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My New Constitution

Do we need a new or different constitution in the United States? The existing one, in designating how representatives were to be apportioned according to population, excluded untaxed Indians from the count, and counted black slaves as only three fifths of a person each. Fortunately, that was modified by the 14th amendment. It does show that it could have been better, and that any constitution probably needs to be changed as we learn more and progress as a people.

Perhaps it would be dangerous to entirely replace the existing one, given the politics that would go into making the new one. But in any case, if we were to do so, what should it look like? Here are some possible articles to include, and the reasons for them.

Preamble to My New Constitution

This government has only the powers specified in this constitution. The sole justification of these powers is the protection of the rights of the individuals within the borders of the country, both citizens and all others. Furthermore, thought there is no duty to protect the rights of others, when the government acts outside the borders of the country, it must also act in accordance with this constitution, and refrain from violating the rights of individuals anywhere.

This is meant to state the purpose of government, so there will be a clear basis for future interpretation of the constitution. It is also meant to make it clear that it is based on the idea that rights are inherent in individuals, not "citizens." There is no conferring of rights, no requirements, and no excuse for violating those rights.

Implementation

With the establishment of this constitution, all existing laws will be voided in 2 years. Existing laws are also immediately subject to the provisions and limitations laid out here.

The idea here is to rid the country of all unnecessary laws, and those that might conflict with the new constitution, within a reasonable time. Two years should be enough time to establish any necessary new laws that are needed and fair.

The Legislature

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. Bills for new laws will be presented by any member of the Senate or House of Representatives. Each law proposed shall be on a single issue, and must designate which clause in the constitution authorizes it. Passage requires a yes vote from 2/3 of both the House and the Senate, and then the signature of the president.

The president may not add anything to a bill, but can remove anything included by putting a line through it. The bill becomes law when the president puts his signature on it. The President has no authority to create any laws, except those that are then voted on by the congress, as described above.

The "single issue" clause will make "pork" and "earmarks" less likely, and provide a constitutional basis to challenge legislation. The two thirds part is meant to make it tough to create new laws, assuring us that there is broad agreement and support for any new legislation. The "line item veto" will further reduce the possibility of garbage in new legislation. Designating the part of the constitution that authorizes a law reminds all involved that their powers are limited to those outlined in this document. Finally, this part makes it explicit that the president is merely an executive, not a primary law maker.

Elections

In recognition of the individual rights of all people, this document clearly states here that the governing principle of the United States shall not be democracy. No rights of individuals are to be violated in the name of the people nor their votes. Voting is simply to be used as a means to elect those who the people wish to govern according to this constitution.

All residents (those who have lived in the country for more than a year) and are at least eighteen years old are eligible to vote in all national elections.

President: The president shall serve a term of four years. To be put on the ballot for election, a person must be a United States resident, and have signatures supporting the candidacy from 1/20 of 1% (.0005) of the population of the United States, as determined from the most recent United States census. Signatures must be from registered voters. Voters are allowed to vote for two candidates. The candidate with the most votes becomes president. Party affiliations are not to be mentioned on ballots.

Senate: Each state shall elect two senators, for a term of eight years each, their terms staggered to end four years apart. To be put on the ballot for election, a person must be a resident of the state, and have signatures supporting the candidacy from 1/20 of 1% (.0005) of the population of the state. Signatures must be from registered voters. Population is to be determined from the most recent United States census. The candidate who gets the most votes is elected. Party affiliations are not to be mentioned on ballots.

House of Representatives: There are to be 200 members of the House of Representatives, who will serve terms of 4 years. To be put on the ballot for election, a person must be a United States resident, and have signatures supporting the candidacy from 1/100 of 1% (.0001) of the population of the country. Signatures must be from registered voters. Population is to be determined from the most recent United States census. Voters are allowed to vote for four candidates of their choice. The 200 candidates who receive the most votes become members of the House of Representatives. Party affiliations are not to be mentioned on ballots.

Perhaps the most radical departure from the existing constitution, this part does away with the two party system. It allows for any number of political parties, but excludes mention of them on ballots, to encourage citizens to think about positions on issues rather than party affiliations. The qualification clause allows small parties and lesser known candidates a chance to compete. For example, given the current population of the United States (about 300 million), any and all who could gather the signatures of 150,000 voters (1/20 of 1%) would be on the ballot for the general election. This would likely be more than a dozen candidates, giving citizens more options than they currently have.

The "two vote" clause is specifically meant to allow for political change. Under the current system, there is stagnation because voters who may really want one candidate vote for a more popular one, so as not to "throw away" their vote. This new system allows "outsiders" a chance to visibly grow their support from one election to the next, improving the odds of truly changing the political choices available. The "residents" clause recognizes that a person who lives in a place should have some say in its laws.

Under this system, to be on the ballot for the senate in a state like Michigan, which has a population of about eight million, a person would need the signatures of 4,000 voters. This would likely result in at least a dozen candidates in an election. The senate would be the only part of the congress that has a geographical basis.

The House Of Representatives in this new system is smaller, and has no geographical basis. This is an important change, because it allows representation for those who hold unpopular political beliefs. Under the current system, for example, libertarian or socialist citizens will never be represented in the congress, because they make up too small a part of the voting population of any particular district. On the other and, there may be several million libertarian voters (and several hundred thousand socialists), enough to elect several libertarian representatives, and perhaps even one or two socialists. This would be the first time that those outside of the major parties had real political representation in this country.

Let's look at how this would work. At the moment, 1/100 of 1% of the population is about 30,000. That's how many voter's signatures a candidate would need to get on the ballot. Though the resulting thousand or so candidates may seem to make the election process unwieldy, modern tools (computers) will make it possible. The top 200 vote getters would likely include those with as few as 50,000 votes, making representation a real possibility for those groups which share common political convictions but make up only a small percentage of the population.

The general idea here is that geography is not the only important criteria for representation, especially in a country that is so mobile. We are better off having some representation based purely on political beliefs without regard to where we live or where the candidate lives. This also reduces the tendency of representatives to "bring home the pork," since there is no district to bring it home to.

This system allows a more true representation. For example, suppose there are 150,000 people whose most important political goal is to dismantle the standing military, in favor of a reserve system. They would be a fringe group in the current political climate, and could never get a representative elected. Under this new system, however, the same group might easily elect one or two people to represent them. Granted, those two congress people might not get much done, but at least the people's voices would be heard.

There are certainly many other good ideas for a constitution. In general, I would favor those that create a true limit to the power of government, and a clear vision of its purpose. That purpose should be to protect the the rights of individuals within it's jurisdiction.


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