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Commentary from the Free Enterprise Foundation, Issue #09-10- More Thought Provoking Commentary!
May 19, 2009
You are invited to read the latest commentary from the Free Enterprise Foundation. It will make you think!
So, You Want to Do Something?By Robert E. Freer, Jr., President of The Free Enterprise Foundation
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress. (Article 5 U.S. Constitution)
You have had enough, and you aren’t going to put up with it anymore! In your bones you just have to do something! Well, I sometimes feel that way too. It is particularly frustrating for me to spend years providing advice based upon close observation and a lifetime of relevant experience, to see it ignored and the nation continue its slide into mortal danger. It is happening just as our Founders said it would. The corruption that eats at our soul is that which was directly referenced by Washington, Adams and Franklin as being the likely cause of our downfall: our nation’s moral decay.
The portion of Article V of The Constitution reprinted above sings its siren song, saying “Do it!”…Organize a national effort to bring about a Constitutional Convention! Make the world right! Regrettably, alluring though it seems, without a Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and the two Morrises, or John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, (neither at the original but looming as an intellectual force), calling a Constitutional Convention is the last thing we should do at this time.
The only time when it is prudent to consider calling a Constitutional Convention is when reason rather than emotion rules the land. Today we are truly too divided as a people to result in anything other than mischief and our own downfall. We must trust to the document as it is. The Constitution has timbers of sturdy oak and should be ridden through our rough seas in its present form. To say that we should trust in the document as it is; however, is not to say we should be idle.
There have been calls for such a Convention a number of times in our history without reaching the magic two-thirds requirement to set the juggernaut of such an event loose upon us. Yet, several times such calls have come close enough to send a shiver up the spine of Congress, and it has acted to pass amendments providing for the direct election of Senators and voting rights for women. One press account I have come across states with alarm that we are only two states from a general call for such a convention. Should that occur in our current muddled state, I fear there would be little consensus that would meet Constitutional standards for passage but much damage done to the compact that unites us. It could very well loose forces upon the land that we could not control and would lead to our destruction.
What is currently a fragmented opposition to the country’s drift should not despair. The current Democratic Party hegemony shows how quickly and effectively an engaged electorate can be aroused to put political change into action. The tools are there. The sentiment is there. It needs to be focused on making the necessary course corrections to the ship of state before it hits the rocks that threaten from abroad and within.
While these forces become more consolidated, instead of a Constitutional convention, those states, mostly in the South and West, most appalled at our drift should consider another useful device in the Constitution to work with their neighboring states on regional issues. Article I, Section 10 permits agreements and compacts between the states, approvable by Congress, to work together in the interests of their states. Here in South Carolina, we have recently entered such an agreement with the State of Georgia to set up a separate shared operating entity to create and operate a new port in Jasper, SC that will serve the interests of both states.
Environmental issues, water conservation, job training, civil justice and public safety issues and a host of other shared burdens might also more efficiently be worked on regionally. Compacts might also help restore to states, burdened by overwhelming federal mandates, a cost effective way to carry out their responsibilities while preserving their regional differences with the rest of the Union. Operating as a compact could also make those states more influential as voting blocs on shared interests in the Halls of Congress. This is a tool that needs to be more closely considered and used as we try to find ways to live together with parts of our union whose perspectives and problems are far different from ours. Not everything has to be a federal case.
My last suggestion is one that would effectively use compacts as well as an anomaly that exists in our union with the State of Texas. We should all do what we can to convince The State of Texas to take advantage of a stipulation of their agreement with The United States when they first joined the Union. Pursuant to the agreement of annexation with the Republic of Texas, it is provided … “New States, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of the said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the federal constitution”
Needless to say any attempt to collect on that agreement would be a political blockbuster of mega proportions. There are those that say the agreement was voided by Texas leaving the union with the rest of the Southern states, but there is nothing in its re-admittance in 1869 that would suggest the right has been expunged. There is little to argue against the state asking for such a division and much to recommend it to its citizens whose increased representation in the U.S. Senate would greatly add to their influence on critical issues affecting the Southwest. Taking such action would also provide for the new states to remain cohesive through the use of a compact among all five regarding administrative and other shared burdens.
My suggestions are tools that may be used to buy time and to focus moral attention on preserving the union our founders envisioned, but it is for us, today to reverse those forces in our land that are driving us to destruction. I am fond of quoting John Adams to the effect that “Our Constitution is meant for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” If we had our own doomsday clock poised before the midnight of our destruction, only we could perform the rescue. Those great men who warned us that they had “Given us a Republic if we can keep it” are long gone and but a spirit abroad the land. By all means appropriate, we need to sound the tocsin and take every legal measure to throw off the sloth and decay into which we have fallen. The clock is ticking and the time is nigh.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert E. Freer, Jr. All rights reserved
About the author: Robert E. Freer, Jr. is President of The Free Enterprise Foundation. He is a Visiting Professor, at The Citadel and elected in 2005 to be their first John S. Grinalds Leader in Residence. A regular contributor to the Mercury, He can be reached by E-mail at The Citadel . Copies of his earlier columns can be found The Free Enterprise Foundation.
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