More Proposed Amendments: Universal Service, Apportionment, and Book Money

July 4, 2014

Since establishing this website and the publication of Fix the System: Reform the Constitution, I have reflected on three additional issues which might be appropriate for proposed amendments to the Constitution. 

These amendments are universal service, repeal of Reynolds v. Sims and the imposition of an extremely high constitutional tax on revenue received by elected federal representatives, executive department heads and other persons appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Universal Service.  What I have noticed in monitoring the newspaper and other television reports is that an increasing number of our leaders have had no military experience and yet have power over our defense and military decisions.  While conditioning election to Congress and other federal government appointments on military service would not be appropriate, it does seem that requiring every able-bodied person to give two years of universal service (which could include the military) to his country beginning at age 18 but deferred in cases involving higher education would generate important social benefits.  These benefits include the inculcation of national duty, the nurturing of good citizenship, a sense of responsibility to country, common sacrifice, common investment and commitment in war-related decisions, improvement of the military and mitigation of unwise military interventions.  Overall, such service would reinforce love of country, respect for our constitutional government and the discipline needed to overcome the influence of an increasingly hedonistic and stratified society. 

Proposed Amendment:  Universal Service.


Reynolds v. Sims.  This case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1965 and led to the requirement that both houses of state government must be based upon population.  The case was based on a finding by the Supreme Court that houses in state government based upon territory, such as the United States Senate, violated the Equal Protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment (“We hold that...the seats of both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis”). 

Relying on the constitutions of 36 of the states whose legislatures were “based completely, or predominately, on population” and the historical reasons why the U.S. Constitution has a Senate whose members are based on statehood and not population, the court rejected any reliance on the U.S. Senate model as justification for representation by land rather than population (“...people, not land or trees or pastures, vote.”)  Yet, Professor James Huffman in a recent article (Hoover Digest, 2013: 3 at 53) noted that, at the time of the 1965 decision, “most state legislatures included one house apportioned on the basis of population and a second apportioned on the basis of counties or other geographical regions”.  He also illustrated the importance of this issue as applied to the practice of dividing the voting of states into red (GOP) or blue (Democrat) following the 2012 national election. 

Coloring the nation’s 3,035 counties red or blue reveals that portraying states this way obscures much of what we might want to know about the states and the voters who live there.  County maps show that most of the blue states are in fact mostly red.

The effect of Reynolds v. Sims was to deny political standing to rural communities and make them a small minority with no influence. 

What the Founding Fathers did with respect to the United Stated Senate should have the same appeal and justification for states wishing to following that example.  After all, the private land in each of our states is owned by someone and managed by that owner.  But, these owners have only marginal influence over policies which affect the land, being one of the primary resources of our country.  In fact, one can likely trace the polarization in politics today – the lack of harmony and reverence for our governmental processes – to the unjustified ability of our current system to ignore wise and virtuous people living in rural communities.

Proposed Amendment:  Repeal Reynolds v. Sims.


Book and Speech Money.  One does not have to reach into history far to understand that politicians and other high ranking government officials make millions of dollars by writing or speaking of their experiences following their departure from government.  The possibility of great wealth occasioned by this practice provides our leaders an incentive to make decisions during their service to fuel their recognition and ambition at the expense of their obligation to the country and expected public service.  No amendment should prevent elected officials and appointed government officials from writing or speaking at any time but could impose a very high tax, say 90%, on revenue received from such activities for a period of years, say five years.  With credence to James Madison’s comments in the 57th Federalist Paper, we need wise and virtuous leaders.  

The temptation these leaders currently have to make millions of dollars is inconsistent with the wisdom and virtue required. The necessary and effectual precaution to keep our leaders wise and virtuous is to destroy the incentives they now have for making money as a result of their perceived public service.

Proposed Amendment:  A 90% constitutional tax on revenues from books and speeches made by elected leaders, appointed department heads and high level bureaucrats for five years.


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John M. Cogswell

July 4, 2014