Conservative talk show host, brilliant Constitutional scholar, and litigator Mark Levin has just released his 5th book, entitled “The Liberty Amendments”.
As with all of his writings, I immediately bought it, read it, and digested it, but this time I read it specifically in light of The Coolidge Project and its aim of restoring (f)ederalism.
Mark has a fantastic legal mind, and a superb grasp of Founding principles, all far exceeding those of his counterparts in talk radio. His ability to cut through the superficial chatter, which consumes talk radio of late, and dive right into the substantive issues and explain them masterfully is second to none.
This latest tome, which I would urge every Liberty lover to read, is the logical extension of all these gifts. His intellectual arguments are sound, and his proposed amendments nearly spot-on.
“Nearly”? Yes, nearly. But, before raising the relatively minor points which need to be addressed, regarding his proposed amendments, we must deal with the major hurdle that stands in the way of this method to restore our (f)ederalist republic.
Namely: “Federal” money.
Proponents of The Coolidge Project discussed many issues regarding (f)ederalism at length last summer, and readily identified the most pressing issue in need of remedy: the carrot of “Federal money” and its correlary stick (or, more appropriately, club) of Federal mandates.
Every state in this nation has succumbed to this Federal bribery and coercion, to varying degrees. That being the case, any attempt to apply pressure to state legislative bodies, toward the end of proposing Constitutional amendments, will encounter the vast (and, seemingly) immovable object of Federal fiscal puppeteering.
To reiterate, in addition to the feral Federal Leviathan, activists for a return to true (f)ederalism must also contend with states which have gone rabid in their quest and (again, seemingly) unquenchable thirst for these “dollars from the sky.”
Until that obstacle is removed, any “pressure” applied to the states, from below, will be wholly mitigated and nullified by the much greater fiscal pressure from above. For example, South Carolina has an annual budget of around $22 billion. $8.2 billion of that comes from the Federal government (after being extracted from the wallets of taxpayers in all 50 states). You read that correctly. Over 1/3 of the state’s budget is Federally subsidized. That, quite simply, is not federalism.
We’ve heard two main objections to The Coolidge Project:
1 – “It’s an absurd idea, so it will never happen.”
We strongly disagree, as does former US Solicitor General Paul Clement.
2 – “It’s a great idea, but it will never happen.”
But eminent Constitutional scholar Adam Freedman points out that it already is happening.
With Levin’s proposal, the pressure from grassroots activists would have to be applied across 34 states, to even get the amendment process started. How many of our 50 (or 57) states would balk at the idea of pissing off the great and powerful Federal Oz, which dispenses the dollars they “can’t function” without? Certainly more than 16 of them.
Still, pursuing Levin’s proposals is an eminently worthwhile goal, but one that will take considerable time (and, need we be reminded, during the intervening time span, Leviathan marches on, wedging states more firmly under its myriad thumbs with each fiscal year). This undertaking will also require a great deal of education, first and foremost on what federalism truly is.
Enter, The Coolidge Project.
We propose countering the Leviathan and its coercive chokehold on state budget concerns with a deceptively simple, but nevertheless daunting task, in its own right.
Firstly, we must counter statist-quo indoctrination, made manifest through Political Science and Constitutional Law courses taught by the Progressive Professorship (and the force multiplier of the Punditry Plutocracy). This “education” has led to an almost entirely bastardized understanding, in today’s society, of what Founding (f)ederalism truly is. We have begun to do just that, by exposing the doctrinal delinquency of the “Flavors of Federalism” set. We are also laying out, in clear terms, the true nature of (f)ederalism and its practical application, both at the Founding and in 2013.
It is crucial for grassroots activists to fully understand (f)ederalism (both what it is and, more importantly, what it is not) to aid them in selecting state-level candidates who are aligned with our cause, in order to replace those who are not.
But this knowledge is also imperative in advocating on behalf of the principles those candidates will be elected to implement, since the candidate’s best hope of getting elected is to have passionate and knowledgeable supporters who can inform fellow citizens of the nature and necessity of (f)ederalism and, all at once, span the geographical areas one candidate simply cannot reach in a limited campaign cycle.
The good news is that all of that groundwork has been laid. Activists have only to read and understand. Then act.
All of these ideas are laid out in much greater detail on this site, and can be found via the links within this article, or the menu bar at the top of this page, or by simply clicking this handy link.
To reiterate, briefly:
Step 1: Educate the grassroots on true (f)ederalism.
Step 2: The educated become activists, with The Coolidge Project as one of many avenues through which they can act.
Step 3: Identify state legislators who will not help in our endeavors.
Step 4: Recruit and elect true (f)ederalists who will.
Step 5: Gain a 50% +1 majority in the legislature of just one state, and pass just one bill refusing some form of Federal bribery.
(We have been told that this is “absurd” and “impossible” and “political suicide”, by some very knowledgeable people.
Our response? Well, remember the numbers from South Carolina, reported above? Even with 1/3 of their budget subsidized by Leviathan, Governor Haley has refused stimulus funds, fought the NLRB over Boeing, and refused the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. “Political suicide”? Hardly. The people of SC love her, precisely because of her commitment to principle, in this area.)
Step 6: Legislators and activists alike then make the case to the citizens of that state: “since we no longer receive these funds, we have no obligation to abide by the mandates, nor to fund similar bribes given to other states.”
In short, “if you don’t grasp at the carrot, you’re also out of the stick’s reach.”
Step 7: As other states witness the Federal stranglehold on this state diminish, and its fiscal situation dramatically improve (influx of entrepreneurs seeking escape from Federal and state interference, etc), they will follow suit with similar bills. And the dominoes fall.
Step 8: Now the people have a true voice in their state capital, no longer drowned out by a flood of “Federal” dollars, and can apply meaningful pressure on the representatives (who owe their elected office to these activists – a point the activists would do well to remind them of, frequently) toward enacting some of Levin’s Liberty Amendments.
We here at The Coolidge Project firmly believe that the first 7 steps are essential to the successful undertaking of the 8th.
Why was Coolidge chosen as the namesake for our initiative? Because he knew that Founding principles do not require “marketing”. He gave the same speeches on limited (not just “small”) government to Irish Catholics, blacks, Jews, and Indian tribes. And gained massive amounts of votes from each.
His legacy proves that, when (f)ederalism is explained, simply and succinctly, any audience of any background or ethnicity can comprehend it and embrace it.
And they will fight to restore and maintain it.
“I am in favor of reducing, rather than expanding, Government bureaus which seek to regulate and control the business activities of the people. Everyone is aware that abuses exist and will exist so long as we are limited by human imperfections. Unfortunately, human nature can not be changed by an act of the legislature.
When practically the sole remedy for many evils lies in the necessity of the people looking out for themselves and reforming their own abuses, they will find that they are relying on a false security if the Government assumes to hold out the promise that it is looking out for them, and providing reforms for them.
This principle is preeminently applicable to the National Government. It is too much assumed that, because an abuse exists, it is the business of the National Government to provide a remedy. The presumption should be that it is the business of local and State governments.
Such national action results in encroaching upon the salutary independence of the States and, by undertaking to supersede their natural authority, fills the land with bureaus and departments which are undertaking to do what it is impossible for them to accomplish, and brings our whole system of government into disrespect and disfavor.
We ought to maintain high standards. We ought to punish wrongdoing. Society has not only the privilege but the absolute duty of protecting itself and its individuals.
But we can not accomplish this end by adopting a wrong method. Permanent success lies in local, rather than national action.
Unless the locality rises to its own requirements, there is an almost irresistible impulse for the National Government to intervene.
The States and the Nation should both realize that such action is to be adopted only as a last resort.”
Calvin Coolidge – State of the Union Address, December 1926