Conservative commentator Mark Levin has created quite a buzz with his latest book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.
Levin argues for an Article V constitutional convention with the purpose of passing 11 amendments. Some of the proposals include term limiting judges and members of Congress, repealing the 17th Amendment, amendments to limit federal spending and taxation, and an amendment to limit federal bureaucracy.
The Framers provided two methods for amending the Constitution. The second was intended for our current circumstances—empowering the states to bypass Congress and call a convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Levin argues that we, the people, can avoid a perilous outcome by seeking recourse, using the method called for in the Constitution itself.
Readers will find plenty to debate in Levin’s book. Will these proposals actually work to limit federal power? Are these the absolute best amendments to consider? Will the American people rally to the cause with enough vigor to push the amendments to ratification? Some will even question to wisdom of calling an Article V convention in the first place, arguing that the risk of a runaway process further empowering the federal government outweighs any potential benefits.
While I find any legitimate proposal that could lead to limiting federal power worth debating, I question those who view amendments as a silver bullet, especially those who reject nullification as a viable path toward stopping DC’s relentless usurpation. The federal government absolutely refuses to acknowledge any limits on its power and follow the Constitution as written. What makes anybody think the feds will suddenly give up power because we slap down some new rules? Do people really believe the federal government will suddenly become constrained and release its grip on power just because we pass some new amendments, essentially saying, “We know you’ve ignored every constraint on your power and authority for the last 100 years, but dammit, we really mean it this time!”
I think not.
The fundamental problem isn’t that the Constitution failed to create a limited federal government. It enumerates only a few, very specific powers to the general government, leaving all others to the states and the people. The problem lies in the fact that the people have failed to insist that the federal government remain constrained within those enumerated powers. We have allowed the federal government itself to define the extent of its own authority through this silly notion of judicial supremacy. We have allowed the courts and Congress to redefine the meaning of the founding document. And we have failed to say, “NO!” when the feds overstep their authority.
Waving the Constitution in front of rampaging politicians and bureaucrats won’t stop them from charging right along exercising undelegated powers. And ratifying new amendments so we can wave those in the face of these same usurpers won’t stop them either. We must resist power with power. And as Virginia jurist Abel P. Upshur rightly asserted, the states serve as a well of power we can dip into to check federal overreach.
As little as possible of this power should be entrusted to the federal government, and even that little should be watched by a power authorized and competent to arrest its abuses. That power can be found only in the States. In this consists the great superiority of the federative system over every other. In that system, the federal government is responsible, not directly to the people en masse, but to the people in their character of distinct political corporations. However easy it may be to steal power from the people, governments do not so readily yield to one another.
Some of these amendments may serve the Republic well. But they will never replace nullification. The federal government will never check itself, no matter how many amendments and rules we the people write down for it to follow. James Madison’s prescription in Federalist 46 will always remain vital. We must always stand ready to resist federal overreach through the power and authority of our state and local governments. We must refuse to cooperate with unconstitutional actions, and create impediments and obstructions through legislative devices, just as Madison advised.
We can debate amendments. Maybe we should even pass some. But mark my word, the feds will ignore whatever limitations they impose.
Without nullification, the silver bullet so many see in these liberty amendments will turn out to be nothing more than a blank.