“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”Lysander Spooner
Whether we can admit it to ourselves or not, the government we live under is a product of the Constitution that established it. While the founders who wrote our Virginia Constitution and our Declaration of Rights were greater geniuses than any living today, we now have the advantage of history to evaluate the product of their genius. We must admit that no man can perfectly design a government to withstand the forces of tyranny indefinitely.
We can appeal to the wisdom of the founding generation as well in this regard. For them the Constitution was a document of convenience, and whenever the government should become inconvenient then it is our duty to alter or abolish it.
It could not be more clear the inconveniencies of our government. In fact, our government has made itself the enemy of civil life. It has tyrannized the people in the harshest ways imaginable by rescinding our Constitution and our inalienable rights. It has refused to defend the people against violent mobs and has in fact taken the side of the mob in destroying our cities. It has set up a two tiered legal system where political ideology can grant favored groups legal exemption from the laws that bind the rest of us.
If our Constitution were perfect as is then it would have prevented such a government’s existence.
Many people have proposed changes to our system but those changes only mitigate the problems of today while leaving the future open for the same systemic issues. Whether it is immigration restrictions, or secession, or counties joining West Virginia; none address the root of our problem which is unchecked coercive power. Our solution lies not in exchanging one state for another, but in wholly altering the people’s relationship with their government.
While the government often ignores enumerated Constitutional rights, it has been much more likely to obey the Constitution on matters of form and procedure. We can secure greater freedom by changing some of the structures and procedures that the Commonwealth government is obligated to obey.
Many of the ideas I will outline for limiting the power of government have been borrowed from philosopher Michael Huemer who writes about political and moral philosophy. Some ideas here come from Thomas Jefferson who did not have a chance for his own Virginia constitution to be considered before our existing one was adopted. And still, some ideas come from a hard and honest look at our own history and the history of man’s relationship with the State.
We ought to consider permanent and radical political change to defend our liberties against modern despotism. We should also be scrupulous about how any changes we choose to make might affect our posterity.
I propose this series of changes to our Virginia Constitution to accomplish our goals of greater liberty and local autonomy.
1) Voting Changes
Democracy is not a god. We do not exist to serve it, but it exists only to serve as a check against tyranny. Voting is not an inalienable right, like life or liberty; it is only the method by which certain government employees are chosen, and so we should be able to make drastic changes to voting rules to better defend the people’s liberties.
a) Voting in Virginia must be for Virginians only. Many transient Virginians move into the Commonwealth for only a few years to work for lobbying groups and contractors in the Federal Government. Rather than allowing those transients to vote, voting should be the exclusive right of those with an extended interest in the Commonwealth.
In order to vote you must have lived in the Commonwealth for at least five of the last eight years and be a current resident of Virginia.
b) Children should no longer vote. We live in a time of prolonged adolescence, where children take on more and more schooling before feeling prepared to enter the real world of the market and civil life. People marry later, start their careers later, and own land later. Most 18-year-olds no longer have the wisdom or experience our ancestors did at the same age.
We should raise the voting age to 21 at the least or 25 ideally. Waiting until people are out of school and working will prevent those with no real world responsibilities from voting.
c) Government employees should not be permitted to vote. There is simply a conflict of interest with employees of the State that prevents them voting with the same end goals as the common citizen. Government employees’ strongest interest with respect to the administration of the State is that their salaries and power increase, which stands in opposition to the people’s interests.
Anyone employed by the Commonwealth, or by the Federal government, or whose salary or wage is paid for mostly by State or Federal funds should not be allowed to vote in State elections.
2) Structural Changes
a) One of the major issues in all legislature style governments is that elected officials see themselves only as law-makers whose sole job is to push out new legislation even when the people are overburdened with numerous incomprehensible laws and regulations.
The duties of passing new laws and repealing old laws should be separated into two legislative bodies, a Positive Legislature for passing new laws and a Negative Legislature whose exclusive duty is repealing laws.
Since greater deference should be given to the shrinking of central power it should be easier for the Negative Legislature to repeal than for the Positive to pass. A simple majority in the Negative Legislature should be enough to repeal laws while a ⅔ majority should be needed to pass new laws in the Positive Legislature.
b) Another great problem with the structure of most Western governments is the general election of the chief executive by the whole of the people. This often leads governors and presidents to see themselves as the unique representatives of the people whose job is to do the “public will” rather than humbly execute the laws in accordance with the constitution.
In order to fix this the Governor should be elected not by the people, but by the Senate.
c) In order to further insulate the people from the edicts of the executive, there should be no State level law enforcement or any body of enforcers who derive salaries or wages from the Commonwealth or who answer to the Governor.
All law enforcement should be left to the local level, paid for by local dollars. Local law enforcement has been shown to be more responsive to the people and more willing to resist encroachments to the people’s liberties.
The power to tax is the power to destroy. Currently our system of taxation allows no way out for the people who wish to resist their government. Our current system pulls taxes directly from the paychecks of workers and holds licencing of businesses hostage for tax dollars. Many taxes are also paid directly to the Commonwealth and doled back to the localities, thus making the localities beholden to the Commonwealth government. We also suffer from unavoidable taxes that eat at the wealth of generations, such as property taxes.
a) The Commonwealth should not have the power to tax the people directly, but rather collect sums from the local governments.
b) Local governments should be explicitly banned from taxing in ways that cannot reasonably be avoided by common people. Property taxes should be banned entirely while local governments should have greater reliance on usage fees and sales taxes.
4) Education by the Government Should not be Allowed
It would be better for children to be uneducated than to be educated by their rulers. The government has proven itself to be highly destructive to our society while providing mandatory “education” that is little more than indoctrination. This could not be more clear now as mobs of indoctrinated and uneducated people are destroying our cities and communities. In the age of information it should not be difficult to imagine how our children can be educated much more effectively, efficiently, and humanely while providing no financial burden to the poor.
All government educational and training campaigns should be explicitly banned.
4) Punishments for Unconstitutional Actions
It is well understood that governments at all levels, for one hundred years, have been able to act with wanton disregard for the legal constraints outlined in our written constitutions. The cause of this is in part to do with a cultural decline in which honor and solemn duty are no longer seen as strengths but rather as weaknesses to be exploited. Since neither duty, honor, nor God will bind politicians to their oaths, we must institute systematic and severe punishments for politicians who do violence to the people’s liberties.
Each new bill submitted in the Positive Legislature should, in its summary, clearly state the section and verse of the Constitution by which the government derives its authority to commit to the actions outlined in the bill. When a bill is challenged in the courts on its constitutionality it must only be defended based on the section and verse outlined in the summary. The court should also not submit to legal precedent but use the constitution itself as the sole evidence for legal justification. If the bill is found to be noncompliant with that particular constitutional section then the sponsors of the bill should be sentenced to greater than 5 years imprisonment with no possibility for early release.
Currently we only allow those with standing to challenge the law in the courts. This puts the people at great risk of legal consequences by first having to break the law, and with no guarantee that the court will rule correctly. Since the law applies to all, all the people of the Commonwealth should have legal standing to challenge any law at any time.
Further, if the duty of determining the constitutional constraints of government are left up to the government courts then they will inevitably find that all government action is within its legal constraints, no matter the case. Therefore, rather than being presided over by government employed judges, cases of constitutionality should be decided by a public jury made of equal members from each Virginia district.
5) The Right to Withdraw Consent
Just as we find ourselves today, our posterity may also conclude that the Commonwealth government is overstepping its bounds or that it is no longer an institution that the people of the various districts find convenient. We are told that the government rests on the consent of the governed—but what can we do if we do not consent? We are charged with the duty of altering or abolishing our central State but are given no easy or safe method for doing so. For this we should codify the right of each district or each county or city to withdraw itself from the duties and obligations of the Commonwealth as a whole.
On every ballot in every state level election should be the option to withdraw consent rather than to send a representative to Richmond. If the option to withdraw wins against the various candidates then that district or county or city should be released of duty to the State as well as released from restrictions, obligations, and protections of the State. In order to prevent this from being a permanent departure, the withdrawn people should be permitted to continue to vote and they may continue to vote to withdraw as long as they see fit, or they may decide to rejoin by sending a new representative to the Commonwealth government, at which point they would resume all obligations, duties, and protections with the Commonwealth.