Archive for the ‘21st Amendment’ Tag

Forgotten Amendments   Leave a comment

I termed the next seven amendments the “forgotten amendments” because … well, almost nobody can remember them, which should make us wonder about their efficacy.

The 20th Amendment was a housekeeping device that I can’t find a real problem with, in and of itself, except for an unintended consequence. Delegates at a convention of the states to propose amendments could have a great conversation about whether Congress needs to be in almost perpetual session. Perhaps we should strive for them to spend at least six months out of the year in their home districts … you know, talking to their constituents … you know, the people they were supposed to represent. Is their entrenched occupancy of DC a product of this amendment or just a product of their elitism? What do we want to do about it? Why not discuss that while we have the opportunity?

The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th. Enough said. I’m going to visit these twin amendments at the end of the series because it is indicative of how we ought to reform government when necessary.

Now, the 22nd Amendment has had some real attempts at repeal. Partisans always want their president to be able to run for more than two terms. While it would be tempting to allow a really great president to stay in office, I think we’d be stupid to do it and so far, Congress has agreed. There is a reason the 22nd Amendment was pushed through right after the death of the only president to service four terms and it wasn’t because people thought they were wise to have elected him to more than two. Roosevelt worship avoids the topic, but significant numbers of Americans thought that two terms for the president was enough. Congress has not advanced the proposed amendments — there have been three since Obama became president. I don’t think 38 states could agree to change the 22nd either.

Given the resounding success of the 22nd amendment, a convention of the states could discuss term limits for Congress. That would be a step in the right direction toward returning control of the government back to the states and the people. If you read the “anti-Federalist” papers you find that the Framers actually discussed term limits for Congress. I think they could not conceive of a future where people live nearly 20 years longer than they did or they would have put a term limit provision in the Constitution’s body, but had they done that someone would have lobbied to amend the Constitution to allow people to serve for decades to reflect our new longer lifespan. We’d eventually have wanted to repeal that amendment because it is silly that Don Young has been a US Congressman for 40 years, but Alaskans are not going to stop electing him as long as seniority equals power in Congress.

The 23rd Amendment was also an acknowledgement of the right of all citizens to self-governance. It allowed DC residents to vote for President. It shouldn’t have been necessary. It seems self-evident that DC residents ought to be allowed to vote like all other citizens, but it became a political football that required Constitutional amendment. I’ve already said I would be in favor of a comprehensive replacement amendment that covered all the voting issues. I’m planning on a article about voting in general at the end of this series, btw.

Revisiting Mistakes We Repented   2 comments

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still listed in that document. It banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol. Ratified 16, 1919, it was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. It remains the only amendment ever to have been repealed.

The amendment and the accompanying legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but it made it difficult to obtain alcoholic beverages legally. Only two of the 48 states rejected the amendment: Connecticut and Rhode Island. For the historically challenged, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states. Alaska — a territory at the time — probably would not have ratified it (we’re a pretty drinking state with a wildlife problem), but it wouldn’t have mattered because only 38 states are required to ratify an amendment today and 46 states ratified this amendment. State legislatures thought it was a very good idea.

Following the 18th Amendment’s adoption, prohibition effectively resulted in a public demand for illegal alcohol, making criminals of producers and distributors. The criminal justice system was swamped although police forces and courts had expanded in recent years. Prisons were jam-packed and court dockets fell behind in trying to deal with the rapid surge in crimes. Organized crime expanded to deal with the lucrative business, and there was widespread corruption among those charged with enforcing these unpopular laws. Court cases challenged the enforcement of the 18th Amendment as violations of rights guaranteed under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The 18th Amendment has been repealed by the 21st and I’m not suggesting we repeal the 21st, because the 18th was a really stupid idea and repealing it was a good idea. I just want people to realize that we left the mistake in the Constitution so that we would remember that we could be stupid and we could fix our stupidity.

Apply that as needed!

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