Government Spending

The Case Against Convening a New Constitutional Convention

The U.S. Constitution may not be perfect, but a new constitutional convention will probably make it worse.


Arguments about process are usually, at bottom, arguments about policy. That explains why many Republicans, Democrats and The New York Times change their opinion about Senate filibusters as frequently as control of the Senate changes hands: Giving more power to the minority party is a virtue only if you're in it. It also explains why enthusiasm for changing the Constitution waxes and wanes according to the issue being debated.

The U.S. rarely lacks for suggestions about how to improve its guiding document. In the 1980s and 1990s, a balanced-budget amendment was in vogue—mostly among conservatives. Those on the right also have proposed constitutional amendments barring abortion, forbidding gay marriage, prohibiting the burning or desecration of the American flag, permitting organized prayer in school, and even enabling states to repeal federal laws and regulations.

Liberals also have sought to amend the Constitution through, e.g., the Equal Rights Amendment. Bill Clinton endorsed an amendment to protect the rights of crime victims. More recently, some on the left who hate the Citizens United decision have proposed an amendment that would nullify it; others have suggested amendments to scale back or repeal the Second Amendment.

Often, efforts to amend the constitution arise from anger at Supreme Court rulings. Many Americans who favor such amendments might not realize there is a less drastic approach. Article III says the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction "with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make." If it wanted to, Congress could steer the High Court with a much heavier hand.

Amending the Constitution is difficult and rarely done. Yet to some, occasional amendments do not suffice. They would like to pass several amendments at once. The process they propose—a convention of the states—is spelled out in Article V. Legislation has been introduced in four states (Alaska, Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri) and this year Del. Scott Lingamfelter introduced a resolution in Virginia, which he withdrew Thursday after it failed to gain enough traction.

After two-thirds of the states petition it, Congress calls a convention of the states, which can propose whatever changes it likes. Those must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, either through their legislatures or through subsequent state-level conventions.

The groundswell for all of this has conservative roots. Michael Farris, a longtime social conservative and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, leads Convention of States (, which identifies four (actually, three) "major abuses perpetrated by the federal government": the spending and debt crisis, over-regulation, congressional attacks on state sovereignty and the somewhat repetitious fourth item, a federal takeover of decision-making in America.

Backers of the movement would like to see, among other things, a balanced-budget amendment, a tax ceiling, term limits for lawmakers and Supreme Court justices, and limits on executive orders and federal regulations. These are not exactly issues that resonate with the Elizabeth Warrens of the world.

The idea of calling a convention has a certain Jeffersonian appeal. As the sage of Monticello wrote in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, "Some men look at Constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, & deem them, like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. . . . I am certainly not an advocate for frequent & untried changes in laws and constitutions . . . but I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind . . . we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

But the idea also has alarmed those on the right who are conservative in temperament as well as ideology. They worry about the possibility of a runaway convention, in which a convention meant to make a few minor adjustments to the nation's charter decides instead to scrap it entirely and start over. That is precisely what happened in 1787, when delegates who assembled in Philadelphia took their mandate to fine-tune the Articles of Confederation and ran off with it.

To this concern, supporters of the convention idea have a ready answer: It can't happen. As former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued in a recent Facebook post embracing the movement: "Critically, 38 states have to ratify any proposals coming out of the convention before they become part of the Constitution—this is our ultimate 'backstop.' Put another way, at a time when Republicans control more state legislative chambers than ever before in my lifetime, only 13 legislative bodies (e.g., only the House of Delegates, even without the Senate) may block ANY proposed amendment."

From one angle, this seems persuasive. In fact, it might be so persuasive that it renders the entire project moot. If only 13 legislative bodies, or parts of legislative bodies, can stop any proposed amendment from taking effect, the most likely outcome would be no amendment taking effect.

On the other hand, it is not hard to imagine how a runaway convention might succeed. If conservatives gained enough political power to bring about a convention of the states, then presumably they would have enough political power to dominate the subsequent state-level conventions that would have to ratify the proposed amendments. In that case, they could rewrite the Constitution to their hearts' content.

At least for a while. Constitutional amendments viewed as conservative when passed could end up serving liberal goals. For instance, conservatives seem to assume a balanced-budget amendment would require Washington to cut spending. In fact, given the choice between sharply higher taxes or sharply reduced government benefits, the public might opt for the former. It also might opt for vastly higher taxes to support a war of national survival, or perhaps even a war of convenience, if persuaded to by a sufficiently charismatic leader.

There are other reasons for skepticism. For instance, constitutions should be (to borrow from legal theorist H.L.A. Hart) sets of secondary rules—i.e., rules that determine who will write the rules that govern people's conduct.

A rule that forbids wearing hats in church is a primary rule. A rule that says all church rules shall be approved by a two-thirds vote of the church elders is a secondary rule. This is one reason (among many) a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning or gay marriage is a bad idea. We shouldn't clutter the Constitution with primary rules. But the biggest reason to be skeptical about a convention of the states is this: It fails to address the very problem that inspired it.

Advocates of a constitutional convention are upset that the federal government has grown too large. It has done so, they correctly believe, because politicians have ignored the plain meaning of the current Constitution. Yet if that is the case, then rewriting the Constitution with more or plainer language solves nothing.

If politicians can ignore the language of one Constitution, then they can ignore the language of another. People who break rules don't start obeying them just because you write some new ones.

NEXT: Man Stops Robbery with His Taser, Is Charged with Felony Possession of a Weapon

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  1. Yeah, the Constitution really only should have been a good start. Instead, it seems to have become the pinnacle, and eroding at that.

    1. Actually the Articles of Confederation were a really good start.

      They were the pinnacle, and the Constitution vastly expanded Federal power and diminished individual liberty. For example, consider the 3rd paragraph of Constitution Article IV Section 2.

      1. fans of limited government should have a laundry list of complaints for the current constitution. the limited government advocates at the time certainly did.

  2. Let’s not mess with something that’s working. Can you imagine the cluster we would get today?

    1. More like “Let’s not make a bad situation worse.” Yes, I can imagine what it would be like:

      1. Free stuff

      2. The right not to be offended

      3. Negative liberty, but only for people who scream the most loudly, and it’s not purely negative liberty because the taxpayers still have to cover it (see section 1 above)

      1. yes, the right to not be offended will probably be enumerated in specific.

  3. Bad. Idea. If there was a CC, I could easily see progressives taking it over and adding things like a guaranteed job with a living wage, freedom from being offended, maximum income, and a host of other liberty killing Amendments.

    1. Realistically, they would fight for a parliamentary system with a prime minister, etc. It would be horrible.

      1. What makes you think they’d fight for that, and what makes you think it’d be horrible? The chief result of a parliamentary system is greater partisanship and less inertia, neither of which change would necessarily be either bad or good, but I’d like to know what makes you think progressives would be for that.

        1. In a Parliamentary system the executive and legislative branches are fused, being that the legislature elects the chief executive. That’s one less check on power. The left hates checks on power.

          1. The left hates checks on power.

            Those IN POWER hate checks on power. It’s not a left/right thing.

            1. The Right has shown itself to be marginally more ready to accept limits to power. The Right has a greater tendency to play by the rules (the Left breaks the rules with blithe unconcern and then shouts “Racists!” when called on it).

              A lot of those in power in Wonderland on the Potomac are neither Right nor Left; they are “What’s in it for me?”

    2. Yeah, and they would also want to ‘fix’ the first and second amendments as well.

    3. In a fine example of how bipartisanship works for the public good, social conservatives would “concede” those issues to progressives, in return for which progressives would “concede” such issues as repeal of the 4th-6th Amendments, greater entanglement of government and religion, police and the military as separate and co-equal branches of government, and weakening of remedies for unconstitutional laws.

      1. The worst of both worlds.

      2. Exactly. And it would be a leadership-negotiated document emergin from behind closed doors and presented to the convention members as a fait accompli to vote up or down, which is the way Congress does business more and more these days. Both sides would hate it.

    4. Yeah, just look at FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights:”

      Employment, with a living wage
      Food, clothing and leisure
      Farmers’ rights to a fair income
      Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
      Medical care
      Social security

      That’d just be a starting point for the progressives of today. They already have some of those entitlements enshrined in law. Add all sorts of idiocy like the aforementioned “Right to not be offended” (I once had a Marxist say we had a right “not to be fucked with” by business) and we’d end up with a Constitution as long as the ADA, with rights, exceptions to rights, and regulatory agencies making rules on the rights. It sounds like something like the worst idea ever to me.

    5. The liberals can’t take it over and they know it.

      Exhibit A: All far left state legislators are voting against this.

      Exhibit B: The numerous Article V groups that are all going from statehouse to statehouse trying to get *their* resolutions adopted. They wouldn’t be doing that if they thought they could hijack a conservative Article V effort.

      If you want to be afraid of something, be afraid that this never happens.

  4. How about “Freedom from Want”? How’s that sound? Like a 100% guarantee that you don’t own a single thing?

    1. How about “Freedom from Fear”? How’s that sound? Like a 100% that you’d be banned from writing or saying anything that would make anybody uncomfortable … especially anything that would make a politician or bureaucrat uncomfortable.

  5. I disagree. For a long time, I agreed a CC would be a bad idea. No more. We’re quickly headed over the precipice. Yes – “it could be worse”. But I’m now convinced the collective “we” have a better shot of improving things rather than fucking them up.

    I actually believe now that doing nothing is worse, and we DEFINITELY end up where everyone “fears” we’ll end up with a CC. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Therefore, it’s worth a shot. If it’s fucked up? Well, I don’t think we’ll find out, because unlike our forebears in the 1700’s, I’m pretty much positive the collective US “we” don’t have the stones to go for it.

    So I think the country will bump along and continue the slide to perdition, all along everyone wondering “how we got here”, until it all collapses and SOMALIA

    The End

    1. An entirely new constitution would be much worse than what we have now. Three fourths of the states would never pass the second amendment as it is currently written.

      1. The Convention of States Project is not out to write “an entirely new constitution”. Check out the truth:

    2. At least we wont have to move to Somalia to be libertarians then

  6. The thought of the kind of Constitution Team Red and Team Blue (but especially the progs) would come up with if given free rein to do so is truly terrifying.

    While I can see plenty of room for the current system to be improved (i.e., to better protect liberty and constrain government), realistically we’d end up with something drastically worse than what we already have. You can take that to the bank.

    1. The thought of the kind of Constitution Team Red and Team Blue (but especially the progs) people would come up with if given free rein to do so is truly terrifying.

      What you’re really complaining about is “everybody who cares enough to do anything about things, except the few who agree with me”. Sorry, but that’s the world you’re stuck with, & always will be.

      While I can see plenty of room for the current system to be improved (i.e., to better protect liberty and constrain government), realistically we’d end up with something drastically worse than what we already have. You can take that to the bank.

      I don’t trust you to handicap this issue. If the push is from people who mostly want to make it better, what evidence do you have that makes it more realistic it’d wind up worse?

      Do you expect the political climate over the next 100 yrs. or so to get better or worse? If you expect it to get better, then I agree with your judgment, even if not your reason. If you expect it to get worse, then why not lock in the goodness we have now (by constitutionalizing it) to make it harder for it to get worse?

      1. I don’t trust you to handicap this issue. If the push is from people who mostly want to make it better, what evidence do you have that makes it more realistic it’d wind up worse?

        To use an historical example, the US founding fathers were pretty damned limity. They created arguably the most limited state in history and now that same state is the largest and most powerful government in history.

        If you expect it to get worse, then why not lock in the goodness we have now (by constitutionalizing it) to make it harder for it to get worse?

        I see little advantage in whipping a fresh batch of legitimacy for injustice by codifying them in the Constitution.

        The political climate will get better when the US federal government peacefully ceases to be. I think the American people would be better served living under 5 or 6 less centralized governments than the one they have to deal with currently.

        1. Then why aren’t they moving to the countries where those gov’ts have sway?

          1. because there are no other quasi-liberty-capitalistish governments right now.
            for all its bullshit america is still the only place where you kinda have a right to be a human provided you dont get caught, everywhere else has slipped so far into collectivist bullshit it would be more intolerable to live with those socialist dirtbags than with our truly horrid oppressive monstrosity of a government.

        2. It’d be worse because a bunch of intellectual classical liberals wrote the one we have now, whereas a bunch of special interests out for themselves, along with the screaming, ignorant masses whose sole philosophy is “I want free shit!” would be in the driver’s seat for a new one.

          You really want these assholes in charge now, or the people in charge of the elite law schools at the present moment, enumerating rights and limiting government? It’s a really ugly thought.

        3. The Federalist Papers predicted that USG would defend citizens against the States and vice versa. It’s not hard to imagine some structural changes that could help that happen.

          For example: Abolish the Federal judiciary. State judges ? chosen by people with less motive to aggrandize federal authority ? hear all cases; each party can appeal once to another State of their choice.

          For example: In Switzerland, one-third of the Cantons (or some number of citizens) can call a referendum to kill any recent federal act.

          For example: Rather than require that Amendments originate in the body that most needs restraining, let any State legislature propose them. (Most, of course, would go nowhere.)

        4. The constitution was limity only in that it limited what states could do. There are almost no explicit limitations on the power of the fed govt apart from ex post facto and habeus corpus.

  7. I think that if there was a new CC the results would be horrible. As others above have said the 1st and 2nd would be dropped and other horrible stuff would be added (right to healthcare).

    The only upside I see from one is that I think that it would lead to the breakup of the Union. I can see lots of states refusing to ratify the new constitution and breaking off into their own mini-states.

    It would be like those stupid maps that progs are always making where they demand that red states secede if they don’t stop opposing their agenda.

    1. I can see lots of states refusing to ratify the new constitution and breaking off into their own mini-states.

      That was tried once. It didn’t work out. And no, that war was not to abolish slavery. It was to preserve the Union.

      1. We tried that once in the 1860s. So we can never try it again?

      2. That was tried once. It didn’t work out. And no, that war was not to abolish slavery. It was to preserve the Union.

        I’d love to see the federal government in 2015, tell the American people that they need to shoot the people in states X, Y or Z because they want to exercise their right of secession. In fact, I think such an admission would do a lot to reduce the legitimacy of the United States’ federal government and would lend popular support to all manner of decentralization.

        1. I could imagine progressives lining up for the opportunity to kill some Red Staters (I always get that red/blue thing mixed up since red should apply to the Communist Democrat party).

          1. Dude, all the states that take more than they give in taxes with the exception of two are conservative all the states that pay taxes are liberal. Lobs do all the work in this country. Is their a great transformative entrepreneur who is not super liberal. Since this whole thread started with Jefferson, why not point out his attacks on inheritance

      3. We don’t have an issue as polarizing as slavery that government can use to manipulate large portions of the population to kill other large portions of the population. On the other hand, there is a standing army.

        1. immigration

      4. A better parallel: the last couple of ratifications in 1789 were not entirely voluntary.

    2. demand that red states secede if they don’t stop opposing their agenda.

      I do not think progs OR neo-cons would let any State peacefully leave the union, given that they desire control over others. This applies especially to progressives. And I second sarcasmic’s comment.

    3. I see no movement against the free speech clauses of the state constitutions?which are equal to or stronger than the US 1st amendment regarding speech & the press?so what makes you think there’d be any greater movement to rescind the 1st amendment? Notice also that in recent time Congress has enacted a pair of religious freedom statutes, so what makes anyone think that aspect of the 1st amendment would be endangered?

      All that I see points to the conclusion that if any alteration of the 1st amendment were to take place now (which is difficult, considering you need 3/4 of the states), the result would be a stronger amendment, not a weaker one.

      1. I also think the RKBA is riding especially high now, higher than we could ever expect to get out of the 2nd amendment as currently ruled on, so I think if anything we’d come out with a stronger national RKBA than now. Still, the likeliest outcome is no change, but I see far, far less chance of its being weakened in the current climate, which is the best it’s been in possibly centuries.

      2. Rob, the whole “we cannot tolerate intolerance” movement make me very worried that a new CC would put in some filters to make sure that only good thoughts are protected. Pure cynicism on my part. I would love to believe like you do that the 1st would only be strengthened (like explicitly protecting commercial speech), but I just can’t.

        Likewise with the 2nd. Sure the RKBA has had some impressive wins lately, but that was through the courts. In a CC, I could see the big population centers like NYC, CA and CHI, adding some “common sense” restrictions to it. If the CC is represented by population, that is going to be a big problem to keep out.

        1. Likewise with the 2nd. Sure the RKBA has had some impressive wins lately, but that was through the courts.

          The wins thru the courts are what I’m most nervous about, because it was very close in the USSC, and so could turn around very quickly. But meanwhile, popular sentiment is more pro-gun than it may have been since people considered it an issue. I think that even if the replacement for the 2nd amendment includes “common sense restrictions”, the results will be better than what we have now, because allowing for restrictions is already read into the 2nd amendment (and that’s with a favorable SC) and because the details will be specified, with less wiggle room on the restriction side.

          1. Theres no such thing as a common sense restriction for self defense.
            all of their laws are unconstitutional currently why give them legitimacy

        2. But a convention of the states would not be a popular vote. Each state would send delegates. Anything approved at the convention would have to be approved by the state legislatures and it would only take 13 of them to vote down any amendment. It seems highly unlikely to me that there wouldn’t be more than 13 state legislatures that would vote against rescinding or limiting the current 2nd Amendment. That’s just one example-the same argument applies to other parts of the Constitution as well.

          1. we couldnt get 25 to vote against boehner

      3. Speech restrictions are fashionable among the left now. State level movements are meaningless because the first amendment has been incorporated to include the states. Of course they wouldn’t bother so the lack of such movements proves nothing. Do you really believe absent that first amendment constraint proggies and socons wouldn’t be clamoring to erode speech at the state level over hurt feelings, hate speech, and flag burning?

        I doubt you believe that but if you do you are naive.

        1. Speech restrictions are fashionable among the “left”, but the “left” itself is not fashionable. Don’t confuse what you see in the mass media with what there’s actual popular support for, which is what will be the issue when it comes to both getting delegates to the convention and to ratif’n of whatever they report out.

        2. Oh, and state constitutional provisions on freedom of speech make federal incorporation irrelevant because the state provisions are at least as strong, and in many cases stronger. Read your state’s constitution on freedom of expression, and see if you don’t find that it’s more explicit.

          The only problem is that in some cases those state constitutional provisions on speech are so strong that they’ve been interpreted as over-riding the wishes of property owners, as in the PruneYard decision!

          1. The “corporations aren’t people” philistines control the debate, and are licking their chops at the thought of a Article V Convention. If you abolish the 1st Amendment, get ready for McCain-Feingold Electric Boogaloo. The replacement for the 1st Amendment would be rewritten with exceptions precisely crafted to allow “good-government” progressive reforms. Complete public financing of campaigns, shutting down criticisms of politicians by non-approved sources, etc. are beloved by incumbents and low information voters alike.

            If that’s not enough to sweeten the deal, toss in a Balanced Budget Amendment that will backfire exactly the way Hinkle indicates. See? Bipartisan and Reasonable?!

          2. I highly doubt there is a state constitution more encompassing than something like the Brandenburg decision but I would be interested in which ones you think really are more inclusive.

        3. Sure, proggies & so-cons will clamor to erode speech. Their clamor will be utterly drowned out & ignored. Those people have power only in limited venues where they have people’s att’n & no competition, such as college campuses. They’ll be creamed when it comes to delegate selection.

          1. When it comes to delegate selection, proggies will out-maneuver conservatives and libertarians in the same manner that they run circles around us when it comes time to pick “non-partisan” districting commissions and conducting “recounts.” Kristen Sinema is a rising star in the AZ Democratic Party who would likely be languishing in the state legislature if Democrats had not been able to control the Congressional districting process. This is in a state that Romney(!) carried by 9 points. Good luck winning delegates in a state with a closer partisan split.

            1. Agree here. When do small government types ever win? I am not keen on gambling away the first amendment based on fantasy.

            2. This. And look at the pool of academics who would invariably be chosen to draft it. Do you imagine there would be a majority of liberty-lovers there?

              And the media, meanwhile, will be talking about how anything left unregulated will be a “loophole” and a
              danger to teh childrenz.

  8. I am opposed to a CC for the reason others have mentioned. It will inevitably lead to things like government granted privileges prevailing over negative rights and further empower the federal government. I would simply like the Federal Constitution and that of the several States to be enforced as they are written.

    1. HERE !!!! HERE!!!!!

  9. Who would be the delegates to this new CC? That alone should send shivers down your spine. The new Constitution would have nothing resembling limited government.

    As a side note if the CC delegates were made up of H&R commentariat the HyR Constitution would have as its preamble; No, Fuck you, cut spending.

    1. Much more elegant and succint than the original preamble.

  10. We have examples in the states, many of which have provisions in their existing constitutions calling for constitutional conventions at intervals. Fla. had one recently that resulted in improvements, and no disimprovements, from the POV of individual liberty. Do you know of any states that’ve had recent constitutional conventions that worsened things?

    1. California, every 2 years when the voters pass new amendments.

      1. But those aren’t the products of a convention. Even so, have recent amendments been more bad than good?

        1. That’s an interesting point: each California initiative amendment is written by a single-issue organization, not negotiated with an eye to finding something on which a supermajority can agree.

  11. Given the way things are going what is the over/under on the likelihood that the CC would end up with a new constitution that couldn’t be released to the public until after it had been ratified? Like Obamacare and the new FCC net neutrality shit?

    1. I think the proceedings would be incomparably more transparent today than previously.

  12. I would like two constitutional conventions to be convened: the first to void the union wholesale, and a second (and likely more) to set up a new Federation where states can join and leave at their discretion.

    1. I’m fine with the first if you skip the second part.

  13. If there was ever an example of “You’d better be careful of what you wish for.”, those that want to open up the constitution to a convention better think twice.

    Can anyone imagine the really awful, scary amendments that would be offered up?

    A frightening thought.

  14. The immediate result of a CC would be horrible. The likes of Bush, Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Romney would run the process. The end result would be the product of Harvard and Yale law professors, but it would be heavily influenced by various lobbies, public sector labor unions, and billions of dollars. It would be sold to the public with insidiously deceptive propaganda.

    In other words, it would look like ObamaCare.

    However, the ultimate result of a CC might not be so bad if it led to a dissolution of the US. It is becoming increasingly clear that the US is too large to be free country.

    1. Not true! The State Legislatures would select the delegates and the Congress has no role to play. Ratification would be no different than any of the other 27 Amendments.

      1. Or the delegates would be popularly elected. As to ratification of what comes out, the amendment itself is allowed to specify whether legislatures or conventions will do that, or simply leave it up to each state as usual.

        1. Yes, let’s popularly elect these delegates. In a process that will occur once. That we will be powerless to remedy when inevitably games are played with the process by the sorts of folks who know how to game these things.

          Parliament in 1376 (“The Good Parliament”) made a lot of reforms including allowing for the popular election of the House of Commons. The most powerful nobleman, John of Gaunt, set about strategizing for the 1377 elections. He was incredibly successful. All of the baddies who had been impeached in 1376 were pardoned. The reformers of 1376 were executed or imprisoned, and generally the 1377 Parliament lived up to their name of the “Bad Parliament.”

          Now, consider the 2012 Primary, where Romney succeeded in hand-picking many of the delegates regardless of who had actually been elected. The reason nobody was ever held accountable was because, hey, by the time the fraud could have been litigated in court, the proceedings were over. It’s sour grapes.

          Same thing when funny business happens with a bogus recount or ballot stuffing. The person who was cheated is a sore loser. Just ask Loretta Sanchez, a Congresswoman who will never ever be removed from office now that she has the benefits of incumbency despite the fact that was originally “elected” by brazenly stealing the election from Bob Dornan.

          It would be incredibly difficult to get well-informed, well-meaning people educated and organized to the point that they could control such a process.

      2. I never said Congress would be directly involved. Career politicians would run the process. Ivory tower law professors would draft the language, and it would be heavily influenced by lobbies, bureaucrats, and billions of dollars. It is naive to think that Congressmen and their staffs would not also exert considerable influence on the process.

      3. Oh, yeah. The state legislatures who consulted us all before ramming the no-smoking in bars down the throats of their respective citizens? Yeah, I trust them.

      4. “Congress has no role to play” other than calling the convention and (since the Constitution says no more) setting its rules.

  15. First what is proposed in not a Constitutional Convention. It is a Convention of States to propose amendments to the Constitution just as the other 27 Amendments have been added over time. The difference is that instead of the Congress proposing the amendments the States would select delegates to represent the State Legislatures. Second, we are now under a continuous alteration of the Constitution via the bureaucracies regulations, Supreme Court decisions and the like. To expect the Federal Government, Congress, the Courts or the Executive branch to reform themselves is a pipe dream. This is the only constitutional, lawful and representative mechanism for those governed to have a voice in reform of an over reaching, ever growing and ravenous Federal leviathan. Certainly I am not naive enough to be deluded that there could not be chicanery by one or both parties. It is a risk worth the effort if we are ever going to utilize a lawful mechanism to restore the rule of law, limit the size and scope of the Federal government and again see a country that is responsive and subservient to its Citizen’s.

    1. A “Convention of States to propose amendments” is a Constitutional Convention. It’s scope would be unlimited.

      1. This is simply not true. Read Article V of the constitution. It clearly scopes the convention’s purpose as for proposing amendments.

        I’m shocked at the ignorance on display here in these comments. Reason is the last place I would have expected so much fear-mongering based in fantasy and myth when the constitution itself is very clear on the matter.

        1. So, the difference between a Constitutional Convention and a convention that can effectively abolish the entire Constution via Amendment in order to replace it with Constitution 2.0 would be?

          1. So, you think that 3/4 of the states will ratify an amendment that effectively abolishes the constitution?

            A convention of the states does not alter the amendment process. Its SOLE purpose is an alternative mechanism for submitting amendments into the SAME ratification process that every other amendment has gone through.

    2. The original Constitutional Convention was also supposed to just consider amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Quite a few delegates had other designs.

      1. And the difference now is that there’s an existing constitution that was previously ratified that scopes both the convention of the states to only proposing amendments as well as the process of ratifying amendments to requiring 3/4 of the states.

        Anyone can show up with any designs that they like and it doesn’t change the fact that getting amendments ratified is just as difficult as always.

  16. they Constitution has been amended 27 times, so Im not sure why it cannot be amended again.

    Amendments I’d favor

    -Repeal income tax
    -clarify gun rights – make it universal
    -an real equal rights amendment- nobody can be discriminated against BY THE GOVERNMENT for age sex religion race or INCOME LEVEL. – no more targeted taxes for the rich no more race based college admissions.
    -Clarifying fourth fifth and sixth amendments- no more seizures without criminal accusation.

    Obviously the current constitution is not strong enough to protect the individual rights against political/social manipulation.


    Those are from Googling “recent state constitutional conventions”.

  18. Wow, Mass. has been having a lot of them:…..good-news/

  19. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $65 /hour on the internet . She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her payment was $17961 just working on the internet for a few hours. read more…………….
    ????? http://www.Workvalt.Com

  20. “That is precisely what happened in 1787, when delegates who assembled in Philadelphia took their mandate to fine-tune the Articles of Confederation and ran off with it.”

    Really? Would you please provide a primary source for this, please?

    1. But so what if they ran off with it? They still got every single state to ratify what came out!

      Until they got the last state to adopt it, the Articles of Confederation still applied. What you had after 9 states ratified the new constitution (as required by its own terms) was an interstate compact affecting only those states. But that was just a brief period.

      1. However brief that period was, did the first nine ratifiers continue to respect the Articles during the transition?

  21. “To this concern, supporters of the convention idea have a ready answer: It can’t happen. As former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued in a recent Facebook post embracing the movement:….”

    There is a whole body of literature on this very topic and you quote a facebook post? How light weight. Quote the literature. It’s available and abundant.

  22. my buddy’s mom makes $86 an hour on the computer . She has been out of a job for 5 months but last month her check was $15207 just working on the computer for a few hours. site here…………….

  23. The Constitution is fine. The people we’ve put in charge of guarding it (and thus, we ourselves) are the problem.

    1. Okay, abolish the populace and convene a new one.

  24. “Advocates of a constitutional convention are upset that the federal government has grown too large. It has done so, they correctly believe, because politicians have ignored the plain meaning of the current Constitution. Yet if that is the case, then rewriting the Constitution with more or plainer language solves nothing.”

    So the constitution gives us a constitutional means to address the fundamental problems in Washington, as it was designed to do, and this author is saying don’t use it. You are the one ignoring the plain meaning of the constitution.

  25. I propose the:

    Libertarian Bill of Rights

    Article 1
    No person may initiate force, threats of force, or fraud against any other person’s self or property.

    Article 2
    Force may be used against those who violate Article 1.

    Article 3
    No exceptions shall exist for Articles 1 and 2.

    1. To play devil’s advocate, what do “threats of force” entail?

      “I should punch you in the face…”

      “You touch my wife, I’ll kill you…”

      Also, you need to well define what “fraud” is.

      1. Unlawfully restricting the freedom of another person by threatening to commit a criminal offense.

        1. So legally restricting the freedom of another person by threatening legal violence is still okay? Whew.

  26. Those who say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” have their heads in the sand. It is “broke”; it was broken by big government advocates, beginning in earnest with Woodrow Wilson and hitting hyperspeed in the Roosevelt years.

    Single issue amendments such as term limits (even if they would ever be proposed by Congress, which it has steadfastly refused to do no matter how popular) won’t solve the fundamental problem, which is relying on the federal government to control itself. That will never happen. The vaunted “separation of powers” embodied in the Constitution doesn’t work when, as is now the case, all three branches collude to expand government. What is needed to restore the robust federalism which the constitution was supposed to provide, and keep Washington in check, is a specific process by which the states collectively can reverse any federal action (law, treaty, regulation, court decision, etc.) which they believe is beyond its legitimate power. Call it nullification if you like, but it has to be a collective nullification, not a unilateral one. And the only way to achieve that is by an Article V convention (the Constitution provides no mechanism for the states to propose specific amendments). Once that is achieved we can work on our own individual states to become more libertarian (or, failing that, move to a more attractive political environment). But restoring the states to their proper place in a federalist structure is the necessary first step.

    1. I think what you’re looking for is to change the appointment of federal judges from Congressional to state responsibility. The states would appoint the judges to districts within their borders, have their own judge on circuit courts of appeal, and rotate responsibility for appointments to the US Sup. Ct., and the no. of judges on the last would be constitutionally specified.

      1. One problem with fixing the size of the Supreme Court is the jackpot effect: “Sure we’d like to vote third-party, but this time it’s really really important to vote for the Second Worst Nominee so that the Worst Nominee doesn’t get umpty-leven Supreme Court appointments.” Vesting the appointment elsewhere would merely shift that problem somewhere else.

        Better, I think, to appoint one new Justice every two years (the historic average), regardless of ‘vacancies’; if the number fluctuates, so what?

  27. I’ve lived 70 years, and I doubt we have the handful of ppl smart enough. And if we do, we certainly wouldn’t select them, or likely approve the result. Better to just let the govt crumble as it has in most every other place.

  28. For a horror story of what a modern constitution can look like see South Africa’s constitution. It’s a Hodge Podge of contradictory and freedom sapping positive rights and primary exhortations (borrowing H.L.A. Hart’s terminology). As horrid as it is, I can’t think that a CC in the US would produce anything less vulgar. Reading the S.A constitution confirmed what I had already thought, that unleashing a bunch of political hacks on the US constitution could only make matters worse. Is there any doubt it would be political hacks gnawing away at the constitution? I don’t doubt that a bloody civil war resulting in the dissolution of the union would lead to less harm than having our current political class redlining our current constitution.

    While I think the constitution has been violated and perverted so as to provide for a form of governance unrecognizable to and unintended by its authors, I also think a rewritten constitution could not provide for a clearer, more enlightened or more principle based set of rules. It is pretty much as good as it gets. The fault is not in our current constitution so much as it is in us.

  29. Light switch Libertarians are intellectually lazy…Rule breaking politicians who are term limited quickly become rule breaking civilians…Term limits on all branches of this Federal government will solve nearly every problem we are currently faced with. Bring a flat or fair tax to the table, and we may have this liberty thing whipped…

  30. We don’t need a Constitutional Convention. We need

    A) To recognize that, if the Constitution and Amendments we HAVE were enforced to any real degree, 90% of the government would be ruled unconstitutional.

    B) This didn’t come about quickly, and therefore

    C) This won’t be SOLVED quickly.


    D) We should stop thrashing around for ideas on how to undo a century of Progressive rot in a single election cycle. It won’t work, and trying WILL give the pillocks who are the real problem a glorious chance to screw things up worse than they are now.

  31. I’m often confused by people who talk as though the Constitution were somehow in effect as law of the land. As a country, we have decided to neither update the Constitution or to follow it. Now that may sound like a bad idea, like some mistake we’re making, but as it turns out, for a government to be truly free, ignoring rules is better than updating them. Hail Hydra

  32. There should be need some way to propose an amendment without getting Congress involved, but without having to convene a CC. Perhaps we need an amendment to create one.

  33. The left has not ignored the constitution per the authors assertion. The left has bent it to its agenda. Take the commerce clause, for instance. The Federalists clearly spell out the purpose is, not was, to eliminate competitions between States, with a capital S. It was not a regulatory scheme for all of commerce. A convention might serve best which defines what we have in rock solid terms. Next, take necessary and proper, another expanding balloon of opportunity for statists. We find the Federalists corralled that phrase with the specific items or grants of power already enumerated in the document. I would like the word infringed from the second given its due. I might like seeing the word reasonable reworked in the fourth. One new change I would like is to grant any citizen standing in any challenge to any law at any time. Jury duty should be 12, mandatory, informed of the powers of the jury. Etc., etc.

  34. It requires 34 applications from 34 states to cause a convention call. You can read the 764 applications from 49 states at BTW Congress is counting the applications. See .

  35. It’s time for a limited constitutional convention.

    1. The author didn’t mention the efforts by compact for America!home/c1zzr. This won’t result in an open-ended convention, but allow for the states to essentially just pass one amendment without going through congress.

    2. The argument that our entire federal structure could be thrown out ignores the fact that state governments hold real power, many of which that are older than the Constitution. Indeed, older than the American Revolution. The states would stand as a bulwark to any radical reforming of our Federal Government. 100% of the states ratified the Constitution. If a new Constitution was able to get 50 states to support it, I doubt it would be much different than what we have. Can you imagine Texas and Arizona supporting anything that relaxed the 2nd amendment?

  36. First of all an article V convention is not a constitutional convention. The former can only produce amendments while the latter is convened to revise a constitution. Second the congress does follow the constitution. However the courts have used vague language to distort the constitution.

    Our federal government has overstepped its authority. The overreach by both the executive branch and the legislative branch had been supported by decisions made by the courts. Convention Of States has an article V application that will allow delegates to propose amendments to rein in all three branches of the federal government.
    To sign the petition, volunteer, or just to get more information visit

  37. Okay. So. This article is very misleading. Like this paragraph. “After two-thirds of the states petition it, Congress calls a convention of the states, which can propose whatever changes it likes. Those must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, either through their legislatures or subsequent state-level conventions.” Congress can propose amendments without a COS. They will not control it. The states will.

    “But the idea also has alarmed those on the right who are conservative in temperament as well as ideology. They worry about the possibility of a runaway convention, in which a convention meant to make a few minor adjustments to the nation’s charter decides instead to scrap it entirely and start over. That is precisely what happened in 1787 when delegates who assembled in Philadelphia took their mandate to fine-tune the Articles of Confederation and ran off with it.” There can be no such thing as a so-called runaway convention. Like I just said, the states will control this. And I took the comma out after 1787 because it was unnecessary. That’s a complex sentence.

    A COS is not about Congress. It’s about us. The citizens of this country and making sure we do everything we can to save our country. And I plan on working to that end. I hope you and your readers will join me.

    Please sign the petition at And please volunteer at

  38. This is not a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the Constitution, but an Article V Convention of States to PROPOSE Amendments to the Constitution and 38 have to pass any proposed amendment. I’m more worried about runaway government stealing my children’s and grandchildren’s future– almost 20 TRILLION in debt !! Article V was argued by Alexander Hamilton so the States and their representatives would be able to have a voice in what could be added to our Constitution, and not just the cronies in DC. It may be a long shot, but it is also our only shot. We need to come together as a country and let these career politicians know we are feed up with their spending, limit the terms for the Congressional & Judicial branches, and remove Presidential Executive orders. We should demand they participate in Social Security and not have their own separate plan for life that we pay for!!! An Article V convention would start the process where WE THE PEOPLE would start a dialog in each state to ensure our voice would be heard!!!! We must USE the Constitution to SAVE the Constitution!! Nothing happens when GOOD PEOPLE DO NOTHING!!! Lets do this!!! Visit here to sign the petition, learn more, and volunteer:

  39. It looks like the RNC and DNC are headed for contentious conventions. Remember the 1968 DNC convention? Why is this? The problems facing America have been allowed to fester by a subservient Republican Congress and a tyrannical Democrat President. The 20 trillion dollar debt must be dealt with as we sink deeper into bankruptcy. Will this reconciliation be painful? There is a peaceful way to work on America’s problems provided by the Founders in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. We are working to implement this solution at Check us out.

    1968 DNC Convention:

  40. We can’t see the end from the beginning of the process–we can’t predetermine the outcome–but we *can* sit down together from whatever ideological backgrounds are represented, hash out the means to rein in the abuses of the federal government, and then send those one-state-one-vote amendments back to the states for ratification by 3/4’s of them. Better this than doing nothing at all on the basis that something worse would happen. “Worse” is happening now. The frog swimming frantically in the increasingly warming pot is nearly dead and doesn’t know it.

  41. The article claims that conservatives will “rewrite the Constitution to their heart’s content”; however, the convention that they are talking about ( is limited to only amendments that restrict the federal government. That means that they can’t do just anything they want.

    The other argument that I wanted to touch on in this article is when they said that if the Constitution is ignored now, then it will still be ignored after amendments. However, this is not true. The reason that they ignore it now is because the Supreme Court said that they could; and the reason that the Supreme Court said this is because it found two main clauses (these account for the bulk of the problem): the General Welfare clauses and the Commerce clause. With clauses this vague, the Supreme Court figured that they could add some extra duties of the federal government and classify them as ‘general welfare’ or ‘commerce’. With a COS, we can end this by amending the constitution to be more specifically worded in those areas, so that the Court can’t make stuff up anymore – we’ll make it so crystal clear that they will have no excuse.

    Join the movement! learn more at

    Sign the petition at

  42. It certainly is worth briefly noting the longevity of our legislative system. I really have to give those early *American’s* credit for setting up a system that is simple, yet careful on all sides. Yet what we have today is a bare complexion to the essential components that the system was meant to be. It was John Adams who said: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. Adams knew our constitution was meant to keep us operating efficiently assuming we hold on to a moral and religious framework. We now see the effects of our system with morality not being heeded. My efforts to restore the system have been little, I admit – but I would like to see a move not to at 1787 United States, as we would not “fit the coat” – rather, I would like to see Americans reestablish a strong moral character so we can keep governing ourselves rather then the government externally governing us, our economy, and our individual states. The US Government should definitely *not* the world’s largest corporation!

  43. Words are important to Liberals. The subject is a “Convention of States” not a constitutional convention. Anything after that proves it to be unacknowledged & not credible. When Liberals change the language they take power. Don’t accept their language!

  44. When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they did not anticipate modern-day politicians who take advantage of loopholes and vague phraseology. Even though it is obvious to all reasonable Americans that the federal government is violating the original meaning of the Constitution, Washington pretends otherwise, claiming the Constitution contains broad and flexible language. Amendments at a Convention of States today will be written with the current state of the federal government in mind. The language they use for these amendments will be unequivocal. There will be no doubt as to their meaning, no possibility of alternate interpretations, and no way for them to be legitimately broken. For example, the General Welfare Clause could be amended to add this phrase: “If the States have the jurisdiction to spend money on a subject matter, Congress may not tax or spend for this same subject matter.”

    In addition to this, it should be noted that the federal government has not violated the amendments passed in recent years. Women’s suffrage, for example, has been 100% upheld.

  45. Lots of misinformation in this article. Here is some history you can verify for yourselves:

    The Philadelphia Constitutional Convention was first proposed during the Annapolis States Convention. The delegates of the five states in attendance agreed that the goal of the upcoming convention was “to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies (critical needs) of the Union.”

    The Articles of Confederation did not give Congress the authority to call such a convention, nor did Congress play any role in calling the Convention. The states were sovereign and retained the power to call such a convention. Seven state legislatures agreed to send delegates to the “Constitutional Convention prior to the time that Congress acted to endorse it. The states told their delegates that the purpose of the Convention was the one stated in the Annapolis Convention. Congress voted to endorse this Convention on February 21, 1787. It did not “call” the Convention or “give instructions” to the delegates. It merely proclaimed that “in the opinion of Congress, it is expedient” for the Convention to be held in Philadelphia on the date informally set by the Annapolis Convention and formally approved by 7 state legislatures. (to be continued)

  46. Ultimately, 12 states appointed delegates. Ten of these states followed the phrasing of the Annapolis Convention with only minor variations in wording (“render the Federal Constitution adequate”). Two states, New York and Massachusetts, followed wording used by Congress (“amend the Articles” as well as “render the Federal Constitution adequate”).

    The States, not Congress, called the Constitutional Convention. They told their delegates to render the Federal Constitution adequate for the exigencies of the Union. And that is exactly what they did.

    The Philadelphia Convention was not a run-a-way or hijacked convention. It was a Constitutional Convention and not an Amending Convention. Our Constitution is not illegal. However, our Constitution is being hijacked by our rouge-run-a-way federal government now. In most thinking peoples’minds, the best, and possibly, last chance to save our Constitution and liberties and restore power to the states/people is through using the Article V Convention of States process. (To be continued)

  47. The Article V Convention of States constitutional amending process was voted to be included in the Constitution by all 12 state delegations represented at the convention. Our founding fathers felt that it would be used often as a check/balance to federal overreach, thereby preserving state rights and protecting the constitution and personal liberties, and protecting against tyranny.

    It is an outright lie to claim there have been no State Conventions and we don’t know how they would work. There were many State Conventions before and after Constitution was ratified. So we know how State Conventions work as a matter of historical precedent and settled law.

    Unfortunately, there has never been a successful Article V Convention of States called. There have been many attempts, but none of the proposals have yet received approval from two-thirds of the state legislatures to call a COS. Imagine, the civil war might have been avoided and the slaves might have been emancipated much sooner if an Article V COS had been called to deal with the clearly flawed and immoral Dred Scott vs Sandford ruling by SCOTUS. And Roe vs Wade, Many of the 50 million slaughtered unborn babies would be alive today. What an atrocity. (TBC)

  48. Washington DC is out of control! If you like the status-quo, be honest, say so, and tell the world the real reason you oppose the Citizens for Self-Governance Article V Convention of States Project.

    If you don’t like the status-quo, you can learn more about Citizens for Self Governance and our Article V Convention of States Project by visiting our website:

  49. I am in favor of the Article V Convention of States Project.
    Here is why it will work, and why it is safe. One of the few proposed amendments is for term limits. This alone puts We-the-People back in the driver’s seat. It also sends the message that, what we accomplish once we can do again. This is an exercise in citizenship. The big government people have been active at it for quite some time. Now it is time for the limited government people to step up and use social media to exert our authority.
    As to why it is safe; the Founders were brilliant when they inserted Article V. It requires a supermajority to propose and ratify new amendments. It only takes half of the legislatures in 13 states to deny ratification. We, limited government folks have enough influence, in enough states to stop any pro government amendments from passing. This is a long game strategy. It is also the only way that we can reign in these out of control faceless bureaucrats. We can put enough pressure on our State legislatures to get this done! If not me, who? If not now, when?
    Check it out here: http://www.conventionofstates….
    #LibertyFirst #ConventionOfStates #GetInvolved

  50. “Advocates of a constitutional convention are upset that the federal government has grown too large. It has done so, they correctly believe, because politicians have ignored the plain meaning of the current Constitution.”
    That is not the reason the federal govt has grown so large.

    The reason the federal govt has grown to its present size is owing almost entirely to Supreme Court rulings that give a green light to ever more taxing and spending measures.

    Here are two such cases: The Schechter Poultry case and US v Butler.

    In the Schechter case, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress didn’t just have authority to regulate interstate commerce, they had the authority to regulate anything that *affected* interstate commerce.

    In the Butler case, the Supreme Court ruled that practically any spending could be justified using the General Welfare clause.

    So our govt isn’t as big as it is because Congress is ignoring the Constitution. It’s as big as it is because Congress points over to the Supreme Court and says “They said this was constitutional”

    There is no way to correct these Supreme Court decisions apart from constitutional amendments.

  51. I have an important question for those of you who posted some of the later comments in support of the so-called “convention of states” *. Who is responsible for giving you the impression (which most of you seem to have) that a national Article V convention would be composed, controlled, and limited in the ways that you have claimed? It is true, of course, that any amendments proposed by it would have to eventually be ratified in 3/4 of the states (either by legislatures or state conventions, depending on which method Congress chooses) in order to take effect, just like any other proposed amendment. However, numerous people in the comments above claim that members of the convention would be chosen by state legislatures, that the convention’s power to propose amendments would be limited to certain subjects, and that the convention itself might in some other ways be controlled by state governments (though more people imply that last one than state it outright). To those who believe that: why do you believe it, and where did you get the idea that it is true?

    * I do not know whether you will ever see this question, now that so much time has passed, but you might. After all, most of your own comments appear to have been posted over a year after both the article itself and all of the initial comments on it were posted.

  52. I assume that most of you wouldn’t want to bet the Constitution on this without making sure that what you have been told about it is correct, so I hope that you will take the time to look into it a little deeper. Verify that what you have been told is well-founded. Article V itself says nothing to suggest that states are guaranteed any role in the convention (other than in asking Congress to call the convention in the first place), much less that they can set its agenda and limit its powers or that state legislatures would necessarily have the power to appoint the members. Instead, it makes Congress responsible for calling a convention. Does that give Congress authority to call a convention which (for example) is composed of popularly-elected members apportioned on the basis of population and which has authority to propose whatever amendments the convention thinks would be desirable? Maybe. However, it is undeniable that Congress would have, at the very least, the *opportunity* to make such decisions while calling the convention. It is also pretty certain that if Congress were ultimately to do that, it would succeed, and we would get the kind of convention that I just described instead of the “convention of states” that somebody has been promising everyone.

  53. That kind of consideration is why I urge you to take a closer look at whatever promises people have made to you about what a national Article V convention would be. (It is also why I would really like to know who has been telling everyone that the convention would be limited in its subject matter and that it would be controlled by state governments and composed of delegates elected by state legislatures. I wish to speak with that person.)

  54. The Convention of States project is only to get a convention called. They have absolutely no power to dictate what amendments will be proposed.

    The Tom Graham Amendment:
    “In any fiscal year, the federal government shall be limited to spending not more than 18% of the previous year’s GDP.
    Money deposited into a savings account for future war or entitlement benefits spending, is counted in the current year’s spending, but that future spending from these accounts shall not be counted in the current year’s spending.
    Private citizens, corporations and States may donate an unlimited amount into these savings accounts.”

    This stops the government from borrowing and spending trillions of dollars to stimulate the economy or go to war without sacrificing an equal amount of spending on other things.
    The Federal Reserve can do whatever it wants to do with monetary policy since it is a quasi-governmental agency and only a little more Federal than Federal Express.
    This amendment also allows for money to be put away for future wars, future entitlements, future fiscal policy spending, etc…
    It also allow citizens, corporations and States to donate as much as they want to war efforts. States can pass laws to tax their citizens to support national war spending, but it is in the hands of the states to support a war or not, truly putting the power to declare war firmly back in the hands of the US Legislature who have to make the case to their States that they represent.

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