Blog 148. Updating the Constitution?

Blog 146 and Blog 147 suggested that we face a potential constitutional crisis because the Constitution is outdated. Update the Constitution?  How?

[Note to subscribers: Blog 148 was published at the end of July, 2019, but the mail record indicates it was not sent to subscribers.  If you are receiving it for a second time, please excuse the repeat.  This web page has been inactive since July, apparently due in part to distribution of a Russion robot that led to a flood of spam to the page and some personal emails to the site manager.  I hope that this and future postings be sent to your registered email addresses.  DN]

Any update of the Constitution must provide:

1) Control of the destructive feedback by which money acquires political power enabling acquisition of more money.

2) Authority to identify and protect what’s common.

3) Requirements for residence and citizenship.

4) Limitation of monopoly.

 

1) Taking the money out of politics requires:

a) Limits on contributions to candidates for federal office.

b) Prohibition of lobbying by former officials after leaving office.

c) Required publication of the financial holdings and tax returns of federal candidates.

d) For state offices and issues, prohibition of contributions across state lines. That is, a resident or corporation of Texas could not contribute to candidates or propositions in Ohio.

Organized political money flow expanded after the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon and Citizens United decisions.  In 2019, New Hampshire became the 20th state to pass a resolution for an amendment to overthrow these decisions. Political money must be restricted first, or the other constitutional updates will never occur. Moneyed interests say donating money is free speech. In reality, removal of money from politics promotes free speech by persons instead of corporations, and promotes responsible candidates instead of oligarchies. Why should a wealthy resident of California or an international corporation be allowed to confound a state election in Michigan?

 

2) Provide a mechanism for identifying what’s common, and for protecting the commons.

Climate is the first “common” because if you do not stop climate change little else will survive the consequent social upheaval. The concept of “commons” needs legal status because the population is more dense and our social complexity is greater than when the first ten amendments were ratified in 1791. Open space, air quality, and some aspects of public health (e.g. prevention of epidemics) are now sometimes regarded as shared resources, but we have few constitutional guidelines regarding what’s private and what belongs to everybody. Instead, the private-public boundary is now debated for each issue, and money usually wins. The terms “private” and “freedom” have evolved into sacred beliefs that are now manipulated in social media to generate group identity. Anything considered sacred is not negotiable, so we become polarized.

 

3) Establish rules for immigration and residence.

Today’s massive in-migration is likely to continue because oppressive governments and decaying climate make life intolerable elsewhere.  Our objective should be to avoid letting life become intolerable here. We now have multiple classes of legitimacy—citizen, permitted alien, asylum seeker, illegal immigrant, DREAMer, and a group the President calls murders and rapists. The Constitution provides little guidance for legitimate residency in the U.S. and our polarized politics prevents other clarification of “unalienable rights.”

Immigration is a constitutional issue because it affects the entire country. Massive immigration has social influence beyond the individuals and states involved, requiring guidance by the constitution.

 

4. Limit monopoly and concentration of wealth.

The U.S. has had various anti-concentration regulations—usually installed following an economic collapse (1929, 2008), subsequently weakened whenever the economy recovers, only to repeat the cycle. The problem is not with the regulations, but with their removal. For example, the Dodd-Frank Act was eviscerated after recovery from the 2008 collapse—a collapse caused by the previous erasure of the banking restrictions installed after the great depression. The Constitution should recognize the social danger imposed by wealth concentrations, which grow naturally if the economic centralization leading to control and monopoly is not legally tempered. A regulated free market encourages economic freedom of the people, as contrasted with central control by either a financial oligarchy or by a government.

Warning.

Updating of the Constitution will require a functional congress and a rational administration—that is, election of candidates who have programs instead of slogans.  Beware the slogans from either side.

2 thoughts on “Blog 148. Updating the Constitution?

  1. Bob Austin ·

    Don,
    Thank you for these thought provoking blogs. I have read all, and started to respond in several cases. There is much to be said. You and I have lived thru a golden age in America and both have been afforded fantastic opportunities.

    The beauty of the US constitution is its simplicity and flexibility. The Congress has the obligation to legislate effectively under these bounds and make adaptations as necessary. Unfortunately many of these functions have been taken over by massive bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is corrupt and incompetent, as is much of congress of all parties. The goal of each legislature seems to be re-election, and serving special interests; not representing the voters who elected them.

    There are basically two ways to amend the US Constitution: A convention of 2/3 of the States, or changes approved by 2/3 of both houses of congress both require ratification by the legislatures of 3/4 of the several States / by 3/4 of the legislatures. The last century brought 3 failed amendments: However two of the three were resolved by congress.

    During the last century amendments 16 thru 27 were enacted: 16) Federal Income Tax, 17) Popular Election of Senators, 18) prohibition & 21) repeal. 19) Woman’s right to vote, 20) Commencement of Presidential term and secession, 22) 2 term limits on President, 23) DC Presidential Vote, 24) Abolition of Poll Tax, 25). Presidential vacancy, disability, & inability, 26) 18 yr of age voting, 27) Congressional compensation. The latter was passed September 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992!!! The reason I enumerated these, is that none have addressed our problems of society.

    As a nation we must address other defects: Term Limits of legislators. Balance of Federal Budget and run away debit. Term and age limits for high courts, Limit the number of judges on Supreme Court (to avoid packing)

    However, is the problem of the moment a reason for constitutional amendments? Much of societal problems stem from the breakdown of family unit, and loss of a set of mores, which religion provided. The new religion is social media, with multiple goddesses, under the deity of the internet.

    The homelessness is a result of closing of mental hospitals in the 1960’s, untreated mental illness and run-away housing costs. It is promulgated by permissive attitudes of local governance. The simple solutions are often not implicated.

    I believe you cannot effectively restrict wealth. Wealthy persons will just find loopholes, and over seas solutions. Then that wealth is driven out of the USA, and put to use elsewhere. It also sniffles innovation. I do not believe that government is the best provider of innovation.

    Global warming may be a serious issue, but America alone can make little difference in the outcome of those components which are “man made”. How about the deforestation of the Amazon, and the 72,843 wildfires in the first 8 months of 2019? How do we motivate all of the other countries, especially those who are the biggest polluters?

    How about “solutions” to land use–which will allow both commercial, and recreational use?

    The 2008 recession had many causes, some of which were the fault of congressional and governmental action, forced upon the banking sector, as well as indiscretions in that sector. Parts of Dodd Frank (and similar regulations) are repressive to a free business atmosphere, and a better economy although they addressed some of the issues at that time.

    We have other bubble issues which are occurring currently. No legislation–and probably not recognition by those who might “control”. Housing, Rentals, interest rate, stock market are all factors.

    I would agree that there have always been oppressive governments–and that is one of the reasons for the basis of the Constitution of the United States. Illegal immigration, which can be handled by effective legislation, that is the problem currently. We should always encourage effective immigration. We are an aging population which has restricted the birthrate and which needs more young people to work and supply services. Japan has a crisis involving this very issue.

    Congress can also clarify Immigration, clarify Section one 14th amendment: Birth right citizenship/ anchor baby. It appears to be abused.

    America is an experiment in Government. There have always been serious and valid differences of opinions. While the founders or even our grandfathers, could never imagine the issues we have today, with technology. Today we cannot imagine the issues which will face America in another 100 years. The Constitution must remain flexible, with a reasonable legislature to make the laws, a reasonable executive branch to administer the laws, and a judiciary to interrupt and apply the laws in politically neutral courts. This should place reasonable bounds on the other two branches of government.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful discourse. I think other subscribers might appreciate it, so I’ll reference one or more of your comments in a subsequent blog. I agree with your exposition of some problems, and with the obstacles to solutions (such as constitutional amendments). Each solution raises its own problems.
      The current problems are larger than differences of opinions. The complexity ( Blog2 and Blog 3 ) has amplified our differences and induced manipulations so that we are polarized, listening mainly to comforting voices that contain truth mixed with misinformation–to the extent that we trust only the comforts.
      Government, by its nature, is oppressive. Rules restrict choices. Society and many social morals are unwritten rules. Neither our written or unwritten rules now prevent the corruption by which a few cooperating persons–Senate majority leader, President, and court appointees–can apply sufficient control to alter the nature of governance.
      A technical society must have a free market, but that market must have strong regulations, not rules that reward the rule-makers. I have argued (Blog 16) that money in politics is a supreme threat–even stronger than climate change. Without better politics, we can’t solve the climate problem.
      Governmental control of the economy doesn’t work. The Soviets and the Chinese proved that. Both converted to markets in different ways with oppression of persons rather than distribution of opportunity. An article in the current Scientific American magazine illustrates why an unrestricted market leads to oligarchy. Oligarchy, the costs of maintaining an empire, and/or the exhaustion of resources have terminated most prior societies. Local climates, population, and corruption have induced unprecedented migrations, things we now call immigration. The U.S. can’t address its share of these threats without agreement among ourselves, and we won’t agree so long as politics is a system of unrestricted monetary feedback wherein money buys power to generate more money with which to buy more power. Any system–mechanical, electrical, or political–with unrestricted feedback will self-destruct. That’s the microphone in front of the loudspeaker.
      Years ago, I started writing thoughts about science and society. I now find myself generating technical reviews of social and political issues. In one or more successive blogs, I’ll try to examine some issues you have raised. Some readers might wonder why there was a 3-month hiatus in this blog sequence. In part, that was because some persons who write in Cyrillic apparently distributed a computer program with which anyone could attempt to inject spam into (presumably) a list of web sites. This one is on the list.

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