Liberrants

Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Amended Constitution – Article I, Sections 1 and 2

Section 1.

The original text reads:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

No problem with this as it is currently written.

Section 2.

Clause 1. The original text reads:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

While I have no problem philosophically with a two-year term for any office, it seems that this short span of time results in most congressional representatives spending all of their time campaigning for election/re-election. It might be worth it to consider lengthening the term that representatives serve to four or even five years, if for no other reason than to keep them from torturing us with their endless campaigning (although it can be argued that endless campaigning keeps them from doing worse things, such as legislating). Another alternative is to keep the two-year term, but limit the number of terms a representative can serve. Does anyone out there in the blogosphere have any ideas?

Clause 2. The original text reads:

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

My biggest issues here are with the age limit and residency/citizenship requirements.

Why the magic age of twenty-five? I have no doubt that in eighteenth-century post-revolutionary America the person who attained the age of twenty-five had experienced enough of life to make them the equivalent of today’s fifty-year-old. However, today’s twenty-five-year-olds are hardly distinguishable from high school sophomores in either behavior or maturity. If the founders’ original concern was the maturity of the office holder, the threshold will have to be set much higher for today’s Americans. Why not make the minimum age for any federal elected office thirty-five, or forty? The other alternative, one that is definitely more in keeping with libertarian principles, is to do away with age limitations altogether and select some other criterion for determining eligibility. Character? Conduct? Achievements? Not the most measurable of criteria, to be sure. I don’t know, but age just seems to be a less than reliable and relevant barometer of capability when referring to public service.

As for citizenship/residency it goes without saying that one must be a U.S. citizen to hold public office at the federal level. However, I would eliminate the seven-year requirement and the residency requirement. By the time anyone becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen they will normally have finished jumping through years of arduous bureaucratic hurdles to obtain that precious status (current shortcuts encouraged by the Bush regime notwithstanding). Why make them wait seven long years to participate fully in the benefits of citizenship, including the right to pursue office at the federal level if they’re masochistic enough to want it? What could possibly make such a person more qualified to hold office after a seven-year waiting period (look at Tom Lantos if you need proof)? Also, if the residents of Connecticut want to elect someone from Montana to represent them, what business is it of the federal government (although there should be a caveat that such a person could not represent their home state at the same time they are representing another state)? I see nothing in the current Constitution prohibiting the people from exercising their right to be collectively stupid or make communally bad decisions, so if they can’t find anyone at home competent or desperate enough to represent them or if they think someone from another state can do the job better, that’s their problem and their prerogative (remember the “free market” concept?). Does the name “Hillary Rodham Clinton” ring any bells? Hideous as we might think she is, the good citizens of the Empire State apparently disagree and probably wouldn’t have cared less if she had gone back to Arkansas after eight years in Washington after offering to represent them from Little Rock. Again, that’s the business of the Empire State, not the almighty central state.

Clause 3. The original text reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

The first sentence of this clause was altered by Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment as related to the mode of apportionment of representatives among the several states (the language regarding “free persons” and Indians having of course been rendered obsolete by emancipation) and the abominable Sixteenth Amendment where taxes are concerned. I’ll discuss these amendments at greater length later on.

The second sentence dealing with “enumeration”, or the census, would be let stand with the exception that the last part of the sentence “in such Manner as [the representatives] shall by Law direct” would be deleted. This phrase leaves far too much room for interpretation, as “the Manner which by law” they have directed includes the cumbersome and intrusive census questionnaires that have been forced down our throats for most of the last century. Indeed, a provision is needed here stating that enumeration shall consist solely of counting the number of persons in each household; no further demographic information shall be collected. Collection of such information serves only to build special interest constituencies for self-serving politicians, a major explanation for today’s runaway federal spending and ever-dwindling civil liberties.

I have no problem with the one-to-thirty thousand ratio for representatives; however, the current size of the house of representatives, fixed by law (whose?) at 435, should be expanded to accommodate more representatives. In my opinion the current size limit has resulted in congressional districts that are too large to be manageable and thus too large for the people to hold their representatives readily accountable for their actions while serving. Smaller constituencies would ideally mean representation of more readily identifiable constituencies that would feel the bite of their representatives’ actions more firmly and thus “hold feet to the fire”, so to speak. Again, just food for thought. I’m more than eager to hear counter-arguments or other suggestions.

I propose that the amended text read (first draft):

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers. The Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years. The Enumeration shall consist solely of a count of the number of persons in each household for purposes of determining representation. No other information shall be gathered under threat of punishment by law. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse [sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

Clause 4. Original text reads:

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

No problem with this as written.

Clause 5. Original text reads:

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

No problem with this as written.

I should note here that it might be wise, given the reluctance of the current cowards in the house of reprehensibles to uphold the law, to define impeachment somewhere within the amended Constitution for purposes of emphasizing that it should be exercised against federal officeholders not merely as punishment for personal peccadilloes, but for major violations of oaths of office. In other words, it is completely acceptable –indeed, morally obligatory—to impeach the Smirking Chimp for going to war without a congressional declaration before impeaching Bill Clinton for getting the proverbial “knob job” at the oval office desk, the latter a transgression certainly not meriting attention by the laws set forth in this founding document.

Next: Article 1, Sections 3 and 4

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