December 6, 2010

A Repeal Amendment? Not A Bad Idea, A Terrible One.

Amendments? Who does that?
The United States Constitution is an incredible document.  It even established protocols for its own future modification. A discussion has arisen, about adding an amendment that would allow a method for states to repeal  acts of Congress (HT: Ed Morrissey).  Ironically, the Virginia legislature idea got an endorsement from the libertarian think tank The Cato Institute.  They've both had and supported a lot of good ideas.  This isn't one of them.

There's a lot of appeal to the idea of having a method to put the brakes on a runaway government, bent on imposing its will on the people.  The idea also allows for a balance between states' rights and federal power.

But isn't that what the 10th Amendment tries to cover off?
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Either something is within the power of the federal government to decide, or it isn't. And if it is, then the states it would seem, have no authority to overturn bad or unwelcome legislation. Never mind the logistics of how the repeal amendment would play out (see Ed Morrissey's article for some interesting scenarios).

There are a lot of ways to repeal bad legislation, just as there are a lot of ways to stop it. The government can repeal the law itself. Subsequent administrations and legislatures can overturn it. Poorly written legislation can face legal challenges. And I'm certainly not suggesting that there isn't a whole lot of laws that need to be thrown out. But it just seems that using more rules to strip out bad rules is anathema to the very nature of limited government. That is, not to mention that the Constitution itself, is not meant to be changed every few years just to suit the current whim of a nation. Guiding principles are just that, not suggestions to be shaped like clay at a moment's notice. 

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