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Power to 'We the People'

Alan Wallace
| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mark R. Levin wants Americans to know that there's a way — albeit a largely forgotten one — to combat Washington's overreaching and disregard for constitutional limits on federal power.

It's right there in the Constitution — specifically, Article V. And it's the subject of “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic” (Threshold Editions, available Tuesday), the new book by the best-selling author of “Liberty and Tyranny.”

Also the president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, Levin recently discussed on his nationally syndicated radio show Article V provisions that he sees as ripe for rediscovery.

Article V lays out two procedures for amending the Constitution. One is familiar, having been used for all 27 existing amendments: Each chamber in Congress passes an amendment by a vote of at least two-thirds; for it to take effect, it then must be ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures.

The other amendment procedure “has been tried in the past without success” and now “sits dormant,” Levin told listeners. It involves “the direct application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, for a convention of proposing amendments — not a constitutional convention, a convention for proposing amendments, which would thereafter require three-fourths of the states to ratify ... .”

Levin told listeners he initially was skeptical about this amendment procedure turning into a “runaway caucus” that “would play disastrously into the hands of the statists.” But its ratification-by-states requirement is a “serious check” that makes it “impossible” for “the convention process” to “hijack the Constitution” — and has made him “a confident and enthusiastic advocate for the process.”

So, too, Levin noted, was George Mason, the Founder and Framer who'd drafted Virginia's 1776 Declaration of Rights, a forerunner of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

He was wary of the potential for abuse of power and believed that a tyrannical Congress would never entertain amendments curbing its own power. So, as the Constitutional Convention of 1787 drew to its close in Philadelphia, Mason convinced his fellow Framers of the need for an amendment procedure that didn't depend on Congress proposing amendments — an idea that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton endorsed in Federalist 43 and Federalist 85, Levin said.

“(T)he Framers ... adopted the state convention process for the purpose of establishing an alternative to the congressionally initiated amendment process. That was the point,” he told listeners.

And the point of “The Liberty Amendments,” as described at, is that “we, the people, have the power to re-establish constitutional republicanism, protect individual and state sovereignty, and reverse the centralization and concentration of power in the hands of governing masterminds and a massive bureaucracy.”


“American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History” by Charles Murray (AEI Press) — This concise (70-page) monograph, part of the American Enterprise Institute's “Values and Capitalism” series and written by the author of “What It Means to Be a Libertarian” and “Coming Apart,” returns the debate over American exceptionalism to its roots, focusing on the United States' first 100 years to get past connotations the term subsequently acquired. He makes four main points about American exceptionalism. It's “a concept that was shared by observers throughout the Western world, not just Americans” — primarily by Europeans skeptical of republican self-government, to whom America and its people were “unlike all other countries and peoples.” It doesn't necessarily imply U.S. “excellence or superiority.” It's a historical fact, not something one does or doesn't believe in. And as “it refers to qualities ... first observed in the opening century of our history,” whether those qualities still apply “is an empirical question.”

“The Brotherhood: America's Next Great Enemy” by Erick Stakelbeck (Regnery) — A CBN News terrorism analyst who hosts a weekly CBN show, the author spent 11 years investigating the Muslim Brotherhood. Having interviewed Brotherhood members and visited their mosques and strongholds, he considers it “the world's oldest, most influential, and most anti-American Islamist group,” which “has become the preeminent voice and power in the Muslim world” while obscuring its true nature “behind a cloak of respectability and expensive Western suits,” according to the publisher. The book traces its history and questions the Obama administration's dealings with — and the West's “shortsighted, naive and deadly embrace of” — the Brotherhood. Stakelbeck also addresses the ramifications of its rise for America, Europe and Israel, warning that greater focus on al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah has left too many Americans unaware of just how powerful the Muslim Brotherhood really is. Readers seeking better understanding of today's headlines from Egypt can find helpful context here.

“The Beholden State: California's Lost Promise and How to Recapture It” edited by Brian C. Anderson (Rowman & Littlefield) — The editor of the Manhattan Institute's quarterly City Journal collects pieces first published there, many of them updated, to offer what the publisher calls “the first book examining in rigorous detail how a place seen just a generation ago as the dynamic engine of the American future could, through bad policy ideas, find itself with among the highest unemployment rates and poorest educational outcomes in the country.” Contributors including Arthur B. Laffer, Victor Davis Hanson and Heather Mac Donald discuss those and other markers of Golden State failure: California's budget deficits, unsustainable pensions, high taxes and burdensome regulations. “The Beholden State” not only explains what has sapped California's former dynamism but offers policy solutions to brighten its future, too. And given that other states and their cities face similar challenges, the lessons taught here can apply beyond California.

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412-320-7983 or

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