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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prospects for an Article V Convention

Of late, I have been more heavily involved in the Article V Convention movement. There is a new effort under this movement to do an online Article V convention, which will operate until a real one is convened. You can reach it at https://www.convusa.com/ This movement seems to bring together the usual suspects who believe in term limits, limiting delegations to the executive, reforming the Supreme Court, etc. In other words, the usual right-wing libertarians who believe the current regime is operating outside the wishes of the founders. The Hon. Thomas Brennan, a retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice is the organizer of this, He is on blogspot at http://oldjudge.blogspot.com/ This entry is a riff on what he stated as his agenda. My comments on his agenda are on that entry, at least until he deletes them - and I don't think he will. Certain of my comments are more applicable to the general case of an Article V convention, so I will repeat them here.

I am also involved in another Convention bid, which seeks to dissolve the United States into 10 indendent nations which can unify by treaty. The sponsor thinks that Nixon's regional breakdown would be a good idea. My suggested breakdown, which can be found on this blog at http://xianlp.blogspot.com/2009/10/regional-government.html, is for 7 regions of equal electoral vote strength (which yields a smaller NW/Plains states region in terms of population - since equal population - or even equal House strength produces too large a plains state region).

I would keep a national union for civil and workers rights enforcement, a unified currency, a unified foreign and immigration policy, a unified military command in national service or for foreign deployments and for the cleaning of environmental disasters (although regions would have a big part as well). Aviation and auto safety would also be national. There would also be national parks and a national space program. The debt would be paid off on a national basis with a national progressive income tax (high incomes only) although you could split the debt up based on the latest income tax collection figures as well - however the income tax would also fund overseas deployments and naval sea operations.

Most pork, however, including pay and maintenance of domestically stationed armed forces, would be paid for with regional taxes - probably a VAT, an expanded Business Tax or a Fair Tax. Regional caucuses would pass their own laws, regulations and appropriations with signing or vetoing recommended by the regional VP, with the Congress passing without amendment on a pro-forma basis by consent and the President allowing legislation to pass without his signature or vetoing only if the act goes beyond regional boundaries or upon the request of the regional VP.An amendment is not required for regionalization, given that most functions could be taken care of under changes to rules in each house. Indeed, it is easier to enact this by electing a party promising to do these things and THEN ratifying the action with the appropriate constitutional amendment.

I believe that regional reform by statute is much easier to accomplish - even though it would probably require organizing a new political party or coalition - than holding an Article V convention. It is easier to get control of Congress than it is to get control of 38 state legislatures.

The convention mythos is that state legislators can be convinced that Congress and the Federal Government are their enemy - or are at least usurping their authority. In practice, this is not the case. Partisan gerrymandering has resulted in the linking of state legislative and house political organizations in the most profound ways. The local congressman usually works very closely with the local state senators and state assembly members. Indeed, until very recently, my local state house delegate was the brother of my local congressman - and the former would be in office still had he not run for Governor of Virginia. This is true in both parties. Congressional district and county/city party committees are the lynch pin that keeps this relationship strong and these are the biggest reason why there will likely be no Article V convention.

So, why am I spending $120 to join an online convention? Because it could be the basis for a new party that could be elected to actually do reform. Indeed, as some members of the Tea Party movement attach themselves to Palin and the social conservatives, especially on immigration, I suspect that the Republican Party will shrink and a new party will take up the slack. Some Tea Partiers will stay with the GOP until the better end, while others will join the new party - since most will never become Democrats and many Catholic Obama Democrats will eventually leave that party over abortion (which, in reality is a non-issue in the real world since for now the law is settled on this). Of course, abortion might not be the Democratic tipping point. It could be some other issue, maybe the debt, that causes the schism. A living wage might also do it. The point is, things are in flux right now and a round of creative destruction will eventually lead to reform.

The ony real hope for an Article V convention seems to be gay marriage. As I write this, the US District Court for Northern California is about to overturn Proposition 8. The Speaker of the House is from that area and she will never let a federal defense of marriage amendment be considered on the floor. I suspect that popular outrage over this decision, and its certain affirmation by the 9th Circuit and likely affirmation by the SCOTUS, will be used both polticially to try to elect Republicans to Congress to get rid of Pelosi and to call an Article V convention. I suspect, however, that their list of particulars will be very different from yours - although I suspect there will be some overlap. Again, however, if there are 17 blue states that are unwilling to go along, even this effort is doomed.

The best strategy here is to look at the states where there is no chance of such a convention being called for.The contest of for the day is to list states that won't even call an Article V for gay marriage (which is shooting fish in a barrel).

Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, California, Oregon, New Mexico, Washington State (maybe Virginia - which has a liberal state senate). That's 12 or 13 right there. The battlegrounds here are Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and Michigan. If all my blue states cited hold firm against and half the battlegrounds do as well, the chances of ratification are nil. If you lose all the battlegrounds there will be no convention. Getting the other states to support a convention on a center right or defense of marriage basis should be like shooting fish in a barrel. The key to success is in picking off all of the battlegrounds, including Virginia.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thoughts on Public Accomodations

As I was relaxing at the pool at my condo this past weekend (which has lifeguards who are guest workers and clientele which reflects our multi-ethnic mix of owners and renters), I had a final thought on the whole Rand Paul debacle over the public accommodations provisions in the Civil Rights Act.

The standard libertarian critique over these provisions, which Paul expressed to Rachel Maddow, is that private property holders should be able to refuse service to whomever they please, even if it is based on racism. My usual response is that if a business is open to the public, especially if it is incorporated, it cannot do that. Indeed, private clubs are still free to discriminate - as much as we dislike that. Someone who does business from their private home can certainly not take all clients, but if the public space is used, the freedom to deny service does not exist. Hanging a sign that says "open" rather than "by appointment only" pretty much obligates you to take all comers.

Let me now add another piece to the argument - one that shuts down any libertarian objection to public accommodation.

The essential part of the freedom to exclude is what happens when someone comes in and demands service, even though a "White's Only" sign hangs in the door. The police are called, or private security is summoned, and violence is used to remove the person. This fact alone should settle the question for any true libertarian, since the violence involved was most likely governmental violence. Indeed, without direct violence, or a right of private violence, restricting service based on race is impossible, especially when the excluded parties come in anyway. If big L libertarians are really serious about their pledge to do no violence, then public accommodation laws are actually the most libertarian option - much more than a faux respect for private party which really masks a culture of violent racism.

Let's now remove the "right to refuse service" meme from the liberty conversation forever.