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The Confining Power of the Constitutional Amendment

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In one of my recent posts, I talked about the dangers of arbitrary power. The problem is not necessarily how specific powers are used (sometimes they’re used for “good”), but that there is no limit or way to define arbitrary power.

I pointed out that the executive order and judicial review are both arbitrary (i.e. unconstitutional) and therefore have both been used for “good” and “bad” reasons over the centuries.

So, what’s the solution to arbitrary power? Obviously, to have eliminated or prevented the executive order centuries ago, would have eliminated the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, while to have eliminated judicial review, would have dramatically opened the door for the other branches to operate freely without fear of being challenged by the courts.

Yes, there are times in American history that circumstances proved the need for a stronger federal government. The writers of the Constitution knew such circumstances could happen and made provision for it. They were imperfect and therefore they knew their document and creation would be imperfect. This is why they left a crack open for any adjustments to be made.

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Here’s an example of a legitimate need for a stronger federal government: Because of liberty, men and women began to build businesses and succeed. With their success, came the realization that they could succeed more…, especially at the expense of others. As the founders knew, men and women are almost always motivated by self-interest and their own gain. Therefore, businesses began to use and abuse their workers by skimping on pay, or employing children, to help their bottom line. As businesses grew, they began to cross state lines, making any state business regulation or protection for the worker almost impossible. Eventually, the Department of Labor was established, as well as OSHA, to acquiesce to the demands of these disgruntled workers.

As I’ve said in a previous article, few Americans would want to go back to the working conditions during the late 1800s and early 1900s, even though the federal agency created to improve working conditions was, and still is, unconstitutional.

The problem we’re facing today is this: all the extra powers the federal government now has (judicial review, executive orders, education, labor, welfare, marriage, and the list could go on and on) are ALL arbitrary. The federal government was never given the power to write laws about these topics, or engage in these actions, therefore their power in these realms is both undefined and unconfined. This makes their unconstitutional powers fluid, ever-changing, and ever-increasing.

What if, some of these powers (most should remain at the state level), the ones that the states and people collectively agree should be federal powers (i.e. judicial review), were clearly defined and confined in the Constitution? If, for example, judicial review was defined in the Constitution, the Supreme Court Justices would know exactly what their power of judicial review was, and therefore what it wasn’t. They’d likely hate such restraint because the arbitrary nature of judicial review right now is working well for them. They can simply do whatever they want and define their powers however they want. But, this would not be the case if this power was defined and confined constitutionally.

See how this works? Define the powers of government and by default, confine the powers of government.

Granted, the federal government refuses to follow the Constitution as is, but primarily due to popular demand. What if, anytime time the nation gets an urge to demand for more federal power, instead of demanding such arbitrary power on a whim, we took the time to carefully consider our desired federal power, pass it through the state governments and make it part of our government’s job description via an amendment (or not… depending on if it passes)?

This is a new way of looking at government, power and the Constitution. It’s a little more realistic than saying we should simply strip the federal government of every power the Constitution has not given it (I’m sure we’re all thankful for some of the FDA’s input over the safety of our food for instance, while some would like the federal government step in a regulate some of the major corporations a bit more), while also being realistic about the fact that, right now, most of the federal government’s powers are arbitrary. The critical issue here is simple.

Avoid arbitrary power at all costs. It’s not that government can’t have power. It’s just that whatever power they have must be defined and confined. It must be limited…otherwise, it’s unlimited power.

And right now, everything we’re facing today is the result of an unlimited government.

The Liberty Belle

3 thoughts on “The Confining Power of the Constitutional Amendment”

  1. The safety of food by the FDA was a good point for this blog Chris , it was Thomas ? Heinz [ ketchup] who fought hard for safety , through the Teddy Rooservelt administration , good point again , explaining “good” and “bad” !

  2. AMENDMENTS? Congress can’t even agree to do away with the filibuster to accomplish VOTING RIGHTS no less draw up new amendments. True a Constitutional Amendment is confining which is exactly the reason that when a law needs to be passed they now go through the executive orders, legislative or through the judicial branches. The process of passing an amendment is too troublesome not to mention time consuming. People have learnt from the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 (?) that having to have x number of states approve plus having Congress approve is a hassle. The 13th and 14th Amendment gave freedom to slaves, you don’t see any Amendment for gay rights do you? They went with what is the popular movement in society such as gay rights and take the safe route of passing legislation rather that attempting to go the amendment route. Congress is solely there for the purpose of staying there. The left looks at the Constitution as positive rights of what the government needs to supply us with and the right as the opposition and how it can benefit their career. Heck Congress has given up numerous duties such as the War acts why would they want to go and actually legislate? Republicans haven’t legislated in years!

    They consider themselves the “Entrenched Army on the Potomac”.

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