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Prudent people recoil at the idea

by Greg Krehbiel on 10 April 2014

Today’s column by George Will speaks of an effort to call a constitutional convention to put a rein on federal spending.

While I’m generally in favor of restricting Congress’ power to spend our money, I can’t speak to the particulars of this proposal, and this warning really grabbed me:

Many prudent people — remembering that the 1787 Constitutional Convention’s original purpose was merely to “remedy defects” of the Articles of Confederation — recoil from the possibility of a runaway convention and the certainty that James Madison would not be there to make it turn out well. The compact, however, would closely confine a convention: State legislatures can form a compact — a cooperative agreement — to call a convention for the codified, one-item agenda of ratifying the balanced-budget amendment precisely stipulated in advance.

I am less optimistic than Mr. Will that words on paper, or any agreement made ahead of time, can restrict the run-away power grab that would ensue. I realize that the amendment itself would only be “words on paper,” but once it is done it would be part of the constitution, and we generally take that pretty seriously in this country.

In my opinion extreme measures would have to be taken to ensure that the convention did absolutely nothing else than ratify a specific amendment.

However, provided such measures were taken, I would absolutely love to see the states assert their power and stick their collective fingers in the eye of Congress, which is long overdue for a national rebuke.

-- 2014-04-10  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 2

  1. rr
    10 April 2014 @ 9:35 pm

    While I think that the sort of Constitutional amendment that Will discusses would be an excellent way to limit the size and growth of government, I’m skeptical that enough state legislatures would vote in favor of a convention. Surely “red” states would vote yes, but I doubt that “blue” states would do the same. And yes, even then, there could be much mischief at a convention.

    The more likely scenario is that the growth in the size of the federal government, deficits and debt will hit the wall of fiscal reality before we set up any constitutional limits.

  2. Derek
    10 April 2014 @ 9:51 pm

    Unless it is enforced, an amendment is just empty words. The current administration seems to ignore any law it chooses.