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The Liberty Amendments – Mark Levin’s Constitutional Sequester

The Liberty Amendments – Mark Levin’s Constitutional Sequester

Mark Levin’s new book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring The American Republic is out, and it proposes an ambitious set of Amendments to the Constitution:

I undertook this project not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured, is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite — that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathon. This is not doomsaying or fearmongering but an acknowledgment of facgt. The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to disfigure and mangle the constitutional order and undo the social compact.

So starts the book. Which then goes on to analyze where the country has gone wrong constitutionally and to propose the following constitutional remedies:

  • An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Members of Congress
  • An Amendment to Restore the Senate
  • An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices and Super-Majority Legislative Override
  • Two Amendments to Limit Federal Spending and Taxing
  • An Amendment to Limit the Federal Bureaucracy
  • An Amendment to Promote Free Enterprise
  • An Amendment to Protect Private Property
  • An Amendment to Grant the States the Authority to Directly Amend the Constitution
  • An Amendment to Grant the States the Authority to Check Congress
  • An Amendment to Protect the Vote
(Mark Levin's new book, The Liberty Amendments, with my yellow stickies.)

(Mark Levin’s new book, The Liberty Amendments, with my yellow stickies.)

I’m not going to go through each of these proposals. For that, buy the book (!) or if you want a synopsis, see Jeffrey Lord’s review at The American Spectator.  Joel Pollak also has a review at Breitbart.com as well as a detailed interview.

Rather, I’ll try to put it in context.  (I guess I gave it away in the post Title.)

As I was pondering how to write up this review, I saw a lot of Twitter chatter about an article by Stephen Moore at The Wall Street Journal, The Budget Sequester Is a Success:

The biggest underreported story out of Washington this year is that the federal budget is shrinking and much more than anyone in either party expected….

This reversal from the spending binge in 2009 and 2010 began with the debt-ceiling agreement between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011. The agreement set $2 trillion in tight caps on spending over a decade and created this year’s budget sequester, which will save more than $50 billion in fiscal 2013.

As long as Republicans don’t foolishly undo this amazing progress by agreeing to Mr. Obama’s demands for a “balanced approach” to the 2014 budget in exchange for calling off the sequester, additional expenditure cuts will continue automatically. Those cuts are built into the current budget law.

In other words, Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency.

The sense I get from reading the entirety of Levin’s Amendments is that they effectively are constitutional sequesters meant to restrain the runaway extra-constitutional expansion of the federal government without deferring to human nature.  Fundamentally, the proposed amendments are a firm check on the well-documented inclination of those with federal power to expand federal power.

The Constitution enumerates the powers of the federal government.  But, as Levin documents in his book, that enumeration has been largely eviscerated by politicians and judges who are beyond reach.  So Levin proposes constitutionally imposed term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court.  Politicians have a strong incentive to spend other people’s money to buy votes which corrupts the entire process, so Levin proposes Spending and Taxation limits.  The other amendments address similar problems.

As Levin states in his interview with Pollak linked above (emphasis mine):

And I’ve concluded that Washington is incapable of reforming itself, which should seem fairly obvious. After all, it has designed the federal Leviathan, which is getting bigger and more aggressive.  And I was thinking: What has this federal government become? It is not a constitutional, federal, or representative republic, as our Framers understood those institutions. I believe the federal government is increasingly operating outside the Constitution and that we are in a post-constitutional period. This is how justices, presidents, and members of Congress are able to concoct and then impose such monstrous laws as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, among thousands of other laws and rules every year, on an unwitting population.

I’d have to think through the “what ifs” of some of these proposals, such as repealing the 17th Amendment.  Considering that the unions control the legislature in my formerly home State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, I’m not sure empowering the state legislature to appoint Senators is an improvement.

I view these proposals less as a set of likely constitutional amendments, given the difficulty of the process, and more as a set of principles by which we must insist our elected representatives live.

A good use for the book would be to bring it to Town Hall meetings this summer and get your Representative — Republican or Democrat — to commit to where he or she stands on these principles.

Just hold up the book as you start to ask your question, and watch the faces of the politicians grimace, because they know what’s coming.

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Comments

“No employee of the government shall make more than 10 times the minimum wage.”

That is my suggestion for a liberty amendment.

    Doug Wright in reply to Musson. | August 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    “Why yes, I’ll vote for a higher federal wage! Of course, that’s what this country needs right now and quickly too!”

    Calls wifey and say: “Dear, our financial problems are solved, and we’re getting a nice bump next year so our Congressional wage income is no longer an anchor to our dreams!”

    😉

Mark Levin reigns as the philosophical leader of conservatism in America, while Ted Cruz currently reigns as it’s political leader. A truly outstanding pair.

    Musson in reply to MicahStone. | August 13, 2013 at 7:42 am

    The longer I think about this the more I become convinced that the Federal Government will NEVER let this happen. The full fury of the IRS, NSA, DOJ, etc would be employed against any person or state that attempted it.

PersonFromPorlock | August 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I have a better (or at least simpler) idea: “No citizen shall be held accountable for harm done to a government official proven to be corrupt in office.”

What this means is that if you tar and feather the mayor (or hang your senator from a convenient lamp post), and IF you can convince your jury that he was (for instance) on the take, you walk. If the Powers-That-Be can ignore the laws and back it up with force, we need to be able to, too.

DINORightMarie | August 12, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Can’t wait to get it and read it.

Very ambitious, and also strictly Constitutional.

I agree with your assessment, Professor, of the states’ legislatures not being much different in many ways from a popular vote; however, with the trend toward more Conservative state and local governments over the last few election cycles, it would most likely prove to change, for the better, the ideological leanings of the Senate quite a bit!

What I can’t wait to find out is which he believes need to be done first, or in tandem, to ensure that the rest will not be blocked by the leviathan’s fear of losing control and power.

Bring it!! Let’s take this country back, the Constitutional way!

    Doug Wright in reply to DINORightMarie. | August 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I agree very much with your assessment yet the concept of a Constitutional Convention brothers the heck out of me. Yes, the product of that convention would have to be voted on but that does not remove my concern.

    The 1787 Convention was meant to amend the Articles of Confederation, yet it instead created a new constitution and did so in relatively secrecy until the product was ready for view. They even closed the windows, on that hot summer, to keep outsiders from listening in on their conversations and debates!

    There is nothing that I know that would prohibit a new convention from doing whatever its attending members wanted to propose. Personally, I’m certain the Hillary’s and Schumer’s of this country would twist it such that the outcome would be what Obama wants, a list of what he’d label as “positive liberties!”

    Do you want the Electoral College to disappear, propose that in this new conventio? Do you want the vote of president to be based on a popular vote, that might happen? Do you want certain “hate speech” to be prohibited, well, what until you see what those new framers call hate speech!

    Levin’s ideas are very much worthwhile but I do not see any benefit from a new Constitutional Convention. Yet, getting the amendments Levin wants to see through Congress might be impossible as things now stand.

    Still, there are always at least two possible outcomes on any such effort: Slim or none! “Slim” at least would offer a small chance for positive improvements to that grand old document that defines our way of governing. “None” leaves us where we are right now!

      ConradCA in reply to Doug Wright. | August 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      This convention has the power to create amendments to the constitution that still have to be voted on by the states to go into effect. It has no other powers.

      Do you have any idea at all what you are trying to say before you say it? first of all, Mark is not calling for a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION! Get that through your head. What he is proposing is IN our Constitution already! It’s legal and it’s constitutional we just haven’t used it before.

      It is a convention for proposing Amendments NOT a Constitutional Convention (read the Constitution for Pete sakes!). What that means is we can already do this if we want to and could have done this long ago, have you seen it done before? Why not? Because it isn’t as willy nilly as u make it sound. Sure the left can do it too if they wanted but why haven’t they? because it’s not easy that’s why and they have instead successfully changed the whole definition of the Constitution so that it no longer means what it was originally intended to mean. They are being successful by dumbing down the population, growing dependence, distorting history and controlling the media so that they don’t need to go through the Amendment process.

      Sure we could propose that their be Unicorns on every Thanksgiving dinner table and that all Leprechauns must now carry 2 pots of gold instead of one etc. but that still needs to get passed 3/4ths of the states. And NO its doesn’t go through Congress so you’re wrong, again, read the Constitution!

      You’re arguing that it’s too easy for anyone to start proposing all manner of stupid Amendments so that’s why it’s a bad idea then you argue how it’s impossible for Mark’s Amendments to pass because it’s too difficult. You don’t have any idea what you believe you just disagree to disagree. Again, the states already have a legal right to do this at any time providing they can muster 2/3 of the state legislatures for a Convention for Proposing Amendments and then passing it through 3/4 of the states for ratification.

      Disagree when you can first even understand what it is he is proposing and laying out then when you understand what it is you are actually in disagreement with.

    conventionofstates in reply to DINORightMarie. | August 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Hi DINORightMarie,

    If you want to help, visit conventionofstates.com. Our plan closely aligns with Levin’s, and we think we have a workable strategy to make this convention happen!

Get the book!

An Amendment that eliminates ‘anchor baby birthright’.
An Amendment that forever forbids citizenship to illegals.
An Amendment that all government forms are English only.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to walls. | August 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Hear! Hear!

    ConradCA in reply to walls. | August 14, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    An amendment that prevents people from being forced to join any organization (union) as a condition of employment.
    An amendment that prevents withholding money from peoples paycheck to pay taxes, social security or other fees.

These sound similar to Prof Randy Barnett’s proposed Bill of Federalism: http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/20/bill-of-federalism-constitution-states-supreme-court-opinions-contributors-randy-barnett.html

One I’m very much in favor of is letting a super-majority of states repeal federal laws and regulations, much as they have the power to approve constitutional amendments, too.

A restoration of Property Rights is a must, everything the founders created and wished for us stemmed from this. It is of little surprise property rights have been under full attack from dems and rinos for decades under the guise of
clean water, building codes etc etc.

I look forward to reading the latest book from the “great one”. While I have zero expectation of this being done
sans revolution, it will be nice to spend a few hours
reading and wishing it could be so.

Fire john roberts. He’s the one who thinks a secret court is just fine and dandy.

Turns out conservatives won’t complain of the misdeeds done on their side. And, they think they can call out obama with nasty names.

You’d think after losing so many battles the right wing of politics would’a gotten smarter. Didn’t. But as someone said at Nixon’s funeral … “You know, they must be burying some other fella. Nixon wasn’t as nice as the mourners made him out to be.”

(Self) promoted from the tip line…

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/mark-levin-states-should-call-convention-propose-amending-constitution

EZZZZZzzzzactly. I’ve been saying this for a couple of decades now.

Are there risks? Sure. I trust the people, though.

Read & listen….

    ColonialGal in reply to Ragspierre. | August 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Rags,
    Great link thanks look forward to listening post Mark’s show tonight. As am sure you are aware “we” are damn near at the 2/3 state threshold. Knock on wood, toss salt over shoulder come 2014.

Oh boy! Constitutional amendments! I like writing these. Here are a few I wrote to see if I could compete with Mr. Levin (haven’t yet read his book):

My proposal for the 28th Amendment

Section 1. The judicial power of the United States shall not extend rights or privileges, provided to citizens by this Constitution, to foreign enemies of the United States who shall fall under the military jurisdiction of the United States in time of war or military conflict; except as shall be agreed to by the United States under international treaty on the conduct of war.

Section 2. The judicial power of the courts established under Article III of this Constitution shall not be guided by any law, precedent or opinion expressed by any foreign court or tribunal; except as shall be agreed to by the United States under international treaty.

Section 3. No treaty or other international agreement, ratified by the Senate, shall enlarge the legislative power of the Congress beyond that granted in Article I of this Constitution, nor govern except by legislation any activity that is contained within the United States and its territories.

More to come…

My proposal for the 29th Amendment

Neither the Congress nor the several States shall make a law that protects the privacy of an elected public official or of a public employee in excess of the privacy afforded to an ordinary citizen under similar circumstances.

My proposal for the 30th Amendment

Section 1. Each bill considered by the Congress shall be available for public inspection, by usual and ordinary means, for at least five days prior to any final vote of passage in either House, except when war or national emergency shall require immediate passage.

Section 2. Each bill passed by the Congress shall be available for public inspection, by usual and ordinary means, for at least five days prior to being signed into law by the President, except when war or national emergency shall require immediate signature.

Section 3. Each bill passed by the Congress into law shall be limited to a single subject, which shall be expressed in its title.

My proposal for the 31st Amendment (this one will be controversial at LI)

Section 1. For the purposes of any law in the United States in which marital status is a factor, a person shall be considered married if that person’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.

Section 2. No State shall contravene the marital status of a person who is considered to be married by law in another State of the Union.

Section 3. The judicial power of the courts established under Article III of this Constitution shall not contravene the marital status of a person who is considered to be married by law in another State of the Union, nor shall any such court contravene the marital laws of any State.

Section 4. Neither the Congress, nor the courts established under Article III of this Constitution, nor the States shall require members of or an institution constituted by a religious faith to honor a marriage licensed in any state.

I’d like to see an Amendment that includes a statement to the affect that Congress cannot exempt themselves or anyone else from the laws as passed.

I haven’t gotten my Kindle edition yet, but I would also like to see a Constitutional prohibition against using tax money to guarantee loans to individuals or businesses or unions and a prohibition against using tax monies to support NGOs. We have enough departments already, we don’t need to be supporting privately held groups also.

    The result of this would be to force conservative lawmakers to hire left-wing staffers, given the ethnic composition of the area.

    It would be a perfect way to put the final nail in the coffin of the republic.

    P.S. So would term limits. It would put the unelected (leftists) in charge.

How about an amendment that caps aggregate taxation at 50% for all branches of government.
Let all the branches fight with each other for the 50% and expect new definitions of taxation and “fees”

    Aarradin in reply to Neo. | August 13, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Nice, but how about a more reasonable 15%.

    Here’s a bit of history: The Spanish colonies in the New World floundered for centuries in large part due to 20% taxation. They couldn’t compete with the English, Dutch and French.

One should point out that there is nothing in the Constitution that allows judicial review in the first place.

I have a simpler proposal. Get rid of the 14th amendment. It’s served its necessary purpose. Let each state do what it wants. Some of you may scream at the results, but you can find a state more to your liking.

He’s missed the most obvious, and important one:

An Amendment to delete the ‘Commerce Clause’ from the Constitution.

Virtually the entire federal bureaucracy exists based on SCOTUS’ gross misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause beginning with Wickard.

Here’s another big one:

An Amendment prohibiting Congress from handing its legislative powers to the Executive, through laws granting bureaucracies the power to write regulations.

The vast majority of ‘laws’ that dictate every last detail of our lives and businesses aren’t laws at all. No one ever voted on them. They are regulations with the force of law written by bureaucrats appointed by a President.

“I’m not sure empowering the state legislature to appoint Senators is an improvement.”

The purpose is not to change the party of the Senators but to ensure the Senators are servants of the states and not of the parties …

the repeal of the 17th is also the most difficult one according to Levin …

    “The purpose is not to change the party of the Senators but to ensure the Senators are servants of the states and not of the parties …”

    Do you *really* think that’s what would happen? Imagine states where, and it’s not uncommon, where one party or the other dominates the legislature. If a senator depends on pleasing a small party caucus to keep his job, that’s what he’ll do, and he’ll be even more a servant of the party.

    “the repeal of the 17th is also the most difficult one according to Levin …”

    I’d call it next to impossible, regardless of its desirability. Imagine the campaign for ratification and trying to explain to people why it’s a good thing to take away their right to vote directly for their senators. Better to concentrate on those amendments that have a chance of passing.

      If people had proper representation in the House, they wouldn’t need to vote for Senators. The House of Representatives needs to be way bigger than what it is so that it represents the people better by having fewer people per congressional district.

      There was a constitutional amendment passed by the First Congress whose intent was to limit congressional districts to 50,000 people per district; unfortunately due to a typo it would have been ineffective, so it never passed. If it had passed properly, we would have over 6000 members of the House of Representatives instead of the 435 it’s been stuck at for 100 years now.

My anti-gerrymandering amendment:

No House district shall be drawn that does not cover at least half of its state’s land area enclosed by east-west lines through the most northern and southern points of the district, and north-south lines through the easternmost and westernmost points of the district.

conventionofstates | August 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Levin’s book is an extraordinary work, but it’s also a call to action. Citizens for Self-Governance has launched the Convention of States Project to turn Mark’s call into reality. Visit conventionofstates.com for more information and to find out how you can help fix what Washington, D.C., has broken.

[…] Malkin Hugh Hewitt The American Spectator – By Jeffrey Lord USA Today By Glenn Reynolds Legal Insurrection – Professor Jacobson American Thinker by Thomas Lifson Red State by Daniel […]

Levin’s “Liberty Amendments” sounds too much like he has plagiarized the “federalism amendments” that Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett created four or five years ago (check-out Wikipedia for a thumbnail description of Barnett’s amendments…outstanding work…also check-out his “repeal amendment” and his book, “Restoring the Lost Constitution”). If Levin has cobbled his book with too much of the work of Barnett, which I have an uncomfortable feeling he has done, this will make him nothing more than a reprehensible plagiarizer…kinda hard to accept, Mark Levin as plagiarizing pig. I would expect this behavior from libs, but I thought Levin had a moral compass. Apparently not. I guess a job on CNN, or on MSNBC, maybe as a Chris Matthews toady, is next; that’s where the real money is, on the left. Good bye, Mark, it seems you are nothing more than another Knox Pooley.

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