Time to Amend the Constitution

September 28, 2008

I’ve been pondering this post for many months, but events of the past week associated with the financial melt-down, the economic collapse that it threatens and the half-baked “solutions” that have been served up have convinced me that the underlying forces driving these events must be addressed by institutionalizing some fundamental principles for guiding our nation in the future. These issues are too big and too complicated to be left to the whims of elected officials, lacking the background to comprehend the scope of these challenges and subject to the constant pressure of those who don’t have the nation’s best interests at heart.

The first of these is the subject of trade. While it may be in the best interest of global corporations to pursue unfettered free trade, regardless of the consequences for any one nation, including the United States, it is clearly not in the best interest of our nation to run enormous trade deficits year-in and year-out. Events of the past week should be clear proof. But, thanks to the influence of the executives of global corporations, that’s exactly the policy we continue to pursue.

So I offer the following as a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I thought about building into this proposed amendment the solution I proposed in Five Short Blasts – a tariff structure only on manufactured goods that is indexed to the population density of our trading partners. But this is the kind of detail that is better left to legislation. (For more discussion of the rationale of the wording for this amendment, click on the link which will take you to a page devoted to a detailed explanation.)

28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The United States shall not maintain a trade deficit with the rest of the world. The Congress shall enact trade policy utilizing import quotas and tariffs as necessary to assure that the cumulative effect of trade over the years, as measured in current dollars, is to maintain a positive balance. The Congress shall review and adjust as necessary such import quotas and tariffs annually to maintain an overall, cumulative balance of trade. The United States shall not be a member to any international organization that does not recognize the United States’ fundamental right to manage international trade in its best interest.

Secondly, while the relationship to the past week’s events aren’t quite as obvious, I propose the following amendment as necessary to prevent the steady erosion of the standard of living, quality of life and social fabric of the nation by the effects of overpopulation.

29th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The Congress shall establish a target population for the United States for the purpose of assuring a high standard of living and quality of life for its citizens. The target population shall not be higher than can be continuously sustained by domestically-produced natural resources, or by trading such excess resources for others not available domestically. Also, the target population of the United States shall be below the level that, if applied globally, is determined by science to pose no threat to the global environment. The Congress shall establish immigration quotas consistent with achieving the target population. The Congress shall also enact policies that, while leaving people free to choose the size of their families, encourage the population to move toward and stabilize at the established target level. The target population shall be reviewed by Congress annually and shall be retained or adjusted as necessary.

These amendments force our government to confront two issues which, if left unchecked, threaten the continued viability of our nation. Until now, we have placed blind faith in our lawmakers and in our economic model of capitalism to always move our nation forward in the right direction. Just as in the past, when we found it necessary to establish certain boundaries within which capitalism must operate, we have now found that additional boundaries are required. In the first half of the 20th century, we established labor laws to prevent the exploitation of workers. In the latter half of the 20th century, we established boundaries to protect the environment. The need for those boundaries was so obvious that constitutional amendments weren’t required to force the Congress to act.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case with the issues I’ve addressed here. The opposing forces have grown so powerful as to prevent any meaningful discussion of the issues and the issues are too complex to lend themselves to obvious solutions. So new boundaries or guiding principles – these amendments – are necessary. The first of these prevents any entity from placing its economic self-interest ahead of the interest of the common good of the citizens of the United States. The second prevents the erosion of our standard of living and quality of life by uncontrolled population growth and the effects of overpopulation.

The purpose of these amendments is to function as guiding principles and not as legislation, so they are intentionally broad in scope but light on detail. It is up to the Congress to craft legislation that would comply with these principles, and it is up to the judiciary to pass judgment on the constitutionality of such legislation. With that in mind, I acknowledge that these proposed amendments may have room for improvement and welcome any suggestions. Please feel free to comment. Let me know what you think.

Beyond that, please don’t look upon this as merely an interesting post, perhaps worthy of a comment, to be forgotten when you move on with your web browsing. Take it to heart. Promote it among your family, friends and associates. Write your senators and congressmen and encourage them to consider these proposals. Challenge them to make history by championing these sorely needed amendments to our guiding set of principles. Our nation cannot afford to be steered off course much longer by those motivated by self-interest instead of the common good.