Essay:Second Constitution of the United States

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Thomas Wright Sulcer.
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Contents

[edit] Purpose

Comment: my original intention was to make this a community essay, with contributors making any changes they thought necessary, but a hatnote was added, above, identifying me, Thomas Wright Sulcer, as its sole writer, meaning that if any of the substantive points are changed, it will appear (incorrectly) as if I made them. So if people wish to make substantive changes, please feel free to copy this essay, in its entirety, and create another essay page with the changes which identifies the new author as the author. If contributors wish to argue with the points, please do so as indented signed comments.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:20, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

Note: A companion essay is Essay:"Problems with the current US Constitution"

Comment: This proposed replacement aims to keep the best of the current Constitution (e.g. checks and balances, divided government) but with substantial improvements (e.g. foreign policy architecture, citizenship, rotation of offices.) The purpose in proposing an alternative is (1) to demonstrate that an improved Constitution is possible and (2) encourage the many sharp people here at RationalWiki to collaborate to draft an even better version by debating various points and suggesting other structures and wordings and (3) to have the best version ratified by the American people. Feel free to edit this document as you wish. I have tried to keep the constitution nonpartisan and I urge others to try to do likewise. Or, if RationalWiki wants to make this a community essay, then it might consider creating a new page without a hatnote identifying any one person as the sole contributor.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Preamble

We the citizens of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Comment: the word people was changed to citizens. This proposed constitution is essentially a document between not merely people but citizens and the state.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: This draft elevates the State department from being one of many executive agencies to being a separate branch of government with authority to make long-range consistent foreign policy. The legislature chooses the president in a parliamentary arrangement, and both president and Congress choose the State department. Further, it specifies citizenship as an active contractual relation between a person and the state with specific duties and privileges. A multi-party system will replace the two-party system; party-proportional voting will replace the winner-takes-all arrangement. A system of checks and balances among different branches of government is retained. State governments will have greater authority in a restored federal arrangement.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Formating note: Proposed wording of the constitution should be on the left margin. Comments -- please indent. Please sign comments.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: This section is about the topic of the overall structure of checks and balances:--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) I have substantial respect for the original constitution with its brilliant design of checks and balances, devised by James Madison and encouraged by prominent Framers such as John Adams. The original three-part structure: legislature, executive, judiciary -- with each branch operating in a different sphere of influence but able to check the power over the others -- was a brilliant way to prevent a possible future tyrant or dangerous faction from dominating politics. It worked marvelously over two hundred years, and it was particularly well suited for when the United States was a young nation, geographically isolated essentially from acquisitive rival powers by large oceans which took months to cross. Foreign policy was important, but not that important; the arrangement meant that foreign policy could be one of many tasks of the competing branches. Unified intelligent long-range foreign policy was not needed then. Different branches exerted foreign policy control, primarily the executive branch, but with substantial input from Congress (House ==> power to declare war; Senate ==> power to approve treaties) and the Supreme Court (could rule on the constitutionality of treaties.) Foreign policy was one of many tasks of the presidency.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued): But the situation in the 21st century has changed considerably. The oceans have essentially shrunk as barriers, given rapid advances in telecommunications, travel, military warfare. A transcontinental missile can be fired from a foreign country and decimate a city in less than an hour. Terrorism has become a more dangerous, nagging, and unsolved threat. There are rival powers who could pose serious military challenges to the nation to the extent that it is becoming much more important to have intelligent foreign policy.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued): The current constitution thwarts foreign policy for numerous reasons but the biggest flaw is this: there is not one single branch of government with exclusive control over foreign policy making. Rather, it is a divided responsibility. The chief actor -- the president -- has foreign policy not as a sole responsibility but as one of many competing tasks, making it difficult for him or her to focus on international matters, and he or she is subject to competing distractions. A riveting domestic scandal (such as what happened to Nixon during Watergate, Clinton during the controversy involving a sexual tryst, or Reagan during Iran Contra) means the chief executive is less able to focus fully on diplomatic matters. Further, the president may be out of office every four years, and will be out after every eight; this constant influx of new presidents makes it hard for the nation to stick to plans which take longer than four or eight years to carry out. Last, the people selecting the president -- the electorate -- are not in a good position to judge whether a given candidate would be the best architect of foreign policy; rather, the public votes for persons based on many criteria, including domestic concerns, pocketbook issues, and so forth as well as supposed foreign policy experience, and as a result the public may elect a president who appeals to their sensibilities on other issues but who is extremely lacking in military experience, diplomatic savvy, understanding of the world situation, and so forth. Here are a few names of presidents within the past five or so decades which have been criticized rather extensively by foreign policy analysts as being less than competent at foreign policy: Kennedy (Bay of Pigs episode), Johnson (Vietnam War), Carter (Middle East & Iran problems), and particularly Bush II (alienating allies, Iraq War II, etc.) The public elected these men.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) The result of these many variables is that the United States has had a mediocre record in foreign policy -- some successes, some failures -- with the apparent overriding variable being how well a given president performs at foreign policy. The record is mixed. Some recent presidents handled it quite well (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) but others were embarrassingly incompetent (Bush II, Carter). There have been wonderful successes, particularly the Cold War ending without nuclear bombs being exploded, and some disastrous failures, particularly the decade-long Vietnam War with 55,000 Americans killed and huge treasure wasted for no apparent purpose whatsoever. But foreign policy experts have long noted abnormalities with the process itself: Congress was supposed to have the power of declaring war, but then why had the nation become involved in numerous undeclared wars such as Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, etc? I argue that in the nuclear age, with pressing problems, that foreign policy can no longer have an average success rate, or be hit-or-miss, or depend on whether the public is sharp enough to select a president skilled in world affairs; rather, the structure of government, based on the constitution itself, is the problem, and needs fixing.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) If one examines history, one will see that there have been few states which have consistently been adept at foreign policy. There have been savvy monarchs (Louis XIV of France, Charlemagne, Peter the Great of Russia, Napoleon, Caesar) but monarchy has (as is well known) the perennial problem of succession, so a less astute heir will undo the gains made by the monarch. The few instances when a political entity got foreign policy right -- consistently -- over time -- was marked by a structure in which an aristocratic body, which had substantial collective experience and usually led by virtuous leaders -- guided policy over decades, even centuries. The two (arguably) most prominent examples from history are the early Roman Republic, and later Britain in the 19th century. Tocqueville, writing in Democracy in America, noted that an aristocratic body was the ideal structure for foreign policy because it was like a "wise man who never dies." Younger members learned from older ones, and became experienced and wise by devoting many years studying the world, seeing what happens. Older members die, but the group as a whole preserves an institutional memory, and has the capability to make and stick to long-range plans. It has the ability to keep promises and commitments, to shield friends, to punish enemies. The Roman Republic rarely fought two wars at once, enabling them to plan intelligently how to play adversaries against each other. In contrast, look at the United States on the eve of World War II -- having to fight not one enemy (Germany) but a second one (Japan). While Rome was respected throughout the Mediterranean War, the United States is often criticized, particularly in the Arab World, with misguided policies often alternating from supporting tyrants (since they're easier to deal with) and alienating vast swaths of the Middle East and elsewhere.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) The proposed architecture of government consolidates foreign policy authority in one branch, with a hundred advisers acquiring experience and savvy from long periods of service (hopefully), and being in an excellent position to choose the best leader -- the head of State -- to execute foreign policy. In addition, I've tied citizenship to military participation such that persons who choose to become citizens have chosen, essentially, to serve in the military if they are summoned. This means that government does not have to guess whether people will choose to support a war or not; rather, government knows that it can count on people if they are needed. And this means, somewhat counter-intuitively, that the nation will be much less likely to be involved in wars since the nation will both be, and appear to be, a tougher international opponent. This branch, so structured, in my view, solves the problem of foreign policy for the reasons I've outlined. But creating it, of course, brings in additional problems, specifically, how shall we keep this more powerful and unified branch, itself, under control? How can tyranny be prevented? Basically, many of the checks and balances in the proposed constitution have been built to keep government in balance, to prevent tyranny.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) The overall split in government, in the new arrangement, is in two parts: domestic government and national government. Domestic government (legislature, executive, judiciary) is somewhat like before, except that I have made it stronger and more unified for the purpose of keeping the national government (foreign policy advisers, head of State, military court) under control. The overall logic is that the domestic government controls the national government by appointments, budgets, hiring and firing ability, reporting requirements. At the same time, to protect the national government from a clean sweep of its members by a possibly overzealous domestic government, I have put controls and brakes to prevent too many officers from being purged out at any one time which might have the adverse side-effect of undermining long term planning and wiping out the institution's collective experience. Further, I have divided the military, so that the president (head of domestic government) controls domestic forces or militia, while the head of State (head of national government) controls forces which may have to fight overseas; the purpose of this division is to prevent military coups and to keep the military under civilian control.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) To balance out the power of national government, I have strengthened domestic government by having the president chosen from among the Senate by the House of Representatives. This brings cohesion within the legislature and executive authority. It is essentially a parliamentary arrangement, replacing a two-party system with a multi-party system (although there will undoubtedly be two major parties), similar in some respects to Britain's, and there have been numerous examples throughout the world of having it work quite effectively. It allows domestic government to be more decisive; in the current arrangement, a president from one party may thwart the aims of a legislature dominated by the rival party, and gridlock has resulted.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) At the same time, there are numerous forces keeping domestic government, itself, under control, namely (1) the impact of other well-developed prosperous nations (2) world governing bodies such as the UN and WTO (3) pared down economic responsibility -- much of the burden of economic regulation has been shifted away from the federal government to individual states as part of a restored federalism arrangement (4) citizens at the local level becoming more engaged with their congresspersons through regular reporting, meetings, required voting, and so forth. I have kept or restored several original checks within domestic government: (1) bicameral legislature with House and Senate balancing & checking each other (House ==> reflecting popular mood, turnover every two years, fresh faces, control over initiating budget; Senate ==> longer terms, more experience but fewer numbers.) (2) Supreme Court retaining the power of judicial review, that is, being able to overturn acts of the legislature which it sees as unconstitutional (3) State governments will again have control over appointing their US Senators, restoring the original constitutional arrangement. Overall, I feel the proposed arrangement is vastly improved, although sometimes I wonder if there have been enough checks put on the US Senate (I continue thinking about this).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) Overall, this government architecture, in my view, will be substantially superior in remedying numerous defects of the current constitution while preserving its best elements.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Article I -- Congress

[edit] Section 1. The legislative power

Organization. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Frequency of assembly. The Congress shall assemble at least once every month. Neither house, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two houses shall be sitting.

Comment: Monthly meetings seem to be a reasonable choice for a minimum given the fact of modern transportation and communication. And since Congress has a key role in checking other branches of government, particularly the State department, it is necessary for it to have regular meetings to act as an effective check. If it is out of session for several months at a stretch, then it increases chances for abuse by other branches.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:10, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Voting. Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each house may provide.

Rules. Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

Record keeping. Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either house on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Compensation. The senators and representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.

Comment: original wording. While issues such as seemingly extravagant congressional pay have been raised, this is not an issue for the Constitution but should be handled by normal political processes.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Privilege. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either house, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

No double offices. No senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office.

Lawmaking. Both Senate and House must agree on a bill before it becomes law.

Transparency. The legislature must make public its decisions, allocations of funds, summaries of discussions, voting records on bills, and other matters with the exception of matters relating to national security, defense, or other foreign policy issues.

Comment: the general benefit of transparency is to reduce the risk of corruption, of bribes, of improper decisions, such that a newspaper reporter could argue for the release of key information based on this provision. Matters concerning foreign policy, such as expenditures on weapons systems, strategic overviews, threat assessments and such should not have to be divulged to the public on the grounds that this information, if learned by rival or possibly enemy powers, could hurt the nation.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Powers of Congress

Taxation. To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises;

Defense. To pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Borrowing. To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

Minting money. To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

Punish counterfeiters. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

Post offices. To establish post offices and post roads;

Patents and copyrights. To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

Should we limit intellectual property terms to 70 years post-mortem or 100 years after publication, whichever is longer? Bootmii(Nomic) 05:20, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
That's way too long. What's piece of software worth in 20 years - much less 100. The current copyright system is a bad joke. --Ender
My sense is that it is much better to simply keep the current constitution's wording about patents and copyrights, without specifying exactly the length of the limited times, which makes it possible for Congress to keep defining what this means. Patents and copyrights are a complex matter of law, with numerous precedents and decisions, and I see no pressing need to alter it with any constitutional changes.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:28, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

Lesser courts. To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

Money for military. To provide funds to support all national military forces, including armies, navies, air forces, marines, space forces, command forces, and supporting personnel;

Military rules. To make rules for the regulation of the militia and national guard forces;

Summoning militia. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, prevent tyranny, and repel invasions in the event that foreign armies are within the borders of the United States;

Comment: by militia, it is meant organized military groups made up of citizens with greater fighting power than police forces in terms of weapons and equipment, and which are controlled by the state and federal government (sometimes called national guard forces, and possibly includes the coast guard). The purpose of these domestic forces is to protect the nation within its borders, to ensure the safety of the domestic government, to keep order, and if needed, to assist the national military in efforts to repel invaders. But the militia & domestic military forces should not be organized or tasked with fighting on foreign shores; rather, this is the task of the national military forces. Domestic military forces should act as a counterweight to the national military forces -- each should have separate spheres of influence (domestic -- within the nation; national -- outside the nation).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Organizing militia. To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Control of DC. To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over the District of Columbia, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be;

Necessary and proper clause. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Comment: this necessary and proper clause, in my view, has been misused over two centuries to justify a huge increase in the size of the federal government at the expense of state governments. So, why is it still here in this proposed constitution? I believe other parts of this proposed constitution will render the necessary and proper clause much less subject to abuse and much less dangerous since the proposed constitution explicitly specifies state regulatory powers. At the same time, there may be instances in which this clause is needed for other matters.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Maybe you should tack on at the end and nothing else which may infringe upon the self-determination of the states Ender (talk)
Tacking on the phrase and nothing else which may infringe upon the self-determination of the states to the necessary and proper clause, in my view, would lead to further ambiguity. The general idea of the clause is acknowledging, beforehand, that there may be situations arising in the future requiring government to act, but it is not clear from our current vantage point in time what these possible actions might be, and therefore this clause authorizes such action. That is, the clause is necessary for government to do its rightful job of governing. At the same time, powers of state governments are hopefully much better specified in this revised constitution, so that if there is a conflict between the federal government and state governments, regarding a specific form of regulation, then in most instances the more-specific power of the states will prevail. The idea is that each form of government should have its rightful zone of authority -- the federal government for nationwide matters such as foreign policy, defense, handling natural disasters, and state governments for regulation of business.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:28, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
And why is state government inherently better? After all, the abuse of the people of Ferguson was by local government. And local government doesn't get the media scrutiny that the national government does, so state and local governments are able to get away with corrupt acts that would be caught by the media if done at the federal level. 50.149.90.31 (talk) 16:07, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
The reason for granting more regulatory authority within a state, to state governments, is not based on any sense that state governments are intrinsically better than the federal government. Rather, state governments are closer to the people they govern, more in touch, better able to discern what the people and businesses within their state truly need, much better than a federal government's one-size-fits-all approach. For example, states such as Montana or North Dakota, which have few highways, vast distances, and much less congestion on those highways, might decide that the state speed limit should be 65mph or 75mph, depending on conditions, while states such as New Jersey, where I live, would be better served with lower limits, given the tremendous congestion and relatively older roads. The same reasoning applies to business regulation, health policies, zoning laws. A second reason is that having more power in state governments means that citizens -- if displeased with the particular policies of one state -- can more easily leave that state for a state which regulates more effectively. They do not have to change citizenship when switching states. What this means is that states which regulate badly will find their citizens and businesses leaving, while ones that regulate wisely will benefit. And this competition between the states to attract residents and businesses will keep regulators on their toes, hopefully. States can learn from each other, swap ideas about how to regulate health insurance, for example. The present arrangement has some regulatory authority in the hands of state governments, and some in the hands of the federal government; for example, Obama's health insurance initiative is a nationwide policy. With the proposed constitution, however, such a nationwide policy would not be possible, but health insurance would be decided by each state, meaning that if a citizen of Minnesota, for example, did not like Minnesota's methods, he or she could move to another state with a better approach, if they wished, without having to change their national citizenship status. Or, in this specific case, if a person was upset with how the state of Missouri regulated the police in one of its cities, Ferguson, then the person could move to a state which supervised its police forces more effectively. If the federal government controls all regulation, and if it regulated badly, then we're stuck. We would have to endure bad regulations or make a much more drastic choice of immigrating to another country. Anyway, that is some of the thinking behind the federal arrangement which the proposed constitution hopes to establish.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:28, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

[edit] Restrictions on Congress

Writ of habeas corpus. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

Deficit spending. During peacetime, if national debt exceeds gross domestic product by 3%, then each senator must explain the excess to their own state legislature, and receive a vote of confidence from the same, and, lacking this, then the senator must vacate his or her senate seat.

Comment: This is a new provision designed to check runaway spending. The number 3% could possibly be changed. I am not sure whether this provision is necessary.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
What is the purpose of this? To try to shame senators? It will just be a bit of busy-work, where each senator effortlessly shifts blame to the opposition. No point to it.--ADtalkModerator 04:56, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, maybe we should nuke this one. I yanked it from (I think) a suggestion by Warren Buffett about how to control deficit spending; Buffett's idea was (if I remember correctly) to have Congress dismissed if there was a peacetime budget deficit, but I had thought that too radical. But I kind of agree -- maybe this should be chucked, since it just might lead to lots of finger pointing as you say.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 15:41, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

No convicting groups without a trial, no laws after-the-fact. No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.

Taxation provision. No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken, or on basis of income, whether earned or unearned. Bootmii(Nomic) 05:22, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Export taxes. No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.

No preferences for one state. No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another; nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.

Appropriations and accountability. No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

No titles. No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

Simplicity of taxes. Tax rules must be simple, straightforward and clear.

Comment: enables taxpayers to challenge any specific provisions, or all provisions in their entirety, on the basis of unnecessary complexity. In November 2011, the federal tax code comprises roughly 80,000 pages of rulings, making it impossible for even the most astute tax accountants to read and study them all. Tax complexity causes numerous secondary ills: inability of taxpayers to tell whether other taxpayers are carrying their fair share of the tax burden; giant waste of time for taxpayers and officials alike fussing with complex forms and schedules; the complexity enables a punitive government official or department with greater understanding of the rules to unfairly single out certain taxpayers and make life difficult for them. Further, complexity makes it harder for businesses to make investment decisions based on financial soundness (rather, the so-called tax implications becomes a complicating factor in planning an equipment purchase or acquisition of a firm or patent, slowing things down, confusing things).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: at the same time, the wording is vague enough to let officials find ways to collect the adequate revenues needed.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Also ridiculous. A hugely subjective assessment like this would ensure that judges would be responsible for assessing the tax code's merits, focusing on simplicity as a virtue. There would be two practical effects: a huge crush of new court cases piled on judges who receive no training in the tax code or financial matters (the latter of which directly impact the necessity of any complexities) and a deconstruction of any of the most progressive elements of the tax code, in favor of the simpler but monstrous flat tax.--ADtalkModerator 04:56, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Still won't you agree that the nation's 80,000 page tax code is monstrous, in and of itself? The elaborate forms, the dual systems (alternative minimum tax & the regular one), the complex system of deductions, weird terms such as "passive income", on and on -- yikes -- requires high power computer programs for substantial numbers of taxpayers and accountants to get through it all. Wondering if there's an alternate wording to somehow get this under control which doesn't lead to something partisan like a flat tax or FairTax, but which prods officials to make taxes more understandable. Taxes are, I think, a huge part of the bargain between the citizen and the state -- paying taxes means, in effect, that a person has a particular relation to the state. And when tax rules are obscure and complex, it makes it hard for a citizen to be a citizen, or to tell whether other citizens are acting like citizens (ie are others paying their fair share of taxes too?). And I do not think a requirement to make taxes simpler would necessarily lead to a deconstruction of the progressive parts of the code.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 15:51, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
You're posing a false dilemma. The tax code needs some reforms, but the solution is not a constitutional change. It's tax reform. Setting up a new requirement for judges to assess the subjective simplicity of the tax code is absurd.
Also, if you enshrine simplicity as the sole necessary virtue, then of course it will become simpler, even at the expense of the complexity necessary to make it progressive. Why not do a universal sales tax or a flat tax, after all, when they're both much simpler than a graduated income tax?--ADtalkModerator 19:16, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
So you're saying that the tax simplification idea strikes you as too partisan -- like it's a code for FairTax or Flat Tax. Right? If so, it was not my intention, but it is still important if people see the idea of tax simplification as partisan. I see taxpaying as part of citizenship, and that obscurity regarding taxpaying as undermining citizenship. It might very well happen that if we can reform government, that a reformed government will fix tax complexity while keeping progressive parts, so maybe a provision about tax simplification is not needed? So maybe the tax simplification part should be axed?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm saying the effect will be partisan. Certainly a simpler tax code is desirable prima facie, but for practical purposes the actual result will just be regressive.
Yes, axe this.--ADtalkModerator 03:30, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
ok.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 08:11, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Financial disclosures of public officials. Congressional officials must make full and regular disclosures of their finances to the public, including property owned, income, bank accounts, and other relevant data.

[edit] Section 2. The House of Representatives

Body. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states. Their number from each state will be based on an actual enumeration made every ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states within this Union and the District of Columbia, according to their respective numbers. The total number of representatives will be 435. The District of Columbia shall have at least one representative. If new states are added or subtracted, then representation shall change accordingly such that all citizens shall have representation in the House of Representatives.

Qualifications for candidates. Each candidate for election to the House of Representatives must have served in a state legislature for at least one year, be a citizen of the United States, and shall declare either membership in a specific political party or no membership.

Comment: This is substantive change. Minimum age limits were scrapped; instead, there is a requirement to have been a member of a state legislature for the purpose of promoting the rotation of offices -- a practice in successful past governments (Republican Rome, New England town meetings) which (1) gave lawmakers valuable experience as well as (2) prevented corruption, since any particular lawmaker did not stay in one office long enough to be tempted by connections to special interest groups.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
It will also eliminate any chance of citizen-politicians. This would essentially make being a career politician a requirement to be elected to the House. It would also eliminate a huge number of great current Representatives, which suggests that this is not necessary to being good at it.--ADtalkModerator 05:02, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I think the distinction between citizen-politicians and career politicians is somewhat off, since there is a distinction in time (ie they're a citizen before becoming elected, and after being elected, they're a politician) and length of stay (ie if a so-called citizen politician stays long enough in the House, don't they become a career politician?) But I kind of see what you're getting at: a benefit of having citizens who feel moved to participate in government being able to instantly run for Congress, meaning that the Congress reflect the mood of the people. A downside to this is inexperience -- that these fresh faces won't know much about governing, writing legislation, how the law works, etc. I'm kind of leaning to the experience part being more important than the mood-shift part. And a year or so experience in the state legislature isn't that long of a period of waiting, so if someone wanted to run for Congress, there may be a year or two delay (while they're in the state legislature). Another plus with the rotating system: it might improve the quality of state legislatures since more ambitious people (ie Congressperson wannabees) will be there. Let me point out that the US Congress is pretty much all career politicians with reelection rates over 90% for those seeking reelection. They're lifers.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:09, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Reps are elected in an alternating system to avoid the problems caused by inexperienced members of wave elections - at least half of the House has been there for a year at any given time. You're imagining a problem that does not even exist, and would just be helping to aggravate one that's already present.--ADtalkModerator 19:20, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Could you explain further? What is the problem that I am imagining exists? --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Inexperienced congresspeople. There's no need to require them to have experience, since half of the chamber will always have a year's worth of experience.--ADtalkModerator 03:53, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Candidates must identify membership with a political party. The government will be largely party-based. While the original constitution was written largely under the supposition that political parties would not play a significant role in governance, from the 21st century perspective, it is clear that parties can function adequately and bring many benefits -- helping to organize political opinion -- and have worked well around the world in a variety of contexts, generally.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
What is the point? Either politicians will identify with a party or they won't. Since that is already the case, why the change?--ADtalkModerator 05:02, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
The intent was to get voters to focus on issues, not on candidates; to focus on platforms, not on whether candidate X had some illicit affair. It was an attempt to reduce some of the attack ads & such. So, a person voting will essentially be voting on a particular platform, not on whether they think candidate X will be good at representing them, and voters will have to think about what specifically they would like govt to do (a party platform) rather than what candidate X says. And the purpose here was to try to get candidates to stick with a particular platform, and not get elected by saying they'll favor platform X, and then switch after being elected.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:17, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
How does this in any way accomplish this purpose or change the current situation? Again: candidates will either identify with a party and platform, or they won't. This provision doesn't appear to have any effect at all. You might as well say, "Members of the House shall either wear blue hats, or not."--ADtalkModerator 03:53, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Election. Each citizen shall cast one vote for a particular party. States shall not place unreasonable restrictions on persons or parties on the ballots. Each state will tally the election results for each party and assign seats based on the proportion of votes; for example, if a party wins X% of the vote, then it wins X% of the legislative seats from that state. All of the elected representatives from a state will represent all of the people of that state. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any state, the President thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such vacancies. The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators. Each representative shall have one vote.

Comment: We're moving away from a two-party system to a multiparty system with this choice. At present, the two US parties have effectively prevented third parties from even getting on the ballots; in my view, this domination by two main parties stifles discussion, prevents new voices and programs from being heard or discussed, and narrows political debate.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Voters, when voting, will essentially be expressing a preference for a party platform or set of issues. The intent is to shift public choices away from individuals (and get away from mud-slinging campaigns, personal attacks, character issues, negative advertising and such) and towards party platforms, with the hope that voters will signal their preferences for specific choices for governing and focus less on the individuals doing the choosing. Voters will vote for issues such as "Health program X" rather than whether, say, Candidate Y had an affair three years ago.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: this arrangement eliminates gerrymandering. Simply, there are no geographic districts tied to a specific congressperson. Therefore, no gerrymandering. So, for example in my state of New Jersey, I may have 20 congresspersons to represent my interest, and I can choose any or all of them to appeal to. The flaw of gerrymandering has been known for a long time, but nothing much has been done to fix it; the proposed constitution makes elections for congresspersons fairer.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
It also eliminate the direct representation that the House is supposed to provide. Individual districts elect individual representatives for short terms so that local constituencies can have a direct voice in the government. You would be eradicating this voice. Consider Texas: the urban constituencies have huge numbers of votes, and the rural areas have much fewer. No politician would ever need to worry about the policy preferences of a rural voter, ever again.--ADtalkModerator 05:02, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
It's possible to look at it the other way -- the representative -- to get elected -- will try to reach out to whatever constituences he or she can find whether rural or urban. And suppose if too many representatives failed to court rural voters, then it affords an opportunity for a challenger to do just that -- appeal to them -- and win on that basis.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:28, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
What? No, that doesn't make any sense. Still using Texas as an example, it was 25 million residents and 75% of them live in one urban area, with the total urban concentration approaching 95%. Why would any politician waste their time traveling over the vast rural areas or waste their policies trying to appeal to rural voters? There aren't enough votes to make it sensible, so the opportunity cost would be too great. In any question of policy, the politicians of the state would accordingly side with the city. Choosing to side with the 5% is just a certain loss at the polls.--ADtalkModerator 19:27, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Let me see if I grasp what you're saying. Suppose in Texas there's an issue where there is a clear choice between favoring the urban majority (95%) versus the rural minority (5%). It's either-or. One wins. The other loses. Then, in either the current arrangement (1787 constitution) or the proposed constitution, wouldn't the majority (urban voters) win? And isn't this how it works? I'm not quite clear what you're getting at.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
...what? Do you not understand that representatives have individual districts under the current system? Rep. Joe (or whoever) is for Houston's lower sixth, representing urban interests, while Rep. Bob is for the colonias along the border, representing poor rural voters. But if all the reps are for the whole state in common, then the party is only going to work for Rep. Joe's urban area and similar ones, because that's where all the votes are.--ADtalkModerator 03:53, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I understand how individual districts are supposed to work. My point is: suppose some districts are entirely rural. Suppose there's no gerrymandering. And suppose 95% of the state's population was urban. Then most of the districts would be urban ones. If there was an issue in which urban interests competed against rural ones, wouldn't the urban side win anyway? It's got more votes. Majority rules. Whether there are districts or no districts, the minority will usually lose to the majority; in either case, rural voters will have a way to try to appeal to congresspersons in their state. I agree rural voters will be at a disadvantage compared to the urban ones. The solution for rural voters? Move to the city. :) --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:41, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
The rural representatives have a voice in their delegation, though. Plus, they band together with other rural reps to form things like the Farmer's Working Group to form a bloc. They are indeed outnumbered and urban voters often outweigh rural ones, but the point is that they need and have representation under the current system. Your change would disenfranchise them.--ADtalkModerator 20:36, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
The proposed constitution would not disenfranchise people, but it is possible that it might disenfranchise some minority special interests, particularly if they were unorganized minority special interests. Still I think a system in which geography is de-linked from representation will be flexible in a way, so that if rural farmers, for example, choose to band together and vote as a bloc, they may find willing ears from congressional candidates hungry for their vote. If they come up against an urban bloc, then they probably won't win, but that's how it is. And different combinations will be possible, and overlapping constituencies.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:45, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
And did you stop to think about how individual district representation serves as an important check against the statewide representation of the Senate? I guess not, that's just "how it is," eh?--ADtalkModerator 22:50, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
One-rep-to-a-district serves to check the state's two US senators, while districtless representation doesn't check them? I'm interested. Please explain.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 23:00, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
The Senate is a long-term institution elected statewide. The House is a short-term institution more directly elected, first by a few thousand citizens and now by rather more (thanks to two centuries of massive growth). They act as a partial check on each other because of their different natures. Basic civics.--ADtalkModerator 20:27, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
... I'm nopt even explaining whats wrong with what you just said sir :P I'm afraid here in nebraska "just moving to the 5 cities in our state" isnt an option for most people.--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 17:10, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
People in Nebraska surely can squeeze into the five "cities" (everybody, breathe in) -- Nebraskans have cars and moving trucks, so I'm told.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:45, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Have fun when we run out of farming products then. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 00:19, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Btw there are other solutions to gerrymandering. I think Stephen Macedo has one.[1] Two fairly plausible solutions: (1) nonpartisan redistricting panels after each census (2) mathematical modeling based on geolocations and using a minimization model (ie if 20 seats for a state, then to mathematically locate 20 points on the state map such that the overall distances -- between each constituent and each point -- is minimized.) But both solutions have drawbacks too; generally I think the whole district-thing is rather meaningless, since it doesn't represent a coherent area, keeps shifting, nobody knows where the boundaries are (unless they go online to check a map). For example, I have no idea what district I'm in, and I used to know the name of my supposed representative, but I've forgotten.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:28, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: the wording of this choice needs re-examination.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: in the US presently, there are huge barriers for so-called third-party candidates to even get on the ballot in most states. The idea is to make this easier yet at the same time, provide a mechanism to keep the list of reasonable choices to a manageable level so that voters are not beset with dozens or even hundreds of possible choices. What perhaps is needed to flesh this out is closer examination of how this is handled successfully in parliamentary multi-party systems in terms of wordings.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Length of service. Members may serve two years, after which they must not serve in the House for the following two years. Every two year term must be followed by a two year absence.

Comment: Term limits are built in with this arrangement. The current constitution has been corrupted to the extent that once a congressperson becomes elected, they can keep getting re-elected practically indefinitely (re-election rates for congresspersons seeking re-election has been consistently been over 90% over the past few decades.) Elections every two years are not fair in such instances, because incumbents have substantial advantages over challengers (access to cash contributions, free mailings or so-called franking privileges.) As a result, the incoming batch of congresspersons do not reflect the will of the people but rather reflect seniority; the Framers never envisioned for congress to be dominated by a class of professional politicians in office for life with constant temptations of corruption and abuse of authority. The proposed constitution means that every two years, people running for office are not congresspersons. Each election is fair: both persons competing to be congresspersons compete on a level playing field. And there is a healthy turnover of officials every two years.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Note: it is possible for a person to be a congressperson for two years, have a two-year absence from Congress, then win re-election a second time, or even more often; but the idea of every two-year break is to give challengers a chance.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: the downside of this arrangement is that every two years, incoming officials will have less experience in government, and may make poor choices or inept laws because of their inexperience. This will hopefully be mitigated by two things: (1) the requirement that congresspersons have experience in state governments (2) the impact of the Senate (which will have longer periods in office, much greater experience, and who will be better positioned to see the longer view of things.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: the two-year requirement means that congresspersons are free to not worry about re-election, about fundraising. They can focus on governing. This is how it should be. At present, under the current constitution, many congresspersons complain that much of their time and energy is spent raising money, focusing on their upcoming election campaigns, and that they have little time to study bills or govern.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Leadership. The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers.

House powers. The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment applicable to any officer in the federal government including the president, head of State, foreign policy advisers, Supreme Court justices, department heads, or other officials in government. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. At the end of their two-year term, in December, the House shall choose one senator to be president for the next two years, and if the Senate approves, then he or she shall be president, to take office in January.

Comment: The House can challenge any official with impeachment; but the Senate will make the decisions. This is in keeping with the House's being more alert and sensitive to the public's mood and preferences, but which will be tempered by the Senate's perhaps accumulated wisdom.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Duties. Representatives must, to the best of their ability, answer reasonable questions posed by citizens at meetings, whether in person, by proxy, or by writing or other communication.

Comment: A new provision. The intent is to increase two-way flows of information between representatives and constituents. The phrases "to the best of their ability" and "reasonable questions" gives some leeway, so that representatives do not need to answer absurd or time-consuming or irrelevant requests, and to not feel pressured to the extent of spending too much time answering questions or communicating, so that a congressperson can spend time studying legislation and hopefully making smart decisions.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Again, ridiculous. There is no actual leeway given here: the letter of the law would require that a representative answer every question posed by every citizen. If you actually meant that only in physical meetings would this answer be necessary, you're giving an incentive to avoid meetings like the plague - decreasing the amount of communication. No one's going to want to schedule any meetings where they have to answer every crazy question or be taken to court over the failure.--ADtalkModerator 05:09, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. The letter of the law says "to the best of their ability". It would be obvious that no human could answer every possible question put forth; priorities would have to be set, and questions selected. Representatives would not have to answer every question. But this clause facilitates information flows both ways -- between citizens and representatives. If a representative was inundated with thousands of questions, he or she could essentially argue for local meetings to choose the most important ones, and answer those. Or, it may be possible to have a "Frequently asked questions" bulletin online. And, representatives could ask citizens what they thought about a specific proposal. Citizens could see how their representative voted.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 23:36, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
So in other words, the end goal of this provision is to yield an identical system to the current one, where legislators answer the most important and repeated questions at town halls, have their staff put up a FAQ and answer online queries, and have an extensive and easily-accessed system to see exact votes and motions in Congress (i.e. THOMAS)? So then what is the point?--ADtalkModerator 23:50, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
The point is to reconnect citizens with lawmakers. It is totally different from the current arrangement in which Americans don't even know who their representatives are. And representatives can query citizens about what their choices are; at present, they can not do this. Complex issues can be discussed; at present, the only way to reach Americans is with a 15-second soundbite. And citizens can see if their representative is doing what they want them to do, not just collecting checks from lobbyists.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 00:08, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
First of all, it's trivial to find out your representative. Here. Also, you should know from the last time you voted!
Further, representatives almost universally query citizens about their preferences. Town halls, meetings, polls, and other such things are not just normal, they're almost universal. Representatives that do not keep in touch with their constituents soon lose their jobs. An easy way to make sure you keep up to date is to get on your rep's mailing list.
Do you live in America?--ADtalkModerator 00:26, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Try this: ask people if they know the name of their representative? Of course people can find out. Problem is: most Americans are apolitical. If they know their representative, ask if they follow what their rep does; chances are, they won't know. Your statement -- "Representatives that do not keep in touch with their constituents soon lose their jobs." Simply untrue. Congresspersons seeking re-election win 90% of the time. Public approval ratings of Congress is rarely higher than 25%. Does this make sense to you? If public dissatisfaction were so great, why do incumbents keep getting reelected? Answer: the whole system has been rigged to favor incumbents. And town meetings being universal -- perhaps, but do any "citizens" show up for them? I used to be a reporter for a neighboring town, and nobody came to the local meetings except a few cranks; try going to your town's meeting. And yes, I live in America, although the tone of your question sounds insulting. And I vote, but not for Democrats or Republicans, so I do not know who my representative is and I do not care to learn.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:35, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Incumbents have an advantage, generally, and it should make sense that most voting Americans tend to think, "I hate the Congress, but our guy's fine." This is mostly because they know their representative better than the rest of the country's - I can name my Rep (well, I work for him, so I ought to) and my Senators, but I'd be hard-pressed to think of the names of the rest of my state's Congressional delegation. The incumbency advantage does not refute the idea that Reps need to stay in touch with their constituents, though I suppose that's less true for Reps with safe seats. Uke Blue 17:57, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, there is that sentiment that people hate Congress in general, but want "their" representative to stay (since he or she can steer more $$ to their district as they get increased power & seniority). In a way, I kind of look at this as a kind of corruption, not just by the representatives but by voters who keep reelecting them. The logic is to make sure a representative stays a long time in Congress so he or she can muscle into the trough and steer more funds to their district, based on the seniority system. Again, I do not think this is what the Framers had in mind; rather, they wanted competitive elections, with Reps working hard to figure out what the people wanted and to represent their interests at the federal level. The Framers did not envision this weird patronage arrangement. And my proposed fix, here, would reduce much of this appropriations bonanza since Washington's role in regulating the economy would be less (meaning fewer chances for Reps to steer money) and state governments would take over such tasks.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:43, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Blue already tackled the point that general approval is low but specific approval is usually high. I'd add that the other problem of which you're complaining - citizens as apolitical and inactive - is not something you can force into being with this provision. There is no reason why citizens will come to your new mandatory meetings than the meetings their representatives currently hold. Once again, the solution starts with you: I'm sure that you must have gone to your representatives most recent townhall meeting, right?--ADtalkModerator 21:00, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Section 3. The Senate

Qualifications for office. Senators must have served for at least two years in the House of Representatives, a state legislature or as a state governor. They must have received training in the law. They must be an inhabitant of the state which they represent.

Comment: This encourages the rotation of offices. The requirement of previous governing experience is key since, hopefully, the persons who reach the ranks of the Senate will have substantial knowledge about how governing works. Further, there are numerous benefits which spring from training in the law -- the ability to argue logically; familiarization with rules and procedures; a sense of fairness and respect for tradition. Senators will play a key role in lawmaking, so it seems reasonable that they have professional training in the law.
I see no reason to bar any and all non-legal professionals from being Senators. For instance, businesspeople and economists would provide invaluable supplementary experience to the lawyers' - if I may, "it's the economy, stupid." Uke Blue 18:01, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Non-legal professionals and businesspersons could serve as consultants, possibly, or if seriously interested in governing, could attend law school. My intent was not to exclude anybody but rather is based on a recognition that there are careers in politics which do require a specialist knowledge, and a good background for such purposes is legal training. Congresspersons are makers of law, so I feel it is reasonable to insist that they have studied it, know how it works, and possibly served as lawyers and argued cases, or served as adjudicators or judges. Most congresspersons and senators today are, in fact, lawyers. And legal training (in my view) helps people to form the dispassionate nonpartisan way of looking at rules and procedures that will help lawmakers govern more effectively. I am not a lawyer; but I've seen it with people I know who are lawyers, a kind of detachment and analytical rigor (even though one friend of mine he never learned anything in law school.) And the law-school requirement is built into the overall plan of a rotation of offices. The purpose here is to accept that there will be career politicians, but to keep them circulating through different offices, regularly, to build experience and judgment, and to prevent corruption if they held any one office for too long of a period. At the same time, I am not that sure, overall, about this requirement, so it is possible I could change my mind.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:44, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
There shouldn't be a requirement for formal legal training. Of course they should learn how to the law works but they also need to know how the economy works and you can't force them to also be economists (although economists tend to have that same dispassionate quality). There are just too many things you need to know to make people go to a school for each of them. If you formed a separate body for economics staffed by elected economists then this rule might make sense. As it stands- no. Ender (talk)

Appointment. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, chosen by the state legislature thereof for six years; and each senator shall have one vote. If vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the legislature of any state, the governor of the respective state may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.

Comment: This provision restores the power of state governments to appoint senators. In my view, the current constitution was perverted when an amendment was passed in the early twentieth century which required that senators be chosen by direct election from voters. This was problematic, in my view, since there was little distinction between House congresspersons and Senators. It undermined state authority, and essentially meant that there was little distinction between the House and Senate (since both groups were elected by popular vote by persons in their state).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: In my view, the caliber of Senators will be improved if they must be chosen by state legislatures rather than by popular vote in direct elections, since the legislators doing the choosing will more likely have greater experience and knowledge to assess candidates. They can interview them in depth. I believe there is greater likelihood (although of course no certainty) that state legislators will choose smart lawmakers who do not have to appeal to the public, to have good speaking skills or look good in television ads.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Since each senator will be like a representative of a particular state government, the representative can take the state government's wishes to the national legislature.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Leadership. The Senate shall choose their officers, and also a president pro tempore

Judging impeachments. The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments and decide matters involving treason, bribery, or other high crimes. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. No official shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present. Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.

Comment: This is an important power.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Choosing foreign policy advisors. The Senate shall have sole power to appoint and dismiss particular foreign policy advisors with the concurrence of three fourths of its members.

Comment: Choosing the foreign policy advisors will be a huge and important power of the Senate. It is part of an overall effort to have domestic government (House, Senate, President) to have ultimate authority over national government (foreign policy advisors, head of State).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: my concern (Nov 14 2011) is that the Senate overall is too powerful relative to other parts of domestic government, and maybe new checks or limits are needed?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Confirmations. The Senate shall confirm or deny pardons recommended by the head of State.

Comment: Under the current constitution, the President has a pardon power which has often been criticized. In the proposed constitution, the head of State can suggest pardons, but the Senate must confirm them, and this two-stage process brings more eyes and more accountability to the whole process.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
No more pardons, then. Ever. This requirement would make it almost impossible to grant them, and would mean the end of clemency.--ADtalkModerator 05:15, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Legislation. The Senate may propose or concur with amendments regarding appropriations as on other bills.

Duties. Senators may be summoned by their state legislature to explain foreign policy decisions and to answer questions posed by state officials, but a particular senator may not be summoned if the departure meant insufficient remaining senators to constitute a quorum.

Comment: The benefit is greater accountability. Since state powers have the power to summon their Senator, it gives the state government physical power over their supposed representative; this means they can recall an errant or corrupt official. It helps keep state governments up-to-date with national developments and helps state officials decide whether to keep or replace their senator.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Consider the likely scenario of a wave election, like in 2008, when one party gains temporary control of many statehouses (swept back the other way in 2010) as well as a majority in the Senate. Instantly, all the members of the minority would find themselves relentlessly and persistently summoned back to be publicly castigated. This sets up for every wave election to be even more severe, then, as minority Senators would be taken out of the running and their committees rendered more lopsided by their absence.--ADtalkModerator 05:15, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Article II -- The President

Office of the president. The executive power shall be vested in the office of president of the United States of America.

Requirements. The president must be a member of the Senate to be eligible for the presidency.

Comment: This is major substantive change obviously. It replaces direct popular election of presidents with a Senator chosen by House congresspersons. This is the way it is done in most parliamentary systems in which the legislative leader is chosen by officials in government to execute their legislative agendas. It replaces the president-as-adversary system in which a popularly elected president often served as a check on the legislature, often blocking legislation. There are numerous examples from parliamentary systems around the world, over time, which suggests that the proposed arrangement will be effective.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
America is not a parliamentary system. This should be called "Prime Minister," not President. It would essentially eliminate the executive branch.--ADtalkModerator 05:18, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Election. The president shall be chosen by the House of Representatives at the end of each two-year term with concurrence by a majority vote in the Senate, and a new senator shall be appointed by the same state as that of the senator selected as president. If a president is removed by a vote of no confidence, then the House shall elect a new president, subject to confirmation by the Senate, and the president shall return to the Senate unless their term as a senator has expired.

Comment: the president is chosen at the end of the Representatives' term since, by this time, hopefully, they will have had enough experience in national government (two years), to select a capable leader. It gives the House, in one sense, a check on the Senate. At the same time, by requiring that the official selected be a Senator, this guarantees that the individual selected will have excellent experience in government, and is consistent with the practice of the rotation of offices.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Removal from office. In case of the removal of the president from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the House shall choose another senator to act as president, and such officer shall act accordingly. If the president will be unable to perform his or her duties for a week or longer, then the House shall select a temporary president to fulfill his or her duties until the period of disability is over.

Weekly reporting. Each week, at a time scheduled by law, the president must appear before the House to answer questions in a half-hour-long session broadcast to the public.

Comment: Britain does this. It reinforces the sense that the executive authority (president who is charge of the day-to-day functioning of government) is accountable to the legislator for performance. A question-and-answer session is an excellent way for the public to become informed, and for Parliament to get a good handle on issues of the day. America needs this too.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Continuation in office. Each week the president may continue in office provided there is no vote of no confidence, in which case the president is removed from office immediately and he or she must return to the Senate, and the extra senator filling the former president's seat (in his or her stead) must step down, and a new president must be selected. The maximum total length of office of a president is six years, after which he or she is prohibited from serving as president at any time in the future.

Comment: Britain has this. It is an effective check on executive authority. Each week, the Congress can see if their executive is doing a good job, and there is a chance to remove him or her for shoddy performance. It keeps the executive authority on its toes. According to British constitutional scholar Adam Tomkins, it is one of the best aspects of the British parliamentary system.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Compensation. The president shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Powers. The president shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He or she shall manage the executive operations of domestic national government, including agencies created by Congress including the Treasury, Attorney General, regulatory agencies, and others which enact and enforce the laws of the United States. He or she shall be in charge of domestic security including crime prevention, counter-terrorism, and the public welfare. He or she shall appoint public ministers with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president may require the foreign policy advisors to appoint a new head of State, and he or she can remove the head of State from government entirely but only with approval by two thirds of the Senate.

Restrictions. The president's sphere of authority is limited to domestic matters. He or she shall not interfere with making or executing foreign policy. He or she may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective office. The president shall be commander in chief of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States. and be the supreme commander of all national guard forces of the states. The president shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, provided that at least half of the Senate concur, except in cases of impeachment. The president shall nominate justices of the Supreme Court, subject to approval by the Senate. The president shall appoint all other ministers and staff positions necessary to run the government. The president shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Reporting. He or she shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he or she shall think proper.

[edit] Article III -- The Supreme Court

Body. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Number. The Supreme Court shall have nine justices.

Length of service. Justices can serve up to sixteen years, at which time they must resign.

Appointment. Justices shall be nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate. They must have at least ten years of substantive experience in courtrooms as trial lawyers or judges.

Leadership. The justices shall elect one of their number to be Chief Justice, who shall serve provided there is consent among the members, and he or she shall assign judges to write opinions.

Scope of authority. The judicial power shall extend to all domestic cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, or which shall be made, under their authority, in relation to domestic matters, and to all controversies between (1) two or more states (2) between a state and citizens of another state or between citizens of different states (3) between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states. The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed. The Supreme Court can declare a federal law to be unconstitutional if and only if at least sevenfive of the nine justices concur. and it can not declare a state law to be unconstitutional.

Comment: This draft tentatively keeps judicial review. I wonder whether this is best. I have studied this subject considerably and frankly it is not clear to me at this point whether keeping a practice, which essentially turns judges into legislators with veto ability, is wise. What's needed is further study of how legislation interacts with the judiciary in other nations which don't have judicial review.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
As Madison effectively argued, without judicial review there wouldn't be any point to a Constitution. After all, if no agency was empowered to decide constitutionality, why would anyone care about it? Look for states to immediately nullify all federal laws they dislike, by the way, since there's no reason for them to do otherwise under this diminishment of review.--ADtalkModerator 05:21, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I still do not see the relation between judicial review and a Constitution. Britain doesn't have judicial review; but it has an effective (although unwritten) constitution. And the system has been working well for centuries. In my view, the judicial review power turns the courts into a quasi-legislature, allowing nine unelected judges to overturn laws by elected legislatures. And it's all based on how nine unelected judges choose to interpret the constitution. --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Well, let's say the Mississippi State Congress passes a law saying that the police can search the homes of black people without a warrant. It's flagrantly unconstitutional. Under the current system, a black person whose rights were violated by this law could sue and argue it was an unconstitutional law and thus null, and the law would almost certainly be overturned by a judge. That's why such laws seldom get passed. But under your system... well, there's no redress, is there? So why wouldn't those laws get passed? Do you seriously not see the problem? Explain to me how anything would be unconstitutional under your system if there was no check to designate it such.--ADtalkModerator 03:59, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
If a state passed a bad law such as the one you suggest (ie police can search homes of black people without warrant) then the Supreme Court would rule it unconstitutional. This current proposal keeps judicial review (it's buried, like in the 1787 version, in the phrase "in law and equity" -- that word equity is loaded with legal meaning dating back to the British common law tradition). I had only been considering doing without judicial review; many judicial systems around the world work effectively without it.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:47, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
So let's get this straight: The Supreme Court, in your system, can declare a state law to be unconstitutional. Why not remove "it can not declare a state law to be unconstitutional," then? Uke Blue 17:48, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
You're right. Done. Good catch. Makes more sense this way.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:17, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.--ADtalkModerator 20:40, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm, which pharmacy can you get these from? Didn't know pharmacies sold such. :) --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:17, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Still, my concerns with judicial review are many, with the basic overall one being that it turns judges into legislators. And please remember that the Supreme Court is made up of flawed humans like everybody else. In the Dred Scott decision, as you know, it upheld slavery; in Plessy v Ferguson, it upheld discrimination; for much of US history, the Supreme Court has been somewhat reactionary, like having a delayed-action response (ie the Federalist-dominated Marshall court after 1800 thwarted some choices of the in-power Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson; another instance; the Supreme Court initially tried to thwart FDR's New Deal agenda). Judges tend to be older, and to reflect the wishes and biases of previous administrations; there is good and bad to this -- bad in that it throws a monkey wrench when rapid reform is needed; good by bringing a kind of stability to the overall system (and checking perhaps overzealous change-happy presidents and legislatures.) It's only in the past half century or so that the Supreme Court has been primarily seen (particularly by modern-day liberals) as the protector of individual rights.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:47, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Another concern with judicial review: when judges are charged with evaluating laws to determine their supposed constitutionality, it somewhat undermines their authority to interpret laws in specific legal situations. If a Supreme Court judge was selected based on how senators feel he or she will think about Roe v Wade, for instance, then how credible is such a justice in knowing the law? There is a risk of diminished authority, particularly when the political battling over possible appointments becomes intense -- I recall the fuss over Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas. It seems every such appointment becomes a kind of political battleground.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:47, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Give me an example of an ignorant modern member of SCOTUS, who was chosen in spite of their lack of knowledge of the law.--ADtalkModerator 20:40, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Warren Burger -- not respected for his legal smarts, described as pompous and aloof. (see Immigration and Naturalization Service v Chadha.) Good that you suggest "modern", otherwise I could name Samuel Chase (1796-1811) who was impeached but not convicted (a partisan firebrand essentially) or Roger B. Taney (Dred Scott decision, African-Americans not citizens, who was a "cringing tool of Jacksonian power".) Generally, I would not say any particular justice was ignorant of the law, but that there have been instances in which better-qualified justices were passed over with less-qualified justices chosen to satisfy some political urge or who met some political test or qualification. What happens today is that when a seat on the Supreme Court opens up, it is a political battle for what you could arguably see as a legislative seat (ie who might get to determine a political question such as Roe v Wade) rather than a focused discussion on how well a particular judge knows the law, or how qualified he or she is to interpret the constitution.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:38, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
That is an argument against the hyper-partisanship of today, not the system for SCOTUS. And that real problem is seriously addressed by nonconstitutional reforms of the Senate.--ADtalkModerator 21:14, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
The hyperpartisanship -- it is not clear to me exactly what are the causes or whether it is a result of the current structure of the constitution. It does seem clear to me that the current structure with its winner-take-all approach to elections essentially dictates a two-party system and all that entails (such as not having any reliable third parties and the elimination of dissenting voices) and while the two-party arrangement does bring stability (a very helpful ingredient for a sound economy) there are negative effects in that there are fewer dissenting views, less thinking, and inability to be open to new arrangements.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:16, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
How could hyperpartisanship be solved by, as you say, nonconstitutional reforms of the Senate? Are you referring to changing rules regarding the filibuster? It seems to me that a mere rule about a filibuster would not be sufficient to fix the mess in Washington.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:16, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
If the Senate could not put secret holds and filibuster judicial appointments, then the problem you're discussing would be fixed. No more ideological inquisitions or backroom dealmaking. It's really, really simple.--ADtalkModerator 03:37, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
The reform you suggest -- preventing the Senate from using secret holds (I'm not sure exactly what this means) or misuse of the filibuster -- these seem to be steps in the right direction towards reforming the current arrangement. In my view, however, there are so many major structural issues with the current constitution that I have lost interest in specific tweaks or fixes with the current model; I have chronicled my numerous objections in many places, but maybe it would be a good idea to float a separate essay just on the problems with the current constitution. I think an overhaul of the constitution is the only serious option at this point.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Secret holds are a privilege of the Senate where any Senator can unilaterally and unstoppably halt any appointment. It used to be a power granted as a courtesy so Senators could ensure that their colleagues would be present for debate and nothing could be rammed through, but now it is ceaselessly abused. It has been reformed twice - once so that notice was required after six days, and now notice is required after two days - but GOP Senators still routinely "tag-team" (swap back and forth) with secret holds or just ignore the requirement to reveal themselves. It should be eliminated.
I agree; I favor transparency, generally. But what I am saying is that there are so many other serious flaws, that reforming secret holds, by itself, will probably not have much effect.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:57, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Why are you writing a new government if you don't know how the current one works?--ADtalkModerator 21:14, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I see the secret holds issue as a minor flaw, a symptom of much more serious corruption in government. And I do not think that merely fixing the secret holds and filibusters will do much to undo the rampant corruption. And I do not think it is necessary to understand every rule in Senate procedure to get that US government is seriously in trouble. See Essay:"Problems with the current US Constitution" if interested.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:57, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
There is an article in Foreign Affairs suggesting that the recent wave of partisanship began about 1978 when (owing to many factors) the basic deal between business and labor began to break down. Historically, partisanship tends to ebb and flow; right now the US is in a period of intense partisanship (similar to the late 19th century) and it may go away on its own over time. What I see is not partisanship itself being the problem (since it will probably always be around) but the problem comes when government, itself, is stymied and shut down, because competing parties lock horns in different branches and essentially bring government to a halt. For example, the recent "supercommittee" stalemate. The long term cost of this internal 12-person group being at loggerheads, in terms of economic repercussions for the entire nation, could be staggering, since debt continues to pile up at an alarming rate, and economic reforms which could have been taken today, which are not being done, will prove expensive over the next fifty years.--03:16, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
France has a constitutional court that reviews laws before they are passed and it has worked excellently. In fact, it would probably be preferable to the current american system where an unconstitutional laws can stay on the books indefinitely so long as no one sues. --Ender (talk)
Comment: If state laws cannot be reviewed by the Supreme Court, we might as well dissolve the Union straight away. As AD said, a state could nullify every part of its connection to the United States, and would not be held accountable under your system. You're essentially making the compact theory into fundamental law, which means the United States would become the Confederate States in terms of government. Uke Blue 21:49, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I fail to see how taking away judicial review leads to a dissolution of the Union. As I see it, judicial review gives judges the power to legislate -- to nullify laws -- but they don't have the power to change the architecture of government, or rewrite the constitution.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
So what happens when Texas imposes tariffs on their own borders, or when Alabama repeals the Civil Rights Act, or when South Carolina outlaws abortion (not to pick on the South...)? Seme Blue 04:02, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: 7 of 9 to concur? are you serious? no law will ever be overturned, and no protections for individuals and classes will ever hold. Times change. The court stands to protect individuals from the overreach of federal laws. But you're not going to get a super majority unless you pack the bench with only one party - which is still a problem.Pink mowse.pngGodotSome would use a tautology to describe it ("The way things are done around here is the wa 21:55, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
The ruling on Brown v Board of Education (1954) was unanimous. There are numerous other instances of SC rulings with large majorities.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:12, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
OOhhkay. And that means what? Even a broken clock is right 2 times a day. But the idea that you would want a super majority to overturn laws means that all but the most egregious violations of our rights will be able to be enshrined in laws. I like that Roe was overturned; I like that Bowers was overturned, and Lawrence v. texas, and Loving - these were all overturned on a simple majority, not a super majority.--Pink mowse.pngGodotSome would use a tautology to describe it ("The way things are done around here is the wa 17:52, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you're right. Better to stick with the simple majority. Changed it.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:42, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Duties. The Supreme Court must deliver an official opinion, when asked by either president or Congress, including a vote count by the justices, about whether a proposed law is constitutional or unconstitutional, but the opinion is not binding on whether a proposed law becomes a law.

[edit] Article IV The Department of State

General comment on the checks and balances. The current constitution has an excellent series of checks and balances which has worked admirably to prevent any one branch from getting out of control. The United States has never had a dictator, and the current system works well to let the system fix itself when abuses have happened. So, why are such major changes being proposed?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued): First, foreign policy has become a relatively more important task of the federal government than it was in 1787. Back then, wide oceans separated the growing country from rival powers; there were no rival kings with huge armies preparing to invade. The greater risk (which was dealt with adequately by the current constitution) was tyranny from inside, and the checks and balances prevented this again and again. But in the 21st century, the geographic situation has changed. Technology (airplanes, missiles, communication) mean that once-distant foreign powers can inflict significant damage even within the space of an hour or less. New nations have become prominent and powerful. The world is vastly more interconnected with trade and travel. It's a different world. Getting foreign policy right has become more important, and the record of US foreign policy over the last fifty years has been average at best -- it needs serious improvement, and the proposed structure creates institutions capable of making long-range intelligent decisions.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued): Second, checks and balances are preserved in many respects. The legislature remains bicameral, with House and Senate balancing each other. The House has greater numbers but less experience. The reality of our world is that other nations -- rival and friendly governments -- serve as an effective check on our own government in many ways. If the US regulates business unwisely, investments will flow to competing nations. Since individual state governments will have much more power to regulate commerce within their state borders, the federal government will have less power over interstate commerce, and in a sense the state governments serve as a check on the power of the federal government.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Scope of authority. The authority for planning and executing foreign policy decisions, including matters of interrelations with foreign nations and foreign individuals, shall be vested in the Department of State and have sole authority to make short-term and long-term foreign policy decisions, and decide matters such as immigration, treaties, ambassadors, aid programs, war and peace, espionage, citizens who travel to foreign nations, foreigners who travel within the nation, and all other matters between the United States and foreign nations. It shall have power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. This department serves at the behest of the Congress and President and is fully accountable to domestic government for all of its actions. It shall consist of three branches: the foreign policy advisors, the head of State, and the military court.

Comment: This, along with citizenship, is one of the two key substantive changes to the existing Constitution. At present, foreign policy is one of many duties (often conflicting) within the three existing branches of government, principally the executive branch -- but the House with its spending power and the Senate with its treaty-authorizing power can hamper decision-making; even the Supreme Court can influence decision-making as well with its rulings on treaties and military cases. The proposed structure, however, combines disparate foreign policy authority into one branch of government -- the State department. This means this one branch is accountable for achieving results.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
This makes no sense at all. This entire crazy system makes no sense. The Prime MinisterPresident can fire and hire the Head of State, yet the Head of State is also supposed to be a check? How does that make sense or shift the power? Right now, Cabinet officials are also in charge of the military and foreign matters, just like this, and serve at the pleasure of the President and Congress, just like this. But no one tries to pretend that the Secretary of State is really in charge in any sense. If someone can hire and fire, then they are in command of a sector. Your system seems like an elaborate charade to try to pretend that foreign relations are ultimately the Head of State's responsibility, even though he'd just be serving under the President.--ADtalkModerator 04:31, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Excellent question. You're saying that the head of state is not a check on the power of the president or legislature or Supreme Court because he or she is essentially controlled by them. You're right -- the idea of the state department is not to check any of the other branches, but essentially to carry out foreign policy. Perhaps I should clarify how I was hoping it might work.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
If we start with the tripartite current structure -- legislature, president, and judiciary -- each structure has a zone of influence as you know yet each one can check the others, and what happens is that no one structure controls foreign policy, but it is "made" by branches often competing with one another. The president exerts the most authority, but Congress (power to declare war), Senate (approve treaties), even the Supreme Court has a say (interpretation of treaties; making decisions about legal aspects of places like Guantanamo. The result is a mishmash. The nation can not stick to a steady course. Different branches play off against each other. Allies can not depend on US to follow through on commitments. Presidents often find it easier to side with dictators rather than to try to work with friendly democracies. These are all structural flaws stemming from the structure of the original constitution. This was fine back in the 1800s when foreign policy didn't matter much, because the nation was so large compared to other American powers, and when two huge oceans were a physical barrier of sorts. But times have changed -- intercontinental missiles, nuclear bombs, terrorist organizations, etc.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
The idea with the proposed arrangement is to move all of the foreign policy decision-making (leadership; advisers; military court, national army) under one department charged with long-term decision-making, borrowing ideas from the Roman Republic and from Tocqueville. It will call the shots. If there is a mistake or a bad decision, people know who to blame. The way it is constructed, however, I think mistakes will happen much less often, for reasons I've outlined elsewhere.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Since this department will control armies -- soldiers with guns -- in command-and-obey situations, it will have much power on this basis alone. It might do things to involve the nation in a war. There will be ties of loyalty, possibly battle-hardened, as soldiers and commanders fight or stand guard in foreign lands. As I see it, this department is perhaps the most dangerous one of all, bringing a particular need to thwart these dangers. And as you can see I've built in a slew of measures to keep domestic government firmly in control of the state department, including the president-led militia serving as guards for the state department officials, hiring and firing ability, budgets. So I don't see the need to have the state department check the powers of the other branches; rather, it's job is to carry out a supremely important task, and to do it well, but be heavily watched and monitored by domestic government. Further, I thought it wise to strengthen domestic government and make it more cohesive (ie president is a Senator chosen by legislature, so the different departments are not as odds so much) so that it would do a better job of watching over the state department.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
It is a firm principle in American history to have civilian control over the military, rooted even in George Washington's momentous decision to resign his post as general following the American Revolution. So, the proposed constitution reaffirms this in full. The domestic government (Congress, president, Supreme Court) CONTROLS the State department. It has to. Any other way would be dangerous.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
But the idea of separating out the State department is to remove domestic government from the day-to-day decision-making of foreign policy as well as long term planning. It essentially puts domestic government in charge of who can be in the state department and how much they might spend in terms of armies and such, but it removes domestic officials from saying how the state department officials do their jobs. It discourages presidents from picking targets. It separates the task of making foreign policy into a separate sphere which is accountable to the domestic government, and which has power and authority to do its job, yet at the same time it prevents presidents from micro-managing wars, or meeting with foreign heads of state, or choosing ambassadors, and such.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Presidents being involved to varying extents in foreign policy decisions (that is, actually making the decisions, choosing targets, starting wars etc) has been a huge source of problems for the US in the past. And what I'm saying is presidents are (usually) ill-equipped for the role of commander-in-chief -- the historical record bears this out. Kennedy approving the Bay of Pigs invasion -- what folly. True, presidents have made good decisions too, but as I see it, it's kind of a happenstance. Consider our current president Barack Obama. He has no military experience, no training in foreign affairs. It is still not clear how good he is at foreign policy (we can only assess afterwards I suppoes.) It's lucky if we get a good president who is capable of handling foreign policy.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:28, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
From this big pile of crazy, I have divined several things:
  • You do not understand that all you've done is create an additional domestic army under the President's control and a complicated set of a hundred (!) foreign policy advisers who appear to have no actual role beyond ceremonial.
  • You seem to believe that just because the President could hire and fire the Head of State, set his budget, and presumably would retain other executive privileges, the Head of State is still some separate entity. You don't realize you're just describing a fancy Secretary of State, still subordinate.
  • You think that American voters are incapable of assessing who can be a good President for foreign relations, and so they don't deserve to decide.--ADtalkModerator 23:10, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: The underlying principle is to reorganize elections so that citizens elect the domestic government (president, Congress) which, in turn, chooses the national government (foreign policy advisers & the head of State). Domestic government is more likely to select talented professionals to run foreign policy, since people are appointed based on merit, subject to close examination by Congress and the president, and do not have to seek popular favor in elections by making promises to please swaths of constituents, and do not have to perform well in debates or appear good-looking in television advertisements. It is much more likely, but by no means certain of course, that Congress and the president will select talented leaders. In contrast, if one examines the last ten presidents elected by the people, and compare these elections to how well the presidents performed on the task of managing foreign policy, the record plainly shows wide variation, with some fairly competent presidents (e.g. Nixon and Reagan and Clinton) mixed in with some incompetent ones (e.g. Carter, Bush II).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Section 1. Foreign policy advisors

Body. Foreign policy advisors will be one hundred in number.

Comment: If the body numbers in the hundreds, it can become unwieldy (according to sentiments expressed in the Federalist Papers) with the risk of a demagogue exerting too much control; if too small (<50 perhaps) it can turn into a clique. So a number of one hundred -- the same number as the Senate -- seems like a sensible middle ground permitting it to have sufficient numbers to offer a variety of diverse viewpoints, yet not being so large that internal management becomes an ongoing concern.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
If you're going to have anything more than twenty there must be some way to differentiate between them - are you going to have x number of ambassadors, y number of decision theorists, z number or military leaders, etc? If you don't sectionalize or otherwise destinguish them you'll just end up with one hundred identical talking heads. Congress can hold hundreds because they represent different intrests. In the courent constitution, groups where the member have identical functions (such as SCOTUS) are always small.

Qualifications. Candidates, when appointed, must be younger than forty years of age, with the exception being when the Constitution is ratified, in which case fifty advisors can be chosen regardless of age.

Comment: The younger than forty requirement is made with the hope that these advisers would enter the body and stay a long time, perhaps several decades, to give the group experience and consistency. If advisers were appointed who were in their fifties, sixties, or seventies, they may indeed be wiser but their length of service, on average, would not be as long. And it would be possible to assess candidates based on their experience up until their late thirties.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Length of term. Officials will be appointed for life terms, and can serve as long as they are able, or until they resign, are fired, die, succumb to illness, or are removed from office by impeachment proceedings or other legal action. When a vacancy happens, and the number of foreign policy advisors is less than one hundred, then the Senate must appoint another advisor to keep the body of advisors at one hundred.

They should have a manditory retirement age (maybe 75) so as not to become a body of senile old men.

State department powers and duties. The department of State is charged with making consistent long-term national foreign policy. It must make treaties, make rules relating to immigration or relating to visits by citizens abroad or by foreigners visiting; regulate commerce with foreign nations; define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations; grant letters of marque and reprisal, make rules concerning captures on land and water and air and space; construct forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings; and organize armies. They appoint and dismiss the head of State. Officials must make full and regular disclosures of assets, property owned, income, and other financial information to Congress.

Comment: The idea is that the State department controls all of the major internal variables influencing foreign policy.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: There is a parallel structure with Congress in that the advisers appoint the head of State, in the same way that the Congress (the House) appoints the president (who is a member of the Senate).
Comment: Full disclosures to government are a way of discouraging corruption.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: The advisers can dismiss the head of State whenever they wish. This solves a key weakness with the current US constitution in which an incompetent or medically distressed head of foreign policy -- the president -- can linger in office for year after year while foreign policy drifts. Examples are well known: Wilson in his later years; possibly Franklin Roosevelt in his later years; the second Bush was widely criticized as incompetent yet he served eight years. There are other instances. The basic problem is that the US president has too many roles -- domestic and international -- and once in office, removing him or her can be difficult since they are also the de facto leader of a political party.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Section 2. The head of State

Powers and duties. The head of State will be commander in chief of the national armies, and be in charge of espionage agencies, ambassadors, and all staff and personnel related to these functions. He or she shall make all military appointments. He or she shall shall receive foreign leaders, including foreign heads of State, ambassadors, and others at his or her discretion.

[edit] Section 3. The military court

Body. It shall consist of eleven justices.

Comment: why eleven? This choice is somewhat arbitrary; I wanted an odd number to prevent tie votes and help the group reach decisions each time. Three or five or seven might give too much power in a few hands; nine might have been sufficient, but eleven I chose simply because it's a different number than nine (to make it intellectually more distinct from the Supreme Court which has nine) and that more members would give this court a potential means to examine any particular cases in more depth, assuming that the cases coming before this body might be more complex (possibly involving the laws of other nations or the obscurity of wartime or hard-to-chronicle events).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Election. Justices will be appointed by the foreign policy advisors and confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate. They shall serve for terms up to fifteen years. Each justice must be a lawyer with experience handling military or international cases. Any particular justice can be removed by the Supreme Court if there is concurrence by seven of the nine Supreme Court justices.

Jurisdiction. The military court will have the final word in interpreting and judging all matters relating to foreign policy, including foreign relations, treaties, acts by citizens or soldiers abroad, or by foreigners in the United States. Its basis is military law subject to stare decisis and a respect for precedent. Its judicial Power shall extend to: all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the department of State; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign policy officials and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to international controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects; to cases involving military discipline of the national armies, or actions by soldiers or officers thereof.

Treason. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

[edit] Article V State governments

Comment: (General) The original constitution was set up as a federal arrangement, with states having sufficient power to make most choices within their boundaries. But these powers were expressed only vaguely near the end of the Bill of Rights, that is, state powers were not spelled out. And, over time, with increasing specialization, growing size, and a Supreme Court which usually sided with national government over state governments, the state powers were eroded, particularly with creative interpretations of clauses such as the Necessary and Proper clause, and the Commerce Clause. The vagueness worked against state autonomy.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: The benefits of a federal arrangement, according to Tocqueville and others, are to reap the economic benefits of small size but combined under a national umbrella of defense. The federal government would decide matters if disputes happened between the states. But it was not expected that Washington DC would be a one-size-fits-all economic regulator (which in many respects today it has become). Rather, each state would be like an experiment in regulation, trying different approaches, passing different laws, trying to build a framework which was appealing to citizens, workable for businesses and workers and unions, and protected property rights. Economic regulation within a state was much more likely to be sound because lawmakers were physically closer to the people and hopefully more knowledgeable about what they wanted. Decisions were likely to be tighter -- reflecting the needs of particular inhabitants -- rather than having to apply to over 300 million people (current US population expected to be 350 million as of 2050.) And if economic lawmaking was ill-informed, citizens of one state had the option to move to a state which regulated more wisely while, at the same time, not having to sacrifice one's national identity. State power empowers citizens and allows them an out -- an escape -- from bad economic regulation. Further, state governments could learn from other state governments -- to see which rules or policies were working, and in a sense, the fifty states could improve regularly by sharing data and looking at how the experiments of other states fared. In contrast, in the current structure, Washington can make a bad law, and the whole nation has to suffer under it, and there is no alternative internal domestic structure to alert people or officials that the particular policy is ineffective or counterproductive.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued): The counter-view is that there is a benefit to uniform regulations. It makes it simpler. There is only one law to learn. So a business in one state can move to another, or set up operations in another, and not have to hire new lawyers skilled in the laws of a particular state.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment (continued:) So to try to get the best of both worlds, there may be some aspects of economic regulation in which a majority of states would like a specific arrangement, and in such instances, the entire nation will have to comply.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
What if all the most rural states agree to a plan that shifts money from cities to small towns and farms? There should either be a super majority, a requirement that this majority of states also represent a majority of population, or that a majority of states and a majority of congress agree. The last two seem like the most workable.

Regulation of commerce. State governments shall have full authority to manage all domestic issues within their state, including the regulation of commerce as well as rules regarding business, education, the professions, health care, insurance, taxation, and transportation. States must make their rules and procedures clear to neighboring states, businesses, employers, workers and visitors. If a majority of state governments favor a specific plan regarding a certain industry or economic sector, then they may ask Congress to make rules which apply to the entire nation for that industry or sector, and this arrangement will be in force as long as a majority of states agree to this arrangement.

Full faith and credit. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

Fugitives. A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.

Restrictions. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility. No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress. No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

State citizenship. States have full authority to specify rules regarding citizenship in their state, with the exception being that states can not offer state citizenship to persons who are not citizens of the United States. Persons can not be state-citizens of two states, but must choose citizenship in only one particular state; in matters where state citizenship is undecided or disputed or unclear, then the matter will be decided by laws set by Congress.

Protection. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.

[edit] Article VI Citizens

Definition. Citizens are members of the body politic of the United States who fulfill the duties and enjoy the privileges of citizenship, and who are recognized as citizens by the government and by fellow citizens, and who recognize the Constitution as the legitimate authority of the United States. Citizenship is a relation between the person and the state which is chosen voluntarily by both person and government and which is characterized by effort over time by both. The relation can be dissolved by either the person or the state or by fellow citizens only through due process.

Becoming a citizen. Persons eligible for citizenship must be at least eighteen years of age, be of sound mind, be not substantially dependent on another person, be aware of the duties and privileges of citizenship, and be not a recipient of substantial government aid. To become a citizen, applicants must choose citizenship freely and without duress in a public ceremony and:

Yeah, we don't need to offer civil rights to disabled people & the poor. But what about the Jews and the queers? Don't forget to sideline them as well. WēāŝēīōīďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 07:54, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Why would those groups be sidelined? It would be up to each individual whether they wanted to become a citizen or not. My sense is you're looking at citizenship with the current model, that is, citizenship is like a gift to give out or bestow on people, or some kind of universal right that most people have, that is, birthright citizenship. But my sense is citizenship should be something more -- an active relation chosen by both the person and the state, which entails some rather weighty commitments (possible military service) as well as substantial benefits.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 12:09, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Why would those groups be sidelined? Why not? Your requirement for citizens to be capable of military service is no less arbitrary than a requirement to be heterosexual would be, for example. Rather weighty commitments as well as substantial benefits. The benefits don't weigh well against the commitments. Citizens must pay taxes and complete military service, but they cannot claim welfare; while non-citizens do not pay taxes but may be eligible for welfare. This is a nonsense kind of social contract, and only an eccentric & elitist minority would opt for citizenship under such a system. ŴêâŝêîôîďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:50, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Usually, when a person is granted citizenship, their minor children get it at the same time. Your proposal would give the parents citizenship, but force the minor children to wait until they are eighteen and then get it by themselves. I think having different citizenship between parents and minor children could be very problematic in some circumstances. Also, I would think that the same should apply to dependent adults of a citizen (e.g. if intellectually disabled child of a citizen, or to-be-citizen, should be eligible for citizenship on account of the parent.) And also read this. (((Zack Martin))) 03:44, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes perhaps how citizenship plays out, between parents and children, and an adult and a dependent adult possibly, might in some instances be problematic, but that the problems (in my view) do not seem so difficult, because it would be possible for children to become citizens upon reaching the age of majority if this is what they wanted.
I am sensing, based on your comment, that you still are considering citizenship as a kind of legal right mostly -- a right to have rights -- a legal membership in a nation. And this is what the current sense of citizenship is (I wrote good chunks of Wikipedia's article "Citizenship in the United States"). But what I'm saying is that the relation of citizenship should be something much more than a legal marker of belonging; rather, it should be an active relationship between a member of the nation and the state. Citizens, in this conception, would be contributing functioning members of the larger political body -- active small-d democrats -- who pay attention to what is going on in the political realm, who know who their congresspersons are, who show up at local meetings, who vote, who do not avoid jury duty, who agree to serve in the military if summoned, and so forth. It is a chosen relationship -- marked by thinking, commitment, and effort. And the constitution should essentially be like a contract between these people and the government.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
About the article about the wannabe-Australian doctor refused citizenship because his son had Down syndrome and it had forecasted that admittance to citizenship would have exerted a huge negative drain on government health care funds: again, this is more of a modern sense of citizenship (which the US has in some respects too) in the sense that citizen-as-member is a kind of entitlement to receive government aid. In my sense, national citizenship should not be a ticket to get government handouts or to become a ward of the state. A handout recipient, or in this instance a beneficiary of subsidized health care, is not really a real citizen in the sense of being a self-supporting independent person standing on one's own feet. Handout recipients are almost owned by the state in a sense, and are not really free because they depend on the generosity of others, and live off other taxpayers via transfer payments. And the problem with Australia's system (in my view) is that a valuable possible citizen (the doctor) is being refused citizenship because of an economic concern regarding a child (the Down syndrome patient); that is, the problem is that linking up parental ties with a forecasted economic drain analysis leads the government of Australia to deny themselves a valuable doctor. De-linking citizenship with parental relations would actually help in this instance, because Australia could admit the doctor to be a citizen, and not admit the child (since the mental impairment prevented him (I assume) from contributing politically.) At the same time, it might be possible for political entities within Australia (individual states or provinces or whatever they're called) to offer arrangements such as subsidized health care, welfare benefits, childcare assistance and such; in the US, individual states such as Maryland or Oregon could decide to offer subsidies of sorts to entice people to move there, or to provide them because of humanitarian concerns.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Alright, citizens are people who agree to this social contract, correct? So the real issue is: What do you call all the other legal residents? What rights and responsibilities do they have? How does this secondary relationship play out and what are the requirements for it? Are you really saying that the State has no obligation to any children under any circumstances due to a lack of citizenship?Ender (talk)

Requirements

1 affirm an oath of loyalty to the nation and to fellow citizens;

Comment: loyalty to fellow citizens is important too; if government becomes tyrannical or abusive, then a citizen should be able to depend on the support of fellow citizens in such instances.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
What about religious groups that have a moral objection to swearing oaths, such as Quakers or Jehovah's Witnesses. Would they be denied citizenship due to their refusal to take oaths? What about a person who could not make an oath due to physical or intellectual disability? (((Zack Martin))) 03:45, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Whether the contract is called an "oath" or "swearing" or "affirmation" is less important than the essence of the relationship, which is more along the lines of a contract: citizen X promises to do such-and-such; in return government Y promises to do such-and-such. And I assume that Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses can make contracts, like buying a car or house (I'm not thoroughly knowledgeable about these particular religions) but if so, then they could choose or not choose to agree to become citizens. For persons who refuse ever to fight in a war, then in my view they could not and should not be citizens, since they should not exert a control over the nation (by voting) while not being prepared to make the sacrifices that other citizens would be making. And if a person had a sufficient intellectual or physical disability that prevented them from making an oath (or understanding a contract) then can this person be a real citizen? Can they understand what happens in a local town meeting? Can they vote reliably? My sense is they most likely could not do such things, so they would not be allowed to become citizens for that reason. It sounds unfair on the face of it -- but at the same time, it is not fair to real citizens if people are allowed to become citizens when incapable of fulfilling that role.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Why can't conscientious objectors do non-military service like in other developed countries. Are you saying that a person who is willing to tend to the sick and wounded, repair buildings, and provide technical support makes no sacrifice? Ender (talk)

2 make a commitment to support individual rights;

Comment: while the subject of what constitutes a right can become complex, an individual right, in the sense used here, is a power of the individual to act in the future which is acknowledged and permitted by others. It is an understood realm of future action. In society, laws try to delineate these spheres of future action and make them as large as possible, and specify limits (e.g. one person has a right to swing one's fist provided it does not strike a neighbor's nose).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

3 sign a copy of the Constitution with at least one witness from the government as well as one witness who is a citizen in a manner prescribed by Congress.

Comment: the signatures (one from the citizen, one from a government official) emphasize that this is a contractual relation, with specific duties and obligations among the parties. If there are questions about what it means, persons can examine the document itself. It makes it easier to hold parties accountable for keeping true to the Constitution.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: one of my many problems with the current conception of citizenship, as it is understood in the present arrangement, is that it merely happens. There is no choosing. Nobody thinks about what, if anything, citizenship means. A person, born in the United States, becomes eighteen years old, and whoosh -- they're a citizen automatically without having to do anything. The idea of the public signing -- of a person deliberately choosing to become a citizen -- is, in part, to prompt people to think about what it means, and to value citizenship as an important relation and aspect of their lives.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
A person is a citizen from the time they are born on soil currently, not magically at 18. The difference is until they can vote they are a SECOND CLASS citizen. As for having to choose, you don't seem to understand a lot about how americans think.
Yes I understand how Americans think. Essentially, citizenship today is an empty relationship, more like a legal label, and I am arguing that it should be something more, something chosen, a valued relation. I think a big part of America's problems today stem from a disconnect between people and government, and I am trying to restore this by reinvigorating the relation of citizenship. It should mean something. It should be respected and valued. And the issue of juveniles being "citizens" -- well we're talking semantics here. In the current arrangement, when a person born in the US becomes eighteen, they can vote, hence they're considered as a "citizen" at this point; whether we call children as "citizens" is merely a semantic issue, not substantive.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 12:27, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

Duties. Citizens must vote, attend regularly-held local government meetings, attend jury duty if summoned, serve in the armed forces if summoned, uphold individual rights, obey the law, pay taxes, and defend fellow citizens if government becomes tyrannical. Citizens traveling to foreign nations are bound to observe rules and guidelines issued by the department of State.

Comment: Voting here is a requirement, not an option. When huge swaths of the electorate don't vote, as with the current arrangement, their views are kept out of the political process, distorting choices, since the persons who actually take time to vote have relatively more influence and tend to be somewhat more activist. This can lead to polarization and disenchantment.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Oh for the love of god, requiring every single person to vote will simply make elections and apathy even worse, as large swaths of people will either say "Screw you" anyways, and you aren't going to be able to arrest MILLIONS of people, or vote for whoever is at the top of the ballot so they can leave as fast as possible. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:15, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
You're assuming that people will remain apathetic and apolitical as they are now (only half vote). The idea is that voting is a responsibility and duty of being a citizen; citizens who shirk this task are failing to fulfill part of their bargain; they would not be arrested, but they might lose their citizenship, under this arrangement, and properly so, since when becoming a citizen they pledged to vote, and they broke their promise. The reason that most people today are apathetic is because they feel powerless, unconnected, unable to control what happens in their supposed democracy; but the idea by this requirement is the reverse, that is, to reconnect people with politicians, to restore some control to people, to empower them, and voting is one aspect of this.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 12:18, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
"Vote or you CANT BE A CITIZEN, YOU WILL HAVE NO CIVIL LIBERTIES" that would start a fucking revolution. Just because somebody doesnt fucking vote does NOT mean they arent a good citizen, it just means they dont give a damn because they rightly know whoever in power will do the same thing as the other people they could have voted for. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 14:51, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. Voting should be a part of citizenship. It is a vital duty which citizens should do. It reaffirms their interest in which officials get elected and which do not. It signals interest and caring and involvement. When a sizeable proportion of the electorate fails to vote, then this distorts the results of elections, since the officials who get elected do not represent the people but only a faction of the people (those who voted.) You could see it this way too -- one person's decision to not vote affects other people's rights to have the best possible representatives chosen, since the stay-at-homes distort the election results.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
About your comment about why people don't vote -- "they rightly know whoever in power will do the same thing as the other people they could have voted for." Unfortunately, I agree that this is the case with the current arrangement. I'm nonpartisan. And I don't vote for Republicans or Democrats for pretty much the same reason. It's a fruitless exercise. (Actually I do vote, but mostly to get exercise, and vote only for any possible third party candidates even though I know they won't win.) But with the proposed constitution, voting WILL make a difference, since there will be choices, good choices hopefully -- not just the two parties but more choices -- with competitive elections for congresspersons (no lifers; term limits; no incumbents to run against), and citizens WILL be better informed about different choices from their regular attendance at local government meetings. And if this proposed constitution ever was ratified, or something better, then it would be logical for both of us to vote.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
In Australia, we have "compulsory voting". Everything is fine. Technically, it is not compulsory to vote — but legally you must attend the voting station to get your name ticked off, or else you can be fined (they won't fine you if you have what they consider a reasonable excuse.) A significant minority put empty ballot papers in the ballot box, or similar things (i.e. intentionally vote informally). But due to this system, voter turnout is always in the high nineties. (((Zack Martin))) 03:48, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Compulsory voting in Australia sounds like a much better system than in the US, since it succeeds in achieving almost universal turnout. In the US, voting is optional -- generally only about half of the eligible voters do, in fact, vote -- and in my view, this causes numerous distortions, since it is never quite clear if the no-shows were happy with the end result. But there are counter-arguments too, one being that forcing non-interested voters to vote may cause them to pick candidates randomly, possibly distorting the choices of voters who had been paying attention to issues and platforms. Still, I think voting is what persons in democracies should do; it's part of participating.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)


Comment: The purpose of the meetings is to help citizens and elected officials stay in touch with each other, to learn what is going on. There should be a limit of how many hours are required per year for attending meetings, perhaps four -- one every three months perhaps, so that this task does not become too burdensome to people or such an extended time commitment that it interferes with people doing their regular jobs. But regular meetings mean that people have a chance to learn the give and take of argument, to learn to participate, to keep informed about political developments, to be reachable when there are complex issues needing to be discussed. It is a vital exercise in government. Further, citizens can get a sense of who the best representatives are, and elect them.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Please see the above that forcing people into meetings will only further increase dislike of government and apathy a thousand times more then voluntary ever has been able to.--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:15, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
People are not being forced into meetings; rather, if a person wants to be a citizen -- a real citizen -- and not a fake birthright citizen which we have today in America (essentially passport holders, that's it) -- then they have to participate in democracy, and that means showing up in meetings, among other things. Yes, many of these meetings may be boring; but at least there's a chance that people can become re-engaged in the political process, and both listen and talk to legislators.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 12:18, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
An d whbat if nolbody does? Shall we remove the citizen ship of all but 5 people in a town? Forcing people to participate in democracy is honestly counter to the entire concept of freedom.--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 14:51, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
You may mean "if nobody chooses to become a citizen"? This is possible, but as the percentages of people choosing citizenship declines, then the few who do choose to become citizens will have much greater leverage and power, so there will be a much stronger motivation for people to choose citizenship.
Or, you may mean "if nobody becomes re-engaged in the political process". This, too, may happen, but I believe it to be unlikely, since the requirements of showing up at meetings are minimal (4 hours each year -- is that too much?) and I can not imagine people getting together and not, at the very least, learning something about government, or being exposed to issues from legislators or prospective candidates. I imagine engagement in the political process will vary -- some very interested, others mildly interested, some totally bored.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Last, this proposed constitution does not force people to participate in democracy. Rather, it offers people a choice -- IF they would like to participate as citizens, THEN they must do what citizens do (vote, show up, pay attention, jury duty, etc.) There is no coercion involved in this choice. Rather, what happens today is that 18 year olds become so-called citizens automatically WITHOUT having to think about it, without having to choose, and then if a war happens and if there is a draft (there was during the Vietnam War and it could be reinstituted) then surprise -- they're forced into battle. Do you see the difference? If you are a committed nonviolent person, then you have a choice of how you might avoid war -- don't choose to be a citizen. It's that simple. And, under the current arrangement, there is really no democracy at all -- rather, people living as consumers only who have practically no power to influence what government does or how their lives happen. And real freedom -- real political freedom -- only comes when people participate, show up, learn and think, and act as responsible members of the political body.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Further, the pledge to serve in the armed forces is important because it prevents government from having to guess whether it can count on citizens to fight or not, if war comes; the result is the government is in a stronger position with respect to jostling on the international stage, which may mean, ultimately, that no wars are necessary. Government will not have to scramble to hire recruits or count on the most unreliable soldiers -- mercenaries.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I fail to see how requiring every person to fight in the military will make it a more effective force. Particularly amongst those who have no interest in being in the military. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:15, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
The proposed constitution does not insist that every person fight in the military; rather, people must promise to serve in the military if summoned. Most likely, few persons will be summoned to actually fight if there was a war. And if a citizen was summoned, but told the summoners that they would prefer to serve in some non-active capacity, then possibly that might be arranged.
But here's the problem with the current arrangement. When the US government jousts with rival governments in international politics, it has to know if it can count on support from citizens. It has to guess: will able-bodied persons show up at recruiting stations willing to fight? How many will do this? How firm will be their commitment? Will a government have to contend with huge public protests against the war (such as with Vietnam)? Or will it have quiet behind-the-scenes support (such as with World War II)? This matters.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
A military which can choose from an available pool of willing volunteers may be better able to select the most capable fighters; so in that sense, the military will be stronger. If the military has to contend with a well-financed dangerous enemy with millions of well-trained soldiers, then it can (if necessary) summon the entire citizenry to the battle. But the ability to summon citizens for the war effort is only one ingredient towards a successful military effort; one of the most important variables is, of course, the quality and skill of the general selected to lead the war effort.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Privileges. Citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law, to due process, to be protected by the Bill of Rights, and to be represented by national government when physically out of the nation such as at a foreign nation or territory, and to enjoy all privileges pertaining to citizenship as Congress and states may decide. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.

Comment: This directly contradicts the provision elsewhere that states can define citizenship. If you have different state-citizenship/national-citizenship, people are not "entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states." Uke Blue 04:18, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
I am not sure exactly what "this" means above when you write "This directly contradicts...". But let me state what I am trying to get at, but maybe the wording is the problem? Some of it was borrowed from the original constitution. This proposed constitution defines what we should refer to as national citizenship, ie, it tries to specify what is meant by the term citizen in the sense of being a member of the US body politic. It does not define what, say, New Jersey or Arizona considers to be a citizen of New Jersey of Arizona -- rather, NJ or AZ can define (or not define) that as they choose. The idea of this part of the original constitution (which I've tried to keep intact) is that New Jersey should treat visiting Arizonans, for example, with all the respect (privileges and immunities) that Arizona gives to its own "citizens" (however defined by Arizona). And, Montana should do its best to try to respect, say, Wyoming law, when there are cases in which both states are allowed -- what was the phrase, "full faith and credit" to the procedures and customs of other states. Essentially this is the arrangement today, and it is not being changed (or it is not my intent to change it.) But if there is a wording issue here (or more clarity needed) please advise; like do you agree with what is above, (if not, what would you choose instead?) or if you agree but it needs clarity, please clarify. (Btw I can not read the light yellow following your handle unless I highlight it.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
I think it is bad to describe "equal protection under the law", "due process", and "to be protected by the Bill of Rights" as privileges of citizenship. If they are privileges of citizenship, that implies non-citizens (e.g. foreign visitors or lawfully resident non-citizens) lack these rights. Do you want a system where non-citizens can be imprisoned without trial, etc? The US Supreme Court has ruled that most of the protections of the Bill of Rights apply to non-citizens also (although it has found some limitations to be acceptable). You are proposing to reverse that line of decisions. (((Zack Martin))) 03:52, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Tough question. About the implications of the wordings for non-citizens: generally I think that it is reading too much into a constitution to suggest that if the constitution describes what happens between a state and citizens, that the opposite must happen between the state and non-citizens. I do not think a constitution should specify what happens between a state and non-citizens since the constitution should be, in fact, an agreement between the state and citizens. That's what the constitution should be about, essentially, and if a constitution ventures into specifying terms for people who either choose not to be citizens, or who can not be citizens -- well then I think such an effort is over-reaching the proper bounds of what a constitution can do. It would be like a contract between me and you, for instance, which specifies how we might treat an unknown third person -- when the third person may not even know about our contract or agree to the contract being binding on what he or she does or gets. In the case where people who are non-citizens are physically located within the spatial territory of the nation, then what happens to them should be up to government (not the Constitution) and I would hope that a fair publicity-minded government would make reasonable decisions, not punish unfairly, be civil and humane. I personally would not want a system in which non-citizens could be imprisoned without trial, and my sense would be that government would feel similarly. But such choices would be up to the government, not the constitution; such questions are essentially political ones with partisan implications.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
The key point about most constitutions is entrenchment — you can't change them just by ordinary legislation, you must go through some special amendment process. Now, this isn't true for all constitutions (e.g. the British or the Israeli), but it is true for most (including the US). By having a "Bill of Rights" in your constitution, you enable the Courts to strike down laws which conflict with people's laws. While the legislature can still overturn the Court decision, entrenchment means they have to use the more difficult process of constitutional amendment, and generally they don't bother. Compare that to, e.g. the Humans Right Act in the UK, where Courts decisions about human rights can in theory be overturned by a piece of ordinary legislation. So, your proposal ultimately amounts to, entrenchment for the rights of citizens, no entrenchment for the rights of non-citizens. If you think about the kind of message you'd be sending in international relations, downgrading the rights of non-citizens compared to present, will not be seen very positively. (((Zack Martin))) 07:28, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Interesting. It is a good way to think about a constitution using the concept of entrenchment. It is like a super or higher law embedded within the general law -- harder to change.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:56, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
About supposedly downgrading rights of non-citizens, and sending negative signals as a result. Such an occurrence might be possible, I suppose -- but I imagine it depends to a great extent on what actually happens in the interaction between government and non-citizens. What I am suggesting is that the constitution should not specify any particular rights for non-citizens, or entrench these rights as you suggest; this does not necessarily imply that government will be cruel or unfair to non-citizens, since a government which did treat non-citizens badly would be rightly condemned for such maltreatment. Most likely a nation would be motivated for publicity purposes to be magnanimous to the non-citizens within its borders. Overall, however, it is hard for me to imagine any type of constitution being a contract, or compact, or covenant possibly, between a government and non-participants. But I continue to wonder about this.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:56, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Non-citizens are affected by the government who's boarders they happen to be in. Think of it as externalities - huge externalities. The guiding document of an organization (including a government) must regulate the externallities of that organization or risk them being very, very negative.Ender (talk)
So foreigners passing through (and any kids ever) can be snatched up by the government and tortured to death unless that government just-so-happens to not consist solely of douche bags? See how long that lasts before foreign nations are pissed-off enough to test your all-citizen-army.Ender (talk)

Powers. Citizens, assembled in a citizens' meeting, have the power to summon fellow citizens to attend meetings or to request an explanation from a non-attending citizen about his or her absence. Citizens can initiate legal proceedings against other citizens for failing to observe the requirements of citizenship.

Comment: One of the reasons that the New England town meetings fell apart was that persons attending the meetings lacked the power to cause the no-shows to show. This is important. In my view, citizens who fail to show up for regular meetings are a burden to the entire body politic, since they are not meeting their obligations. A few non-attendees may make citizens attending feel they're wasting their time (and may cause further people to stop attending.) If legal proceedings are initiated, the only punishment that can happen from such proceedings is to cause a citizen to lose citizenship.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Meetings. Citizens must assemble regularly to discuss public matters. Meetings shall be of limited duration, held at times and in places convenient for a majority of citizens, and compulsory attendance at meetings shall not be more than four hours per year. Notifications of time and place of meetings shall be sent in a timely manner. Attendance must be recorded and posted publicly. Citizens may elect officers to manage these meetings and choose particular rules of order.

Questioning lawmakers. Citizens, assembled, can query lawmakers about past or future choices, and lawmakers can query citizens about their preferences and concerns; it is the duty of each to be responsive to the reasonable requests of the other within a reasonable amount of time. Citizens can summon elected officials at the county, state or federal level, excepting United States senators, to appear before their assembly to answer specific questions; representatives may comply by appearing in person or else by sending a proxy, or, if unavailable, by sending written responses to their questions.

Comment: Only state governments can summon US Senators to appear before them. They'll be too busy to appear before town or local councils.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Comment: lawmakers can question citizens at these meetings as well, perhaps via questionnaires or requests for a show of hands. It spares legislators having to guess what the public thinks; rather, they'll have a straightforward way to understand the public mood.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Non-citizens. Persons who live within the nation legally but who are not citizens are non-citizens. All non-citizens should be given regular and reasonable opportunities to apply or re-apply for citizenship, and Congress may specify which procedures or tests must be done before a former citizen can be restored to citizenship. All rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of non-citizens, as well as designations thereof, shall be made by Congress.

Comment: There may be people who actively choose not to be citizens, such as persons who are unwilling to fight in a war, or who don't want to or can not fulfill the duties of citizenship. What will their lives be like? I can only guess. This task is up to Congress. Will they make fair rulings? I should hope that the Congress finds ways for them to exist which are not too burdensome and which protect them to varying extents.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
What will their lives be like? I can only guess. Then why the hell are you pretending to write a constitution? ΨΣΔξΣΓΩΙÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 07:54, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Good question. My sense is that it is not the task of a constitution to specify what rules will be made by Congress regarding non-citizens. The whole idea of a constitution is to specify, briefly, a structure for government and citizens -- to lay out the basics of the arrangement -- and then to let the structures of government do their tasks. The constitution is not an agreement between government and non-citizens -- who, by definition, are not members of the state. And it would be too complex to specify what rules should be made, since circumstances could vary for many different reasons. It may be that only a small proportion of persons decide to become citizens; or maybe most persons decide to become citizens; in either case, the situation would be different regarding non-citizens. It is impossible to foresee what will happen; so in this case, a claim of "I don't know what will happen" is reasonable, since I do not know, can not know, nobody can know, and knowing that we can not know is the right call.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Remember that non-citizens will include persons who deliberately chose to avoid the duties of citizenship. These people have elected to avoid serving as political members of the nation, who shirk minimal government meetings, who do not vote, who do not promise to serve in the armed forces if they are summoned, who shirk jury duty. Why should non-citizens have specific rights guaranteed by a government they refuse to support or even recognize? This does not make sense. Why should government have to protect these people if they refuse to participate in a war? Why should real citizens have to do the fighting (and possibly dying) for people who refuse to make such a sacrifice? This is unfair for real citizens to have to carry the burden of political participation while others enjoy the benefits without bearing any costs or risks.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Last, I am not pretending to write this. I wrote this. No pretense. Whether or not it is a good constitution, well, that is the question. :) In any event, your tough questions will help make it better, and root out any bad choices, since any junk will, when exposed to scrutiny and reason, get weeded out. :) --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
It's a terrible constitution, since this whole opt-in/opt-out conception of citizenship is completely unworkable. It's not in anybody's interests to have people who exist outside the law. WeaseloidWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:51, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Changes in citizenship status. A citizen can be stripped of citizenship by two methods. First, a citizen may willingly choose to renounce citizenship. Second, government or other citizens can present a case to an impartial jury of citizens and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a specific citizen has failed to adhere to the duties of citizenship, or has committed some act or transgression which warrants severing the bond of citizenship. Citizenship can be removed from citizens who break the law, who fail to observe the requirements of citizenship such as voting or attending regular local meetings, who fail to show up for military duty if summoned, who commit treason, or who fail to observe proper guidelines when traveling abroad. Before citizenship can be removed from a person, there must be due process in the sense that government must observe the laws and follow proper procedures before the bond of citizenship is severed.

Comment: Under the current arrangement, it is not clear whether convicted felons are citizens or not; there have been arguments that some incarcerated felons should be allowed to vote. In my view, felons have broken the law and as a result, they have failed to observe a key requirement of citizenship -- supporting individual rights (by breaking the law, they transgressed from their proper sphere of authority into another person's proper sphere of authority). So convicted felons are not citizens and should not be considered as such. The proposed constitution makes this abundantly clear, since courts will undoubtedly declare that criminals convicted of serious crimes are no longer citizens.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Under the current arrangement, it is very clear that convicted felons are citizens. Felons are held to lose some of the privileges consequent upon citizenship (e.g. voting, gun ownership) but not citizenship itself. If felons lost citizenship, that would imply that they would lose the legal right to reside in the country, and e.g. if they left the country they would not be allowed back in. If a felon went overseas, and was being maltreated by a foreign government, the US government would have no legal right to exercise diplomatic protection, since the felon would not be a citizen. If the felon moved overseas and had a child while overseas with another non-citizen, that child would not be a citizen because their felon parent was now an ex-citizen. Are you sure this is what you want? (((Zack Martin))) 04:28, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I see convicted felons as not being citizens, since citizenship (in my view) entails a commitment by a person to respect the individual rights of other citizens. A felon has broken this commitment. He or she has violated someone else's rights -- stolen something, hurt somebody, transgressed a law. A right in this sense is a power to do something in the future which other persons recognize, beforehand, that a person is permitted to do. This notion of rights is at the heart of how people can live freely in a society with others, and citizens are persons who respect the rights of others. So, if courts think of felons as still being citizens, with some restrictions on their privileges, well I disagree with this notion. At the same time, after a convicted felon has been punished and served time in prison, and presumably reforms his or her behavior, and wishes to reapply for citizenship, then he or she should have regular opportunities to re-apply for citizenship, and can regain standing in that way.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
About the particulars of a felon going overseas and then being maltreated by a foreign government -- well -- this seems too much of a specific case for it to be described in an overall document such as a constitution. In such an instance, the maltreated former-felon, in a foreign country, could appeal to the State department for assistance which may grant or withhold assistance as it deemed necessary. And how the State department handled any such cases (eg a citizen abroad; a former-felon abroad; a non-citizen abroad) would be a matter for it to decide. There would not be any automatic constitutional guarantees of specific types of treatment in any of these instances.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
About me being sure of anything -- generally I'm not sure about most things (my general nature to be constantly questioning) but I think the proposed constitution would be a better arrangement, overall. And my mind may change based on what we write here. It is a giant guess. :) Unfortunately I do not know everything, and know that I don't know everything, which sometimes makes up for my general cluelessness. :) --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)


Protections for citizens: the Bill of Rights

Comment: These most excellent rights are imported from the existing constitution.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

First amendment -- Bill of Rights #1 -- religion, press, assembly. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Second amendment -- Bill of Rights #2 -- militia, right to bear arms. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms in their homes, shall not be infringed.

Comment: I do not like the idea of hidden weapons in public, particularly handguns; at the same time, this is an issue not to be resolved by a constitution but by society over time as it evolves.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Third amendment -- Bill of Rights #3 -- quartering soldiers. No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth amendment -- Bill of Rights #4 -- searches, warrants. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

What about the issue of "no knock" warrants. That means, SWAT teams bashes down your door, no warning, no announcement, they'll kill your elderly chihuahua because it was "threatening" them, you think robbers are invading your home, reach for your gun (if you own one) and they shoot you dead. All because someone told them you had some pot growing in your house. "Ah look, no pot here after all... oh well!" (((Zack Martin))) 04:20, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Sounds like the US after 9/11. Warrantless wiretaps; no-knock break-ins. Less sure about bullets into elderly chihuahuas (but it could make a good movie?) This gets into a broader problem of how a nation deals with terrorism (I wrote a book about this which is highly controversial -- if interested, see here but I don't recommend reading this unless you're seriously interested in this subject.) The wording keeps the Fourth Amendment from the original, unchanged. My sense is that the violations of due process after 9/11 were the result of the nation's inability to adequately confront terrorism, in the sense that when police can not identify possible terrorists, then crime-prevention agencies are tempted to resort to extra-legal and illegal tactics to try to compensate for their weakness. And one overall effect of the proposed constitution, in my view, would be to make the nation stronger, and less prone to threats (real and imagined) of terrorism, and as a result, there would be fewer chihuahuas shot.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Fifth amendment -- Bill of Rights #5 -- rights of accused (1 of 4). No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

If you are going to rewrite the US constitution, how about overturning Kelo v. City of New London? (((Zack Martin))) 04:23, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes I personally agree with your view that Kelo v New London was a mistake (essentially allowing a local government to seize private property to resell) and constituted a breach of property rights. But the purpose of a constitution is not to overturn specific Supreme Court rulings but rather to rebuild the basic structure so that government can once again operate effectively and, as I see it, overturning any specific SC choice might be seen as a partisan move, and for any constitution to try to work, it has to stay neutral and stay out of specific choices; it will need left and right to approve it, Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Green Party-types, Libertarians, everybody -- to sign up -- and then when government is working again, different groups can compete within the process to try to work out such issues. At the same time, let me ask you: do you think that the rights of property are sufficiently well-defined in this proposed constitution, or should they be clarified or expanded upon somehow?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Oh, and how about restrictions on use of asset forfeiture laws. If you are found guilty of crimes (e.g. drug dealing), government can take away property (e.g. your house) which are proceeds of crime, fair enough. But asset forfeiture laws make the standard of proof to take away your house a lot less than that to put you in prison, running the risk that innocent people will have all their property taken from them by the government on the basis of a baseless accusation it was the fruit of criminal activity. Surely, asset forfeiture should require the same standard of proof as criminal cases do. (((Zack Martin))) 04:23, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
About asset forfeiture laws: again this seems to be an area which is too specific for a constitution. But in the fifth amendment (which is kept) the wording goes: No person shall be ... deprived of ... property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. And if particular asset forfeiture laws violate this provision of the Constitution, then they could be ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Sixth amendment -- Bill of Rights #6 -- rights of accused (2 of 4). In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Seventh amendment -- Bill of Rights #7 -- rights of accused (3 of 4). In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed a minimum amount set by law, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Eighth amendment -- Bill of Rights #8 -- rights of accused (4 of 4). Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth amendment -- Bill of Rights #9 -- clarification. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth amendment -- Bill of Rights #10 -- rights of states and people. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Privacy. Citizens have a right of privacy. It is the duty of Congress to specify which information shall be considered private and make rules governing its exposure. Citizens have a right to view their publicly-held private information and to determine which parties or institutions have this information. Keepers of private information, including the government, have a duty to keep private information private, and may be held liable for breaches of privacy.

Comment: This is a new addition, but important. Privacy and freedom are inextricably bound up together. The current constitution does not mention privacy explicitly, although it has been inferred in various Supreme Court decisions. This provision makes it explicit. The tougher part of this will be publicly-held private information (eg medical records, school grades) and finding appropriate balances.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
So Congress could specify, "Only your Social Security number shall be private" and that'd be constitutional? Why bother specifying this "right" at all if it's an arbitrary right that can be defined by Congress?--ADtalkModerator 04:23, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Good questions. Let me see if I get the gist of your first question -- that Congress could single out only one possible piece of our personal information (such as the social security number) while choosing that other parts of our personal information (for example, our income) might be public. I agree that under my proposed arrangement, Congress could make such a choice; and I agree (probably you agree too), that in this instance that this would be a bad choice which Congress makes, since we would like to keep our incomes private. I am thinking about this.-Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
And overall what I am saying is that in a society in which most people would wish to live, and which personal freedom was valued and rights respected, that it would be important for freedom in general for individuals to have privacy. Privacy is so important as I am sure everybody will agree because it enables us to do things which may be against or at odds with what the majority considers to be so-called proper behavior, such as enjoy off-the-wall music, read obscure books, and so forth. And I think the real issues with privacy are not those when we're talking physical privacy, such as we can achieve when we are at home (we can close blinds, shut doors, private) but when we do things in public that say something about us personally, or reveal a choice or habit, and which we would do well to obscure to other members of the public, or which other people (if they knew this information) could hurt us, deny us from certain things, or otherwise make our lives miserable. For example, I used to have a habit of drinking too much diet soda -- if I applied for a job somewhere, and a prospective employer learned of my somewhat dubious habit, then perhaps I might lose out on this job because of this tidbit of information (and then I'd be less free.) The problem is: we do not usually control this information which I call publicly-held private information -- it's known by banks, doctors, toll booths, store clerks, ATM machines, soda machines, etc. What is important is that this information is regulated, protected.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Now, specifying exactly which pieces of information should be private, and how they should be protected -- I hope you'll agree that this will be very difficult to do, since information will always be changing. It will be complex. In some instances, people would like to let certain types of information be revealed (eg I would not mind if soda makers knew my preferences, since then I might get more coupons or offers for discounts, etc). Or, perhaps a person might allow their medical records to be revealed to a hospital but not to a potential medical insurer. What I am saying is that trying to specify such contingencies is impossible in a constitution, and that some authority should be selected to make these choices, that is, laws are needed.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
And since Congress will be the preeminent lawmaking body, Congress should make these laws. Could Congress make a stupid law (eg only SSNs are private) -- yes -- but then Congress is accountable to the voters who could insist that they change it. And, given the current model of judicial review, I suppose the courts could weigh in on bad laws too, and overturn a short-sighted Congressional law based on it's being inconsistent with the Constitution.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Would another branch do a better job than Congress? The president? Possibly, but the benefit to having rulings made by congress is having debate out in the open, subject to scrutiny by voters. Or, could the Supreme Court make the rules? Possibly, again, but they're unelected, and less accountable to the public. I think Congress is the best choice.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
An alternative is that each state could make different rules regarding privacy, but then weird issues could result such as when a person's activity in one state was published, but was prohibited from being published in a second state -- too much confusion would result in such instances. I think privacy is too important overall, and needs to be regulated at the national level.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Second question asked was, why bother specifying the right of privacy if it can be redefined (or undone, or ignored) by Congress? Another excellent question. And I think the reason is because privacy is too important for our basic freedoms to be left undeclared in the constitution. It needs to be said that Citizens have a right of privacy. The issue has come up again and again within constitutional debate throughout two centuries about what privacy is, whether it exists, and the lack of definition has caused confusion in many court cases. Having it spelled out in the constitution will mean that lawyers, courts, legislatures and others can refer to it explicitly when making rulings about it. Many constitutional thinkers believe the Framers erred when omitting a right of privacy. We need it.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
And IF we did not change the structure of the Congress around, but kept the current US Congress under the current US Constitution which has congresspersons in office for life, no term limits, money from lobbyists influencing most political choices, partisan gridlock, and a so-called "SuperCommittee" which can not even do a modest bipartisan deficit reduction effort, well then yes -- it would be dangerous having such an inept Congress making rules about any issues including privacy. But with the proposed Constitution's conception of a much better in-touch Congress (with term limits, competitive elections) and with a much greater interaction between voters and legislators, then I think the chances are greatly improved that the new Congress would make laws more in keeping with what Americans wanted.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
"Could Congress make a stupid law (eg only SSNs are private) -- yes -- but then Congress is accountable to the voters who could insist that they change it."
Any Constitutional guarantee of freedom that is wholly dependent on Congress' legislation is not a guarantee of freedom at all. It is, instead, a mild suggestion to Congress. And accordingly pointless.--ADtalkModerator 21:03, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
My sense is you looking at each particular choice as if the current system is still in effect. For example, if a proposed constitution mentions a right of privacy. You're assuming that the current Congress (unaccountable, filled with career politicians who only listen to lobbyists with checkbooks, bloated, out of touch with the US people) will be making the rules which specify how that privacy can be accomplished. But what I'm saying is that if you adopt the whole proposed constitution, the new Congress will look much different. The House will have new members every two years since there will be a total turnover with each new election. All races will be competitive (no incumbent advantages). Citizens will be in touch with congresspersons regularly through local channels. It will be much more responsive. The current out-of-touch Congress could very well pass a stupid rule such as "Only SSNs would be private" but the new one couldn't get away with it, since it would be much more accountable than the current model.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:18, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Last, I do not see much difference whether Congress makes the laws, or the Supreme Court makes the laws by justifying them based on their interpretations of the constitution. In either case, it's a law regardless. For example, abortion is legal today -- and whether Congress said it was legal, or the Supreme Court said it was legal via the Roe v Wade decision -- does it matter much? What I'm saying is that you probably should not count on either body, by itself, to be a total "guarantor" of your freedom, since it is most likely impossible that there could be such an entity. Throughout much of US history, the Supreme Court upheld slavery, later segregation (Plessy v Ferguson 1896 decision) and during WW2, the court sided with the executive and imprisoned over 100K Japanese-Americans for dubious reasons; it is only recently that the Supreme Court has been a progressive force, and it is possible that it might begin making decisions which you do not agree with.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:18, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
That's right, we shouldn't rely on just one entity. That's why your plan here is terrible, since it relies so completely on Congress and drastically weakens the checks and balances system by eviscerating judicial review (making it 7 of 9 for overturning a law) and instituting a prime minister who would seem to be subsidiary to Congress.
What I don't get is why you don't just copy the UK wholesale, tack on the Bill of Rights, and work from that. That seems to be what you actually want.--ADtalkModerator 07:49, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Interesting idea. Combining it with the next comment (below) then maybe taking Ireland's, Malta's or Finland's constitution, and attaching the Bill of Rights, and working from there. Will consider.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I think the parliamentary system is better than the presidential, and the US would do well to adopt it — a Prime Minister chosen by Congress/Parliament as head of government, and the President as a largely ceremonial head of state. Although, the UK, with its monarchy and its unwritten constitution, is probably not the best to be copying. May I suggest Ireland, Malta and Finland as better bets. (((Zack Martin))) 08:01, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree parliamentary system is better than the presidential. I think constitutional scholars generally agree about this. I will consider this and keep reading about these political systems.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
"And, given the current model of judicial review, I suppose the courts could weigh in on bad laws too, and overturn a short-sighted Congressional law based on it's being inconsistent with the Constitution."
How could they remove it? The provision here literally says that Congress can decide anything they want about the matter, so what decision could possibly be unconstitutional?--ADtalkModerator 21:03, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
The Supreme Court could rule a Congressional law unconstitutional, since judicial review remains in effect.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:18, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
Again: the provision here literally says that Congress can decide anything they want about the extent of the right to privacy. How could SCOTUS rule any privacy law unconstitutional, since any possible law would be in accord with this amendment?--ADtalkModerator 03:34, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
SCOTUS could select a court case which involves a privacy ruling that it deems unfair, decide the particular case, and by its decision, it could exert its influence -- this is what it does presently -- and this is what it will continue to do via judicial review (which is kept -- the 7 out of 9 majority needed has been scrapped in this new version as of Nov 27 2011).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:51, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
No offence, but I don't think you're thinking this through. You're now proposing that SCOTUS can invalidate any law they think is "unfair." The Constitution here would say that Congress could declare all my info public except my SSN, and that would be fine - but now you're saying that SCOTUS could decide that such a law wouldn't be "fair," even if it obeyed the letter of the Constitution? Do you understand the problem here?--ADtalkModerator 21:05, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

Government obligation. Government is required to treat all citizens fairly and to observe all rules regarding citizenship.

"Treat all citizens fairly?" "Observe all rules?" This provision would accomplish what, exactly? Who decides "fair?" Seme Blue 04:27, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Are you saying this line is too vague? What I was trying to get at was something like this: Fairness means that a procedure or test involving citizenship should not be applied one way to one person, or class of persons, and a different way to another person, or class of persons. It is essentially "equality under the law". Government can not treat one group of citizens differently from another group based on some irrelevant characteristic such as gender, circumstances of birth, upbringing, friendship ties to officials or other citizens, ethnicity, race, caste, or personal attributes such as disability, age, or sexual preferences. If government has a rule that people who want to re-apply for citizenship must do X, fill out form Y, and answer question Z, then the rule must apply to all applicants, and government should not discriminate against, say, homosexuals or African-Americans by adding on additional requirements, or lifting requirements for other groups.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
Your second question: who decides whether government was being fair? Courts, looking at law & the constitution.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 20:10, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

[edit] Article VII Other issues

Oath of office. The senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, including officers of the department of State, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution, and must make this pledge in a public place: "I do solemnly affirm that I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

No religious tests. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Militia versus national military. The militia will be limited to defending the homeland, maintaining domestic peace, and responding to disasters. The national military will be limited to actions overseas and in other countries, such as protecting vital interests, securing sea lanes and airspace, assisting allies, and, if necessary, prosecuting wars. The militia will be led by the president; the national military will be led by the head of State.

Comment: the two militaries will operate in different spheres (within the nation, outside the nation), will have different capabilities, and will serve as a check on each other to prevent a coup d'etat. The militia will be large in terms of numbers, less skilled in specific tasks but omnipresent in the states. The national military will be a smaller but more specialized and skilled group, operating at a distance. The head of the militia forces will be the president; the head of the national military forces will be the head of State.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 03:42, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

New states. New states may be admitted by Congress into this union; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

Territories. Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

Amendments. 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; provided that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the senate.

Supreme law. This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Ratification. The ratification of the conventions of thirty-five of the fifty states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same. Upon ratification of this Constitution, the Senate may select the first fifty foreign policy advisors regardless of age, but after that, shall choose candidates who are younger than forty years of age.

And if another state is added?Ender (talk)

(end of draft)

[edit] References

  1. Macedo, Stephen (August 11, 2008). "Toward a more democratic Congress? Our imperfect democratic constitution: the critics examined". Boston University Law Review (Boston University Law Review) 89: 609–628.
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