*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, September 24.
When the early states came together to discuss the possibility of establishing a confederacy, they did so with a great deal of hope, but also a great deal of trepidation. The hope was that a federal government might be formed that could handle the few issues that were common to all the states but which could not be dealt with by the states individually. The fears, on the other hand, were that this government might come to gain an enormous amount of power; that this power might come to be concentrated in the hands of very few; and that the federal government as a whole might end up overreaching its purview and meddling in affairs that ought rightly to be left to the states and the various local governments (if not individuals themselves).
Thus the constitution was framed in such a way that the power of the federal government would be split between 3 separate branches--each acting as a check-and-balance on the power of the others. And the power of the federal government as a whole was limited to certain specific areas--all other areas being left expressly to the power of the states and local governments (and individuals).
Over the past century, though, this original arrangement has largely been undone. Indeed, after numerous constitutional amendments--and loose interpretations of the constitutions itself--each of the branches of the federal government has, by turns, usurped (or been left with) more power than it was ever meant to have, and the federal government as a whole routinely involves itself in matters far from federal in nature--to the extent that it now insinuates itself into virtually every aspect of life, political, economic, and social.
For author and commentator Mark R. Levin it's time we reversed this situation. For while those who made for the changes may have thought they were strengthening the nation, the fact is that the changes have contravened the very wise principles upon which the nation was built, and the practical results have been nothing but negative. Specifically, the changes have left the nation with nothing but ever-increasing taxes, ever-mounting debt, and ever-more soft tyranny for some with ever-reduced freedom for everyone else.
And the reform we need, according to the author, runs more than legislation-deep. It is reform that needs to happen at the very source: it is the constitution itself that must be reformed. For only radical constitutional reform can undo the radical and misguided reform that has come before.
Specifically, Levin proposes 11 constitutional amendments. They include: 1) term limits for members of congress; 2) election of Senators to be returned to state legislatures; 3) term limits for Supreme Court Justices (and the opportunity for federal and state legislatures to override Supreme Court decisions with a super-majority); 4) limits on federal spending (with an eye to curbing federal debt); 5) limits on taxation; 6) limits on how much power the executive branch can delegate to the federal bureaucracy; 7) limiting the federal government from interfering with economic activity that does not pertain to interstate or international trade; 8) requiring the federal government to compensate property owners for the devaluation of property caused by federal regulations; 9) allowing the states to amend the constitution directly (without having to go through Congress); 10) granting states the right to overturn the laws and regulations of Congress with a super-majority; 11) requiring voters to produce photo identification at election booths.
Of course, the federal government cannot be expected to make the proposed changes itself (since many of the amendments entail limiting this government's power). Thankfully, though, it needn't; for as the author points out, provisions exist under Article V of the constitution for it to be amended not just at the instigation of Congress, but at the instigation of a state-led convention--which is precisely what Levin is pushing for here.
Having great respect for the constitution (and its framers) myself, I am glad to see a book that reminds us of the values and principles that went into it, and that stands up for these values and principles. My issue with the book, though, is that Levin spends as much time and energy defending Republican Party policy issues (albeit covertly) as he does defending liberty as it was conceived under constitutional republicanism. The book would have made a much cleaner argument had the author stuck to his constitutional reform effort, without coloring it Republican red. Still, the main argument is strong and deserves our time and attention. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, September 24; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.