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01/19/2016

Glenn Reynolds on a Constitutional Convention to Contain the Administrative State
Michael Ramsey

In USA TODAY, Glenn Reynolds: Blow up the administrative state: Constitutional convention could wrest power from political class and return it to states and people (commenting on Texas Governor Greg Abbott's proposal).

This proposal has shocked some people. Writing in The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell — apparently unaware that the Constitution itself provides for amendments — is appalled, saying that Abbot wants to ”blow ... up” the Constitution. According to Rampell’s analysis, if you love the Constitution, you can’t simultaneously want to change it.

This would come as a surprise to the framers, who actually ratified the Constitution and then, immediately, passed 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights. They then followed up in short order with the 11th Amendment — protecting state sovereignty from federal courts — and the 12th Amendment, which corrected serious problems in the way presidential elections were conducted.

The framers knew that the Constitution was a work in progress. And moderns like Rampell don’t really disagree with the idea of constitutional change. Instead, opposition to a convention is more about locking in changes made through other means — Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade and Baker v. Carr, or just longstanding bureaucratic practice that courts and the public have come to accept — rather than through a formal convention where the changes would have to be approved by the American people as a whole.

The real fear, I suspect, is that the proposals urged by Abbott, which would roll back much of the political class's successful power-grab over the past century, would prove popular enough to pass. If that happened, the federal government would become both smaller and more accountable, two political-class nightmares.

At Instapundit, Elizabeth Price Foley has some even harsher words for the Rampell article.