Saturday, May 06, 2006

Constitutional Amendments for Greater Economic Freedom

Stuart K. Hayashi


I first realized the need for amendments to the United States Constitution ensuring greater economic freedom upon reading such a proposal in Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and his wife Rose.

And the Friedmans were not the first to point this out. The second-to-last page of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged -- SPOILER ALERT!! -- reads:

. . .

Uhhh, highlight the two "invisible" paragraphs below to read them:

The rectangle of light in the acres of a farm was the window of the library of Judge Narragansett. He sat at a table, and the light of his lamp fell on the copy of an ancient document. He had marked and crossed out the contradictions in its statements that had once been the cause of its destruction. He was now adding a new clause to its pages: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade..."
Incidentally, that is the only time the book uses term "Congress" instead of "National Legislature."

END OF SPOILER!

Ah, if only we got to read the rest of that clause, as a real-life constitutional amendment needs more elaboration than the sentence fragment given.

Fortunately, we have something to work with because of the final chapter of the Friedmans' Free to Choose. They say there should be a Constitutional Amendment saying:

The right of the people to buy and sell legitimate goods and services at mutually acceptable terms shall not be infringed by Congress or any of the States.

I would accept that but the Friedmans' wording is still not efficient. First, the Fifth Amendment has proven inadequate, particularly as far as these parts are concerned:

No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Fifth Amendment should be stricken out and replaced with a stronger amendment, like this:

No person shall be held to answer for any crime by any government body in the United States of America -- not on the federal, state, or municipal level -- nor by the government of any territory under U.S. protection, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger. Such an exception during wartime, however, can only be made for persons who do not have U.S. citizenship. Nor shall any person -- U.S. citizen or otherwise -- be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

No government body within jurisdiction of the United States of America -- at the federal, state, or municipal level -- nor any territory under U.S. protection, may perform any action upon any private property of any legally competent adult U.S. citizen without that U.S. citizen's permission, unless the executive branch in the appropriate jurisdiction finds probable cause to suspect that the said U.S. citizen is guilty of committing spoliation upon a nonconsenting human party, regardless of whether any alleged victim holds U.S. citizenship or not.

"Spoliation" is henceforth defined in this document as the act of physical force against the private property or body of a nonconsenting person, in such forms as physical bodily harm, homicide, contract breach, harassment, sexual assault, property damage (whether intentional or negligent), intellectual property infringement, fraud, or poisoning. This Constituational protection is guaranteed to U.S. citizens during even a state of war.

Note that the new language eradicates all eminent domain.

And as for the Friedmans' suggested amendment about the right to contract, I would re-word it as:

No government body within the jurisdiction of the United States of America -- at the federal, state, or municipal level -- nor any territory under U.S. protection, may infringe upon the right of contractually competent adults to buy or sell legitimate goods or services without the executive branch first finding probable cause that the said transaction has committed nonconsensual spoliation upon the person or property of a human "third party" that has not willingly chosen to participate in the aforementioned transaction. Such constitutional protections still apply to U.S. citizens during wartime.

The Friedmans also suggested:

Congress shall make no laws abridging the freedom of sellers of goods or labor to price their products or services.

I suggest that the amendment be rephrased:

No government body within the jurisdiction of the United States of America -- at the federal, state, or municipal level -- nor any territory under U.S. protection, may exercise governmental force to halt or influence the right of legally competent private sellers of legitimate goods, legitimate services, or legitmate labor services to set the prices, rates, or premiums -- or any other charges for their products or services -- as they see fit. No government body within U.S. jurisdiction at any level -- the federal, state, or municipal -- may threaten legal action upon any party to influence the negotiations between legally competent buyer and legally competent seller of the pricing, rate-setting, wage-setting, or other forms of compsensating-setting, for legitimate goods, services, and labor services. This rule applies even in wartime.

Such amendments are not enough to create perfect freedom in America, but this is a start.



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