Charlie Earl: The Con-Con Con

By Charlie Earl, 2010Libertarian Candidate for Ohio Secretary of State. Forwarded to IPR by Ohio LP chair Kevin Knedler.


On May 25th, 1787, a number of delegates assembled in Philadelphia for the expressed purpose of correcting some deficiencies in the Articles of Confederation, the national document of law and purpose for the United States of America. Some of the delegates, however, attended the convention with the intent to discard the Articles and to create a new governing structure. Two of the most eager proponents for a new document were Alexander Hamilton and James Madison…both of them politically skillful and forcefully passionate. As any non-public school or medrasa history will indicate, the movement to replace the Articles of Confederation won the day, and the Constitution of the United States was drafted, adopted and ultimately ratified with some reservations.

One of the components of the Constitution addressed the means and mechanisms for changing the document should the need arise. Thus, Article V was included, and it is printed below.

Article V – Amendment

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first

and fourth

Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived

of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

At the present time there has been increasing public dissatisfaction with the failure of the Congress to abide by the Article 1, Section 8 enumerated powers, and by the profligacy and fiscal irresponsibility of the national legislative body. Some critics have proposed Constitutional amendments to require a balanced budget or to limit the number of consecutive terms that a congress person could hold office. While these ideas and others with similar goals may have merit, the effort by some to initiate an Article V convention could yield disastrous counterproductive results. It seems obvious to me that if our political class cannot be trusted to abide by their oath to obey the Constitution of the United States, we have no reason to suspect that they might restrain themselves when gathered together to manipulate the governing document of the land. It is presumed that the various delegates will be appointed by the state legislatures thus assuring that the careerist political class will protect their own interests. A run-a-way rewrite of the Constitution could legitimize all the current unconstitutional ills that we find so noxious. How can we trust them to do a better job of fixing something that they have willfully broken? That would be like asking the killer to do the forensic work.

While I sense that in a perfect world, a constitutional convention (con-con) could be called for a specific purpose to address systemic failures at the national level; our states haven’t performed much better through their yielding to the federal mandates. Thus, I DO NOT TRUST the state political leadership or whomever they might appoint as delegates to carry out the will of the people. In sum, if we are to amend the Constitution, then it appears to me that the more laborious process of the individual states considering and debating whether or not to ratify a particular measure remains our best and safest process. The people can have a greater impact during a state-by-state ratification procedure than we would have if a convention suddenly ran amok.

As an addendum to this discussion, allow me to add that I will never support a “balanced budget amendment” unless it includes a prohibition on taxes and fees increasing and/or a limit to percentage of GDP for government spending. Even with these prohibitions or exemptions I remain skeptical. I do not trust government accounting when they measure the GDP, and they always find new clever ways to pick our pockets. Finally, the “con-con” has the potential to do great harm and could provide the cover for career politicians to formalize and legalize the very practices they use today.

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