Category Archives: Constitution

Exactly!

One of the current pushes for a new constitutional convention is for an amendment that would allow 2/3 of the state legislatures to overturn federal legislation that upsets the balance of federalism.  Since this is an area of some interest to us at the Policy Institute we try to find scholarship that supports our position on such things.

Dr. Tom Woods explains in his book Nullification why the power to nullify federal law already exists in the form of the 9th and 10th amendments to the current Constitution.

In this video Dr. Woods also explains what happens when you propose solutions that the mainstream politicians and media don’t like or find to be “dangerous” (amazing that we live in an age where a shackled federal government is a dangerous idea). Especially since, as Dr. Woods book demonstrates in the book, nullification has been used highly successfully by states to turn back federal tyranny.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_KuIL7icUc&feature=player_embedded#[/youtube]

Watch the video that follows and see if you get Dr. Woods point and the joke. An interview with a zombie.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrcM5exDxcc&feature=channel[/youtube]

Policy Institute On The Radio-The Con-Con Con Job On The “Mission America” Program

On Tuesday January 18,2011 Barry Sheets, the director of the Institute For Principled Policy, was the guest host on Linda Harvey’s Mission America program on WRFD radio. His guest was Chuck Michaelis, the Vice-chairman of the Institute and Executive Director of Camp American. The subject was efforts by a number of nominally “conservative” groups to call a new “single issue”  or “shackled” constitutional convention.

The Institute For Principled Policy has done extensive research on the issue of “single issue” or “shackled” federal conventions and has drawn the conclusion, based on the evidence presented by proponents of such a convention, that the result of such a call would be a disastrous discarding of the current constitution and the creation of a new constitution.

You can hear the half-hour interview here.

Chuck Michaelis and Tom DeWeese have done several classes on the history and consequences of constitutional conventions at Camp America in 2009 and 2010. Videos of these talks are available at a nominal cost from Camp American- click here.

Understanding The Game Behind The Curtain

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Crises, Coups and Constitutional Conventions

There is currently a movement in the United States that is gaining a disturbing momentum. The leaders of the movement are agitating state governments to petition Congress to call a new constitutional convention. While groups on the left have been demanding a new convention for the purpose of re-writing the existing Constitution for decades  the current calls are coming from groups that most would place in the “conservative” category. The liberal groups are calling straightforwardly for a convention with plenipotentiary constitution making authority while the conservative elements are calling for a convention limited by charter for the purpose of amending the existing Constitution.  While the latter sounds reasonable it is the opinion of the Institute For Principled Policy, not on our own authority but based on extensive research on the legal, historical, and procedural precedents set by conventions of the United States, colonial America, and Great Britain, that the chartering of a so-called controlled or “shackled” constitutional convention will have the same result as the calling of a convention with plenipotentiary authority. That predicted result in either case is a new constitution. Based on further research into existing constitutional models, parts which are already being implemented, we believe that the government created by any new constitution will be divorced from both the bedrock philosophical moorings laid out in the Declaration of Independence and from the shackles imposed by the current constitution. In this light the Hegelian Dialectical nature of the debate over a new constitutional convention is exposed.

In this series we will present the case and documentation that are the foundation our positions.

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You will understand the game behind the curtain too well not to perceive the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in government– James Madison to Thomas Jefferson March 14, 17941

Who are the players?

There are four major views about the calling of a new Constitutional Convention (Con Con). One of them is by far the most dangerous, but it’s not the one you might think. That group will be revealed later in the discussion. The first position we are describing as the “What’s a Constitution?” position. While that’s something of an overstatement (all of these position descriptions are slightly caricaturized in order to simplify the discussion. In reality there are positions that are subtle blends of these positions), what can be stated without exaggeration is that constitutional literacy is at a nadir. We can also say without exaggeration that this is apparently the majority position. This group is, by and large, out of the debate over a new Con Con except insofar as it can be manipulated by one or the other of the remaining groups. Because this group is so grossly ignorant of the Constitution they are often easily swayed by attractively packaged sound-byte style arguments. Because they neither know nor care to know the historical conditions of the first Con Con, they are unable to discern that there are concerted efforts to create a public demand for a new Con Con using deception and outright falsehood to do so. For simplicity’s sake we will call this group “the disengaged.”

The second position is best characterized by the statement “A new Con Con is a dangerous idea in the current social and political climate.” This group is best described as “constitutionalist” rather than “conservative,” since they believe that there is nothing wrong with the country that cannot be solved by a return to foundational constitutional principles. This group would argue that the original intent of the Constitution should be the guiding principle of law, but that the intent of the framers was set aside long ago by “consolidationists,”- those who would concentrate government authority in Washington DC by any means necessary but mostly through the federal courts. Thomas Jefferson foresaw the problem of expansion of federal authority through the process of construction and stated to Wilson Nicholas in an 1803 letter-

I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.2

To make it clear, the Institute for Principled Policy takes this position. For simplicity we will refer to this group as “the constitutionalists.”

The third position is best characterized by the statement “A new Constitution MUST be written in a new convention immediately, if not sooner” position. This group can be spotted by their rhetoric. You will hear things like “the Constitution was written for a different time” or “the Constitution was written before mass communication, transcontinental travel, while the US was a small de-populated shoestring nation, before the ICBM, terrorism, etc., etc. etc.” Of course, all of these arguments are empty because they ignore the reason the Constitution was written the way it was.

The Constitution was written to restrict the ability to concentrate power in a central government. The desire to accumulate power is a timeless problem based on man’s sinful nature. The members of this group are radical revolutionaries. They are fully aware that the limits on government built into the Constitution simply cannot be sufficiently twisted, manipulated or re-interpreted to allow the confiscation and redistribution of wealth or to build the necessary power structures required to administer the giant welfare state that would have to be created.

This group believes strongly that the current Constitution represents an obsolete view of government as the protector of God-given rights in favor of the view that government is the fount from which springs all good things including man’s rights and needs. Because the document represents superseded theory of government it must be smashed and replaced with one that is more in tune with “modern theories” (in fact just rehashed ancient theories of despotism) of government. Members of this group, in accordance with their operational atheism (though many would claim agnosticism or some form of powerless faith in a deistic god), believe that the end justifies the means by which the smashing of the Constitution is done. They will say or do ANYTHING to get a new convention. They are media savvy and smart enough to realize that they are in a minority. Therefore, in order to get the convention they want a way must be devised to recruit members of another one of these groups. They realize that with a careful use of deception and manipulation of certain crises enough people from the first or second groups can be induced to change positions to the fourth group and the fourth group can be baited into joining them in calls for a new convention. For simplicity we will refer to this group as “the radicals.”

The fourth group is best characterized by the statement “a ‘shackled’ Constitutional Convention can be called and completely controlled by the states” position. Of the four basic positions this one is the most dangerous. Considering the description of the previous position you may find this surprising. But it is the combination of historical illiteracy and the legitimate desire to use existing legal procedures to solve crises in government that has led to a situation that can only be described using Paul Craig Roberts’ phrase, “the tyranny of good intentions”3. That is because they have taken the bait dangled by the radicals without doing the necessary historical research to confirm the assertions made by them. The bait is that a single issue convention can be called by the states and can be controlled by “strongly worded” state and federal constitutional convention resolutions, up to and including adding “criminal penalties” for failure to comply with those resolutions (creating major procedural and constitutional faux pas that will be discussed later). The problem with this is that the bait hides a hook. The hook is that all of the procedural rules and legal and historical precedents expose the fact that a “controlled” convention is a myth cut from whole and that a convention cannot be held to any legislative restrictions. Once the bait is taken and the hook set the fish finds itself in a situation that it neither expected nor wanted. The fisherman however has exactly what he set out to get.

The vulnerable group is the most dangerous in the Con Con debate because, in many cases, they have trusted moles from the radical group. The radicals have worked themselves into prominent positions in think tanks that the vulnerables trust to give them the correct information and have badly misled them. The radicals are willing and able to use personal relationships to pass along skillfully twisted versions of history and carefully constructed tendentious arguments in favor of a “controlled” single-issue convention. Though the vulnerable group is the most dangerous, they are not the enemy; in fact many good constitutionalists have adopted this position. Most of them believe in government limited by law. What has happened is that many in this group have been seduced by reasonable-sounding but false arguments regarding constitutional procedures and precedents. This group is well-meaning and enthusiastic about real reform and a lack of historical reference points makes them vulnerable to unscrupulous radical Con Con advocates with a knapsack full of convincing but false talking points. For simplicity we’ll refer to this group as “the vulnerable.”

Rules of the game

Most of the players are under the impression that there are a set of rules. They believe that all players have agreed to be honest in presenting their arguments and the facts that form the foundations of those arguments. In any game where at least one of the players believes that the end justifies the means (e.g., the radicals, including those who are posing as vulnerables) the rules the others are playing by are rendered meaningless by players who deny either the validity of the rules or that the rules apply to them. It is as if in a high-stakes poker game one of the players has slipped a marked deck into the game and additionally has concealed a number of face cards for later use. The cheater might attempt to defend himself with the excuse that his winnings will be used for “the greater good” but that does not change the fact he is a fraud and that his idea of the “greater good” not shared by the other players. This puts the other players at an extreme disadvantage because they still assume that there are rules that all of them are playing by. In the case of the Con Con call game, the rules are thought by the players to be honesty regarding arguments made about the historical, procedural and legal precedents of previous calls, resolutions and conventions. The stakes in the game of whether or not to call a new constitutional convention are too high to assume impeccable honesty on the part of those making the case for a new convention. Therefore the players must carefully examine the claims both for and against the calling of a new constitutional convention. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.” They must ask carefully crafted questions aimed at confirming the claims, pro and con, of the different players and, VERY importantly, they must CONFIRM the answers given. It is not enough to trust that the answers given are the honest truth. Remember, that the radicals will say ANYTHING to get a new convention and that they do not play by the rules. We realize that since this assertion is done in a way that puts the burden of proof on us and so we will make our case by providing the answers to questions that no one else seems to be asking (or if they are asking they are accepting answers at face value) regarding the calling of a new constitutional convention.

In the next part of this series we will begin to examine the questions that MUST be answered.

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1 Madison, James, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison Fourth President of the United States in Four Volumes, Vol. II 1794-1815, J.B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, PA, 1865, P. 7

2 Peterson, Merrill D., ed., Thomas Jefferson, Writings, Library of America, Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., New York, NY, 1984, P. 1140, letter to Wilson Carey Nicholas

3 Roberts, Paul Craig, Lawrence M. Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions; How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling The Constitution In The Name of Justice, Forum (an imprint of Prima Publishing), Roseville, CA 95661, 2000

Is The Constitution Pornography?

Progressives are getting desperate. They cannot deal with the absolutes of the Constitution, so they first resort to criticizing it. Barack Obama did this in 2001, saying the Constitution was fundamentally flawed because of its restraints on government.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11OhmY1obS4&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL[/youtube]




After the 112th Congress opened its session with a historical reading of the Constitution on the House floor in January 2011, this really set the progressives over the edge. First, Marxist propagandist and former Howard Dean campaigner Ezra Klein claimed that the Constitution was irrelevant and has no binding power!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjHFiLdpwOQ[/youtube]

(Does the First Amendment have any binding power on Klein’s right to write and speak lunacy?)

The third step was for several liberal legislators and the lamestream media accusing republicans and TEA partiers of having a “constitution fetish“.  The word “fetish” has a couple of definitions.

1. An object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency.

2. Any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.

While the technical context of the criticism was the first, the obvious connotation was the second. Much like the tea partiers were labeled as “teabaggers” by the progressives (a repulsive act of homosexuals), now the Constitution itself has been derided and sexualized as pornography – an addictive vice that is worshiped, idolized, and causes arousal.

At the same time, progressives will defend real pornography as a sacred right protected by the very document they lampoon!

This is what happens when absolutes are thrown out the window – reality is subjective to the whims of those in power. The Constitution, much like the Bible, is chock-full of didactic and absolute language – “shall” and “shall not” – referring to the powers and limitations of the federal government. However, progressives and tyrants prefer feel-good dialectic and flexible language that appeals to our flesh and humanistic sinful nature. This how government health care becomes a “right”, homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military, and illegal immigrants become righteous victims deserving of mercy instead of law-breakers.

If anybody has a fetish, it is the progressives with their obsession of “salvation by the state”.  So-called democracy is their church, the media is the choir, and the IRS passes the collection plates (at the point of a gun). Some even get a thrill up their leg at the mere thought of a savior-President. Who has the fetish now?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=no9fpKVXxCc&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL[/youtube]

With this crowd, every problem has a big-government solution, and anyone who dares to appeal to a higher authority to argue otherwise is dismissed with sophomoric insults. Yet the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that what is crooked cannot be made straight. (Eccl. 1:15). This fallen and sinful world cannot be “fixed” by the power of the state. The founders of America knew this, and crafted our brilliant Constitution because they understood human nature.

It’s not about fetishes, it’s about world view. It’s not about worshiping or deifying the Constitution, it’s about respect for absolutes and God’s authority over His creation. The only question is, are there enough Americans remaining that have a Biblical and Constitutional world view of absolutes to preserve this nation for future generations? Or will we allow those with big-government fetishes to trash our Constitution and turn us into a European-style secular and socialist state?

Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the
worthies of our country have secured its independence by the
establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our
nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse.
Thomas Jefferson

Reprinted by permission of Liberty Nation

Crises, Coups and Constitutional Conventions- Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Crises, Coups and Constitutional Conventions

There is currently a movement in the United States that is gaining a disturbing momentum. The leaders of the movement are agitating state governments to petition Congress to call a new constitutional convention. While groups on the left have been demanding a new convention for the purpose of re-writing the existing Constitution for decades  the current calls are coming from groups that most would place in the “conservative” category. The liberal groups are calling straightforwardly for a convention with plenipotentiary constitution making authority while the conservative elements are calling for a convention limited by charter for the purpose of amending the existing Constitution.  While the latter sounds reasonable it is the opinion of the Institute For Principled Policy, not on our own authority but based on extensive research on the legal, historical, and procedural precedents set by conventions of the United States, colonial America, and Great Britain, that the chartering of a so-called controlled or “shackled” constitutional convention will have the same result as the calling of a convention with plenipotentiary authority. That predicted result in either case is a new constitution. Based on further research into existing constitutional models, parts which are already being implemented, we believe that the government created by any new constitution will be divorced from both the bedrock philosophical moorings laid out in the Declaration of Independence and from the shackles imposed by the current constitution. In this light the Hegelian Dialectical nature of the debate over a new constitutional convention is exposed.

In this series we will present the case and documentation that are the foundation our positions.

_______________________________________________________

About once a decade or so, over the last 40 years, a group of social activists decides that a new constitutional convention would be a good idea for one reason or another. The 2010’s have proven to be no exception. What is exceptional about the early 2010’s is that there is a looming governmental and economic crisis that could conceivably provide the “tipping point” necessary for a new convention. In the past, issues like the so-called “Fair Tax,” immigration reform, a balanced budget amendment, state sovereignty (already covered in the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution) and a host of others, one group has a list of 10 proposed amendments, have been used as motivating issues. Up to this point, none of these issues, taken singly, have had the horsepower necessary to create the political pressure necessary to trigger a serious call for a constitutional convention.

The concept of the “tipping point,” a rapid and pivotal change in public opinion or the opinion of key players at critical points of history that occur prior to and which drive key historical events1,  is a crucial concept in the history of  the Constitution. The number of constitutional conventions held in the United States is small, only one so far, but the histories of the convention are voluminous. And, sadly, much of what is written in these histories is wrong, based on the writings of those who were diligently working to create a shift in public opinion and were not above a healthy dose of propaganda to create a “tipping point” in favor of replacing the confederated government of the Articles of Confederation with a new, “national” government which would eliminate the states as sovereign entities. After working for years to undermine the authority and effectiveness of the Articles of Confederation, nationalists (those in favor of a new national government) in Massachusetts, found their state embroiled in a crisis, which if sold properly, could be used to mold public opinion and the opinions of key players like George Washington into demanding a new constitutional convention. Men like Henry Knox, Benjamin Lincoln and other former members of Washington’s Continental Army staff, many of them members of the society of the Cincinnati, began writing exaggerated and inflammatory accounts of the events of Shays’ rebellion to key players in Congress, the press and George Washington. Thus Shays’ Rebellion, a local crisis based on a failure of the Massachusetts state government to redress the grievances of its citizens, was turned into an embryonic popular revolt that “threatened to spread across state lines” using carefully constructed accounts of the events that created something of a panic. These were all but a complete fiction. And yet the evidence of this has only been chronicled in any detail in the early 21st century by a scholar who discovered that his university was in possession of the official archives of the rebellion and decided it was time for a fresh look at the data. What he discovered was that the generally accepted accounts of the rebellion don’t match the events painted by the official records.  History truly is in the hands of the victors.

The question we must ask in light of this information is, can something similar happen in our time? Are there individual or groups who want a fundamental change in our form of government and are they willing to exploit a crisis or create one to achieve the goal? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a progressive product of 1960’s radicalism, demonstrated that her training was not wasted. “Never waste a crisis” she told the European Union when speaking on global climate change and the global economic meltdowns (speaking of created crises). [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B62igfNu-T0[/youtube]Clinton knows history. She knows that no radical change to government is possible except as a reaction to some crisis that is perceived as having no existing remedy that   requires quick and decisive action. Thus the quote attributed to James Madison- “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant”- is demonstrated to be an important insight, whether or not Madison actually said or wrote it.

What if a “perfect storm” of concern and outrage over a combination of two or more of the “hot button” issues from the list above or some other societal problems begins to gain momentum? What about a complete economic collapse? What about more “Obamacare” or bank/financial bailout type situations?  Do people really understand that the problem with our current  government lies not in its structure but in the fact that its limits as outlined in the Constitution, the highest law of the land,  are repeatedly ignored or directly flouted by the very people they return to office election cycle after election cycle? Do people who should, really understand the ins and outs of a new constitutional convention or have the waters regarding the first convention, what happened there and what those precedents mean for a new convention been too muddied by historical revisionism and malignant neglect?  Or have those events been clouded by a fog of general ignorance of the history and causes of the first convention in combination with deliberate efforts to obfuscate them?

In that vein, are you able to spot both the drum beat of  crisis and the fatal problems with this “model resolution” calling for a “shackled” constitutional convention for one purpose and one alone?

Federal Relations Working Group Resolution on Article V of the U.S. Constitution2

Whereas the growth of federal government power at the expense of states has accelerated in recent years; and Whereas limiting the continued unchecked growth of federal power may require Constitutional reform; and

Whereas Congress is unlikely, without outside encouragement to propose any Constitutional Amendment that limits its own power; and

Whereas two-thirds of the states should have the same power to propose individual amendments to the Constitution for ratification as does two-thirds of Congress; and

Whereas when state legislators understand that legal and political procedures could limit an Article V Convention to the consideration of just one amendment, the balance of power between the federal and state governments would be fundamentally altered;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) support and facilitate the education of state legislators about how an Article V Convention called by state legislatures could be reliably limited to an up or down vote on the text of a single amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including the possibility of an amendment that would give two-thirds of the states the explicit right to propose amendments without having to obtain the consent of Congress;

Therefore be it further resolved that ALEC facilitate times for legislators interested in working on this issue in more detail to meet during future ALEC meetings and events.

The drumbeat of the crisis is readily evident . But did you find the far more subtle problem in the “Whereas’s?” It’s there and it’s big. But don’t feel bad if you can’t find it. Most can’t. That’s because there has been so little effort put into teaching the Constitution, how it works and it’s history in primary and secondary education. Colleges, aside from a few isolated outposts of original intent thought teach a dreadfully deconstructed version of the events surrounding its development, how it’s supposed to function and the document itself. That’s why this series is being written.

Since many don’t know the history leading up to and during the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 we’re going to walk through some of the high points (and some of the low) and point out where there has been unintentional and where there has been deliberate blurring of those events.  Some of the history isn’t pretty and some readers will find that founders they had looked at almost as demi-gods will emerge as men of much lower stature, men of great ability who sometimes used their God-given talent to further their own, sometimes less than lofty goals and ends. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Deification of men, no matter their historical importance and personal abilities is a dangerous matter. We will also expose some rather gaping flaws in the Constitution. This will challenge the beliefs of some who believe the Constitution is a Divinely inspired document handed down in revelatory style, on par with the Bible. It will also challenge those adherents to the American civil religion, the First Church of the United States, wherein American citizenship somehow automatically rates a free trip through the Pearly Gates as long as the holy sacraments are received by the congregants.

Don’t misunderstand; the Constitution is a brilliantly written document and is unequaled in history. It has some glaring mistakes, something that is to be expected of a document written by men with different backgrounds, motivations and viewpoints. It is marvelous, eloquent, flawed and in modern political discourse bantered about for public consumption but mostly ignored by the men and women we have charged with a solemn oath to uphold and defend it.

And most of all, it needs to be preserved, defended and protected from those who would like nothing better than to replace it with governing documents that will disconnect our government from its Christian philosophical foundation and  radically redistribute power and wealth and alter American society.

This series will be comprised of 3 parts. Part I is a historical examination of the series of crises that resulted in the  Philadelphia convention in 1787. Part II will be an examination of what is happening today to create or use existing crises to gin up a public cry for a new convention. In the final section we will expose existing plans, already partially implemented as part of the existing system of government, much of it in violation of the current Constitution, just waiting for the exploitation or creation of the level of crisis necessary to create the “tipping point” for a new constitutional convention.

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1 Gladwell, Malcolm The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference; Little, Brown, and Co., Boston, 2002, rear cover, “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”

2 American Legislative Exchange Council Resolution Passed by the International Relations Task Force and Federal Relations Working Group on December 4, 2009. Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors on January 8, 2010