendments. Also allow for amendment by states only: if all 50 states can agree on it, then it becomes a Constitutional amendment. Note also that there are things that cannot be changed. */

    • D.J. says:

      This is quick and dirty, and lots left out. Trying to do basic framework and as much copy-paste as possible from the current Constitution.

    • wormme says:

      Whoa, heavy lifting here!

      It’s 12:15 A.M., I’m gonna check this out tomorrow. Amazing effort, D.J., thanks!

  8. Sam E says:

    “Government is a necessary evil. ” Agreed, emphasizing that the alternative is very evil.

    Soldiers are government workers. In “Starship Troopers,” Heinlein did not allow active duty military to vote. Note, the vote was restricted to Veterans.

    I consider the likelihood that a “Constitutional Convention” that is worse than the current Constitution to be frighting. The issue is the people voting. An Amendment defining who can vote has a better chance of being a net positive.

    • wormme says:

      Up in Wisconsin they’re playing the race card over the state “voter i.d.” law. Apparently it’s racist to require voters to prove they’re who they say they are. So limiting voting rights will be a tough sell. While I loved Starship Troopers, I think “consent of the governed” is important enough that people have to voluntarily give up their vote.

      The Ruling Class would go nuts if “necessary evil” became a national meme, so I’ll do my best. The surgery/invasive treatment comparison is the best I’ve got, but I’m always in the market to upgrade analogies if anyone’s got a better one.

      • Sam E says:

        Wormme,

        If you think that one more or less moderate Amendment is a tough sell, a Constitution 2.0 is orders of magnitude more difficult. What is required is a bottom up effort. The “Tea Party” is a good start.

        No words on paper, no mater how wise or powerful they are matter unless they are also in the heart and soul of the people. Legally, as I retired to the Army of the United States(reserve retirement) List rather than the United States Army(regular Army) List, I am not bound by my Oath. Doesn’t matter. I am bound.

        • wormme says:

          Oh, my purpose with v2.0 is mostly to try to help out whatever phreedom-loving phoenix rises from America’s ashes. Hopefully after we’re long gone. The left doesn’t even try to amend the Constitution anymore, since they can always find judges to justify any power-grab. Maybe once we get past the Baby Boomers we can try to reset.

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