To the editor:
I have received substantial dissent and apprehension to the suggestion I made for a revision or rewrite of the Constitution in my recent letter (“Our rights to a new Constitution,” Times, Sept. 26).
There was one call simply for the Congress to “play by the rules set in the original Constitution.”
However, many defects — excessive debt, favor trading, earmarks — fall within constitutional bounds. The Constitution, aside from its stated intent to “promote the general Welfare” contains no prohibitions against such things. Several solutions present themselves, but even something as simple as an institution of term limits would require constitutional revision.
Furthermore, a structure that actively discourages and penalizes poor legislative action is more effective than an honor system that assumes voters are aware of and in a position to punish bad behavior.
As for the suggestion of amendment — which some seem to think I forgot — I am pessimistic. An amendment limiting the Legislature’s power is scarcely likely to originate in the Legislature. Congress likewise has a poor record of recognizing petitions for conventions from the several states, contriving unconstitutional “rules” to dismiss them.
To the concerns some have that the ideas are not formed enough, as I have said, many books have been written on the subject, some proposing entire new constitutions. That being said, while I have what I think are several workable ideas, it is not my right to alone draft a new constitution. Any work that is done will take collaboration and consensus.
Finally, not all of the old must be thrown out for the new. The Constitution of 1787’s protection of the rights of the people — while they must be more well-defined to account for how the law is actually enforced — are values that we, as a people, will continue to hold and enshrine in any new law.