Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Libertarian Bill of Rights, or--restricting the power of the State one Amendment at a time

I've had an on-again, off-again conversation going with George Donnelly about a Libertarian Contract with America, and I've seen Libertarians in North Carolina proposing a Liberty Agenda, but it seems to me that we're never going to come to grips with the Leviathan that both wings of the Demopublicans have created until we start building some structural barriers back into the process.

So here I'm going to propose, more as a starting point for discussion than a finished product, that a lot more effective work within the states could be done by supporting specific Constitutional Amendments designed to limit the power of government.

I already tried one a few days ago regarding Executive Orders and Signing Statements, and the exercise got me thinking about these. I'm sure others could improve on these, and I'm equally sure that critics can find ways in which some of these might actually (unintentionally) increase the power of the State. But I like the concept, so I thought I'd take it out for a test drive.

Constitutional Amendment [no corporate personhood]

The use of the word “person” in the 14th Amendment shall not be construed to apply to any corporation, limited liability company, or any other business organization chartered under the laws and regulations of the Federal government or the several States, or to any business organization chartered in a foreign nation operating within the United States.

Constitutional Amendment [no Federal blackmail]

Congress shall make no laws, nor shall any Federal agency be empowered by statute or regulation, to withhold funding from the several States to which they are otherwise entitled for any failure or refusal by those States to pass specific laws and regulations.

Constitutional Amendment [non-discrimination]

The civil rights of American citizens shall not be abridged on the basis of sexual orientation.

Constitutional Amendment [term limits]

1. No Senator shall serve more than two consecutive terms, exclusive of a partial term of less than three years in the event of an interim appointment.

2. No Representative shall serve more than six consecutive terms, exclusive of a partial term of less than one year in the event of an interim appointment.

Constitutional Amendment [post office monopoly]

The monopoly of the United States Post Office shall be abolished one year after the ratification of this Amendment.

Constitutional Amendment [deficit reduction]

1. Any US citizen paying Federal income tax shall have the right to declare his or her tax payments to be used by the Federal government for deficit reduction only. Upon this declaration, all of that individual’s tax payments for the applicable year shall be deposited in an escrow account for deficit reduction, which shall make an annual payment against the debts of the United States on July 4. The Federal government on or before that date each year shall publish the percentage of income revenues so sequestered and the total amount paid.

2. Congress shall not be empowered to borrow against this fund, utilize these monies for any other purpose, or to delay the deficit reduction payment.

3. If the United States has been invaded or is fighting a declared war on January 1, Congress may vote by 2/3 majority of both the Senate and House to suspend the functioning of this amendment for one year.

Constitutional Amendment [plain English amendment]

1. Any US citizen shall have the right to challenge in the Federal courts, any Federal laws, statutes, or regulations on the basis that they are unintelligible to the average literate person.

2. The standard of literacy to be applied shall be the accepted reading level of a high school graduate.

3. If it is determined that a majority of twelve literate individuals, working independently, cannot successfully interpret a challenged law, statute, or regulation, it shall be declared unconstitutional.

4. Laws, statutes, or regulations referring exclusively to technical industrial, commercial, or scientific issues that are applicable only governmental, business, or charitable organizations and not to private citizens shall be exempt from the provisions of this amendment.

Constitutional Amendment [eminent domain]

1. The power of eminent domain shall not be used for the purpose of economic development.

2. Use of eminent domain for economic development shall be defined for the purposes of this Amendment as any seizure of forced purchase of private property by any government entity in order to lease, resell, or grant that property to different private owners.

3. Property seized or forcibly purchased by any government entity for public use shall not be lease, resold, or granted to any private owner other than the original owner for a period of ten years.

4. In all cases disputed under the provisions of this Amendment, the burden of proof that the seizure or forced sale of private property is not for economic development shall rest upon the government entity attempting to invoke eminent domain.

Constitutional Amendment [restitution for destruction of private property]

1. In cases in which law enforcement or government agencies destroy private property during investigations, searches, or arrests, those agencies shall be liable for the full replacement value of said property if the owner is neither arrested nor convicted. A civil citation for the violation of a government statute or regulation shall not constitute arrest or conviction for the purposes of this Amendment.

2. If destruction of said property occurs during a hostage rescue, in the protection of individuals from eminent threat of harm, or within a war zone or area under martial law, the provisions of this Amendment shall not apply.

Constitutional Amendment [beginning to end the drug war]

1. The power of the several States to authorize the growth, sale, or prescription of marijuana for medical purposes shall not be infringed.

2. The power of the several States to legislate the de-criminalization or legalization of marijuana for the personal use of adults shall not be infringed.

Constitutional Amendment [capping the defense budget]

1. The Defense Budget of the United States shall be capped during peacetime at a maximum of twenty per cent (20.0%) of the Annual Budget of the United States.

2. Congress may override this limitation for a single year by a 2/3 majority vote in both the House and Senate. Congress may not override this limitation for more than two consecutive years in peacetime, nor for more than three years out of any five-year period.

3. This limitation shall not be in force during any budget year in which either the sovereign territory of the United States has been invaded or the United States has declared war.

4. The General Accounting Office shall report to the Congress annually regarding expenditures for military research and development, weapons procurement, operational expenditures, basing expenditures, and all other items related to military spending that have been allocated to budgets other than that of the Department of Defense. Upon the acceptance of this report by a majority vote of both the House and Senate, these expenditures shall be considered part of the Defense Budget and subject to the limitations in Sections 1-3 of this Amendment.

5. All expenditures involved in the contracting or support of private military companies or contractors, whether processed through the Department of Defense, the Department of State, or any other agency of the Federal government shall be considered part of the Defense Budget and subject to the limitations in Sections 1-3 of this Amendment.

6. Expenditures made by the several States in support of their National Guard organizations shall not be considered part of the Defense Budget, unless such expenditures are in any manner reimbursed by the Federal Government.


Brian Shields said...

How about an amendment defining war to put the power back from the executive to the legislative where it belongs?

War shall be defined as the use of military force against another nation, or citizens of those nations.

Tyler Nixon said...

Great stuff, Steve. I would add an explicit right to privacy and a right of ownership and full autonomy over one's body, including what goes into it.

Duffy said...

I'd make limitations to two terms for Senate AND House. I'd also bar anyone from serving in a national office for 10 years after their last term.

I'd also repeal the 16th and 17th Amendment.

I'd also force Congress to obey the same accounting rules they inflict on financial institutions. (i.e. no writing yourself IOU's.)

I would require anyone running for President to resign from their current office once they accept their party's nomination for President or VP.

Hube said...

I do indeed love the idea of term limits; however, does the concept really fall into the realm of libertarianism? That is, if one truly believes in individual liberties, why not the liberty to continue voting someone into office who is doing a good job?

tom said...

While you're dreaming, how about these:

[real money]

1. Neither Congress, nor any State shall make any Thing but gold or silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.

2. The Power of Congress to coin Money and regulate the value thereof shall not be construed to prohibit the States or the People from issuing coins of their own unique design with clearly specified weight, purity, content and face value.

[common law courts & jury rights]

1. Neither Congress, nor any State shall deprive the People of access to Courts of Common Law, which shall have Original Jurisdiction over any Action in which the Federal government or any State or Local government is a party, except in cases arising in the armed forces when in actual service in time of War.

2. In any Trial by Jury, the Jurors have the Right to vote for Acquittal if they believe the Law in question is unjust, or improperly applied.

[no legal monopolies]

Neither Congress, nor any State shall Grant any Person, or Corporate or Government entity a monopoly over the provision of any public utility, good, or service.

[taxation, spending, balanced budget]

1. The sixteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

2. In any fiscal year, Appropriations for government expenses must be less than or equal to Revenue raised by taxes, except as provided in sections 3 & 4 of this article.

3. Congress may, by a vote of three fifths authorize borrowing up to one tenth of the current year's budget, provided that this is not done in more than 3 out of any 5 years.

4. Within one year of any Declaration of War or National Emergency, Congress may, by a vote of two thirds, set aside the restrictions of Sections 2 & 3 of this article for one year.

5. All proposed department or agency budgets submitted for inclusion in the Federal budget must use zero-based rules of accounting and make no mention of previous year's budgets.

6. Any excess Revenue will be applied to repaying the National debt, or returned to the People as a tax cut or rebate if there is no outstanding Debt.