Op-Ed on Reform
by Rick Williams
America is in trouble. Not because there is anything wrong with the American people or American businesses. Our problem is with our government!
Historically, there was once a need for a strong central government. Like the feudal system and the monarchies that followed, there was always a need to protect the territory from invaders, establish law and order, and provide infrastructure. But one of the basic laws of reality is that big things get bigger until they collapse of their own weight. The British and French empires, and more recently, the Soviet Union, followed this pattern until they collapsed.
Here in the US, we have been very fortunate. By virtue of our wealth, we have been able to avoid revolutionary movements -- well-fed people simply do not protest too much. But the time for big, expensive, powerful governments is over: we simply do not need it. Basic services such as police and fire protection are provided locally. We are in no danger of being attacked by invading armies. Our government has become a joke, an embarrassing spectacle. We are so cynical about the government that many people no longer vote. And rightfully so -- what difference can a vote make when the candidates are just alike anyway?
Our system has devolved to the point that it is monopolistically controlled by 'two' political parties. 'Two', because they are really just one party, arbitrarily split into Democrats and Republicans in order to give the appearance of choice. For example, in the 1996 campaign, our choice was between Democrat Clinton and Republican Dole. During the debates, a few issues were discussed, and the candidates were in almost complete agreement on every one: maintain the status quo, with Clinton proposing a few percentage points change in one direction and Dole proposing a few in the other. Neither proposed anything of substance -- certainly nothing radical.
So, if you had an idea about reform or change and tried to find a presidential candidate that you could get behind, you were out of luck. Sure there were third party candidates, but how many of them were invited to debate the "Big Two"? Only Ross Perot, a billionaire, could even get on the same stage! And worst of all is Congress -- rich white guys, for the most part, selling their votes to contributors, cutting deals behind closed doors, and increasingly, just being silly, obnoxious, and irrelevant to our lives. The point I would like to make here is that change is impossible in the current political climate. We, the People, have to do it or it will never be done.
What I propose is a Constitutional Convention, the only legal means that the citizens of this country have to take matters into their own hands. My platform is this: if the People choose us, we will work toward such a Convention, which will not amend, but instead rewrite, our Constitution.
Constitutional Convention? Isn't that dangerous? Well, it could be. If, for example, the majority of delegates were from the right wing of the Republican party, we could expect to see a constitution with no civil rights, with privilege for the wealthy and nothing for the poor. But remember, the new constitution would only go into effect after being ratified by the states, so there is plenty of protection against a constitution that nobody wants. But, just to make sure that it is the will of the people that is being served, participation in the Convention should be limited to those who have not served in Congress or the Executive branch.
How will the New Constitution be different? The basic tenets that I propose are as follows:
Basic Tenets of the New Constitution
- Basic structure, with Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, is maintained, except that Congress will be in session for two six-week terms per year only, and Supreme Court justices will serve no longer than ten years. Congress will pass legislation and budgets and approve appointments only. All investigative matters will be the responsibility of a new Investigation Bureau, which, unlike the FBI, may only investigate the government and assist local and state authorities in cross-jurisdictional crime investigations. The FBI will cease to exist, while the CIA will continue to exist under more limits - no more illegal activities to fund unapproved actions.
- All of our rights as defined by the first ten amendments of the present Constitution are maintained and strengthened. In particular, it will be law that no person may be investigated or harassed by the government or police unless a formal complaint has been filed by another person, with the exception of cases of murder, in which a formal complaint by the victim is assumed. It shall be illegal to attempt to bypass a person's civil rights through the creation of a legal fiction. An example of this is the government's complete trashing of our rights to private property through the property forfeiture laws, which 'pretend' that objects like cars, houses, and cash can 'commit crimes', so that they can be taken away by the government. Although this was originally passed as a "Drug Kingpin" law, many of those people whose property has been taken were never even charged with a crime, much less convicted of one. This has had the result of making it de facto illegal to carry cash in many places in America, particularly the highways of Louisiana and Texas.
- Public officials and government employees can be held personally and financially responsible for their actions taken as part of their jobs.
- It shall be illegal to impose an income tax. The central government (and state governments also) may impose sales taxes (consumption taxes), collectible from businesses only and not from individuals. Sales taxes will be individually calculated for each item sold and added to the sales price. The sales tax for each item will be computed based on a formula encompassing the following criteria: 1) food, medicine, and other subsistence products like water will be given the lowest tax; 2) taxes are lower for items produced closer to the purchase place; and 3) recyclable products will have lower taxes than non-recyclable ones.
- No "necessary and proper" clause. This one is obvious - our government expanded exponentially since Congress discovered that clause and its use was upheld by the Supreme Court.
- There will be no 'victimless' crimes. The use of one's body may not be limited by the government. Specifically, the so-called 'drug war' is over. Any domestically-produced drug may be sold to informed adults, where 'inform' is defined as placing a warning label on each container. No product which carries a warning label can be the subject of a liability lawsuit except as relating to product purity or truthful labeling. In practical terms, 'domestically-produced' means that marijuana and pharmaceuticals will be legally available and thus controlled, but coca- and opium-derived drugs will not, since their source plants do not grow here. Synthetic substitutes can be made available, however.
- Prisons are reserved for housing persons who have been determined to be too dangerous to live in society. Only persons convicted of murder, rape, attempted murder, attempted rape, child abuse, treason, assault, or other crimes of violence will be sent to prison. Crimes involving theft, deception, or property damage will be punished by requiring the convicted person to make amends, or 'undo' the crime, including restitution, reparation, and/or service to the victims of the crime, to include the costs of his arrest and conviction. If a person fails to complete court-ordered reparations, his property may be seized and sold. All such reparations will be paid to the victims of the crime, not to the government.
- The sales taxes collected by the government will be used to maintain and upgrade federal highways and other common infrastructure elements and maintain a defensive armed force. The government cannot use financial extortion to force states to do anything. In other words, the government may not withhold funds from states in order to impose its will.
- Scope - Other geographical regions or countries may join us by holding a general referendum to ratify the new Constitution, adopt the common currency, and then instituting the collection of sales taxes. Also, regions may secede from the union by a majority vote and repayment of surpluses (total investment minus total taxes).
Rick Williams is an engineer and information systems professional working in the Huntsville, Alabama area. Married, with two children, he is concerned about the future of democracy in America and the threat of political instability in the world. Believing in the potential of humanity, he proposes a new constitution that preserves and strengthens individual liberties and reduces the influence of governments. He can be reached at mailto:RickForPres2K@hotmail.com.
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