Blog 148. Updating the Constitution?

Two previous posts suggested that we face a potential constitutional crisis because the Constitution is outdated. Update it?  How?

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.

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