James Buchanan's New Amendments


Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan offers up three new amendments to the Constitution in the first issue of Cato Unbound, a web mag designed to act as a forum for debate over big ideas. Responding to Buchanan over the course of December are Akhil Reed Amar, Alex Kozinski, and William Niskanen. Buchanan will then respond to his critics.

The fun starts here with Buchanan:

Fiscal irresponsibility stares us in the face and cries out for correction. The near-total disregard for any pretense of generality in the distribution of apparent governmental largesse, along with the increasing manipulation of the tax structure, can only be turned around by constitutional prohibition of discrimination. Existing rules, as interpreted, have not been successful in guaranteeing the natural liberty of citizens to engage in voluntary exchange, both among themselves within the political jurisdiction and with others beyond national boundaries.

Whole essay and links to responses as they go up here.

More about Cato Unbound here.

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  1. If their forums work better than this one, you guys might get a lesson in the free market. 🙂

  2. …and apparently I need a lesson in using my name in the comments.

  3. A constitutional amendment that abolishes the redistribution of wealth sounds great. And I am sure 1% of the voters and 0% of politicians agree with me. Well, I guess we have no where to go but up!

  4. I think that the balanced budget idea is fine, but the other two would be interpreted so creatively that at best nothing would change, and maybe things would even get worse.

    If you look at what remains of the Constitution, the most explicit clauses are the ones that still endure. Yeah, I know, free speech is circumscribed in so many ways, but the 1st amendment is still in better health than the 9th and 10th, and the Commerce Clause (which seems to have been there to specify the scope of activity, and yet is now a blank check). Say what you will about the 9th, 10th, and Commerce Clauses, but they are definitely more open to creative interpretation than, say, the 1st.

    And while the powers and roles of the various branches may not be what the Founders envisioned, they are still here, still locking horns (at times), none of them yet vestigial.

    This suggests to me that very explicit limitations (including a balanced budget amendment), and the creation of competing structures, will last longer than very general injunctions (“Don’t discriminate”).

  5. This suggests to me that very explicit limitations (including a balanced budget amendment), and the creation of competing structures, will last longer than very general injunctions

    I’d agree, were it not for campaign finance reform, the current FCC hearings, et al.

    If we’re wishing, however, I’d vote for:

    • Prohibiting laws against victimless crimes.
    • Abolish Federal extortion of the states, i.e. “If you don’t do <X> we’ll cut highway funding.”
    • Replace the Second Amendment with the Maine constitutional guarantee, “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.”
  6. …it ‘should’ be obvious that more ‘ink-on-paper’ (..amendments, laws, etc.) will not restrict the American central government.

    That central government ignores existing amendments and all words of the existing constitution … at its whim.

    Why do so many put such faith in even more laws & more amendments ?

    The problem is not a lack of written law to restrict the central government — but rather the lack of an effective mechanism to enforce the written law against the power of the sitting central government.

  7. Larry A-

    Love your first two amendments but doesn’t the third infringe on free speech? Would it be illegal for me to argue for gun control/prohibiton?

  8. My personal hobbyhorse for an Amendment is that every law sunsets after 10 years and must be renewed. This does two things:

    1) Makes bad laws go away eventually.

    2) Keeps Congress supremely busy trying to renew old laws that they can’t make many news ones.

  9. Welcome back, Mo!

  10. That won’t work, they’ll just be some ceremonial bill at the beginning of each session that renews every law currently on the books.

    Which will of course have truckloads of pork tacked on to it because no one will dare vote against it and give the other party the chance to run ads along the lines of “SENATOR SNODGRASS VOTED TO LEGALIZE XXXXX! HOW CAN YOU TRUST HIM!?”

  11. I felt like I was reading some kind of “liberty porn”. Sure, these Constitutional amendments would be great, but what about three libertarian Constiutional amendments that could actually be sold to the American public?

  12. What we need in the constitution is a amendment that prohibits forgein control over any part on this nation putting a end the the WORLD HERITAGE SITES in this nation and to end our nations memebership in the evil UN

  13. I Propose this for an amendment.

    “No Individual shall be held responsible for the responsibilities of any other individual.”

    Simple to the point.

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