Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution

Growing up with the desire to study law, but not the dedication nor drive to obtain a Juris Doctorate, I have replaced those desires with a strong interest in politics and law through all levels of government. I find my self reading more books, and in this case, listening to audio books, on the subject.

This book contains the words of retired Justice John Paul Stevens about the six issues which he proposes that we fix with amendments to the Constitution.  The audio book is a short 3:42 listen.  It is a good smooth listen, but can be fast tracked at times requiring me to re-listen to a few sections to ensure I got the references and their meanings correct.

The six issues are presented in a more concise well written method than I could provide over here.  I’ll simply add my thoughts to each below.

  1. “Anti-Commandeering Rule”   – I cannot agree with this suggestion as proposed as I feel that a locally elected official has a more direct relationship with those they serve, and ignoring a federally enacted rule or law can be an act of protest.  The current issues outlined in this book I believe are acceptable, and need no further assistance from the Constitution.
  2. Political Gerrymandering”  I fully support a law restricting this practice, as politicians will continue to be politicians who will continue to politic and do things that are both questionable and in their favor, this amendment could assist with those issues.
  3. Campaign Finance”  While I believe the proposed solution is decent, I could imagine where the dominant party in power could further restrict the speech (spending) of those not in power through rule making, which could make the situation just as bad as it is now.  Corporate money in politics is bad (epic proportions at this point) and must be regulated, but with due caution in mind.
  4. Sovereign Immunity” On its cover, I think I support this one.  There is no reason that agents of the state are protected from their actions of doing so.  The only thing I fear is the flow of tort actions this would result in.  I don’t like blank protections for any class of people, especially the state itself.  Should this be pushed on the federal government as well?  I’m not sure, but this is a start.
  5. Death Penalty” I don’t believe that the Death Penalty serves the purpose that it once did in the past. With the 20 year waits for executions, the deterrence factor of the death penalty is simply useless.  The excessive cost of holding death row prisoners over regular life prisoners is also not warranted either, I can agree with the addition of these five words.
  6. The Second Amendment” With the power the Department of Defense has over State’s National Guard units, I don’t see how stripping 2nd Amendment protections to individuals, and relegating those only to the ‘state militia’ is any less than fully revoking the 2nd amendment.  This is the most absurd recommendation I’ve seen yet.

Overall I enjoyed the book, not so much the message.  I am a fiscal conservative and social moderate, which is mostly where Justice Steven’s opinions floated towards the beginning of his career, but as we can see from his opinions over his later years, and in retirement, he has changed more towards a federalist leaning position.

Thanks for your service, and the book I guess.

Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution Book Cover Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution
John Paul Stevens
Hachette Audio
April 22, 2014
Audio Book

By the time of his retirement in June 2010, John Paul Stevens had become the second longest serving Justice in the history of the Supreme Court. Now he draws upon his more than three decades on the Court, during which he was involved with many of the defining decisions of the modern era, to offer a book like none other. SIX AMENDMENTS is an absolutely unprecedented call to arms, detailing six specific ways in which the Constitution should be amended in order to protect our democracy and the safety and wellbeing of American citizens. 

Written with the same precision and elegance that made Stevens's own Court opinions legendary for their clarity as well as logic, SIX AMENDMENTS is a remarkable work, both because of its unprecedented nature and, in an age of partisan ferocity, its inarguable common sense.