The following was written by Convention of States National Legislative Director Rita Peters and originally published on The Stream.
When you don’t have the time or the wherewithal to do your own research, it’s important to identify a real expert. Having done so, it’s generally a good idea to trust what that expert has to say on the matter.
This is an important principle in the state legislatures that are in session right now all over the country. Most consider thousands of bills each session. Unlike members of Congress, most state legislators are truly “citizen legislators.” They have normal jobs and family duties. They don’t have an army of staffers to research the finer points of these bills.
So when they consider how to vote, it’s critical for them to hear from subject matter experts. The trouble is, in this time of “fake news,” there are also plenty of “fake experts.” When it comes to matters that affect the future of our country, these fake experts must be exposed and dismissed.
The Road to Real Reform
From radio star Mark Levin, to academic heavyweights like Independence Institute’s Rob Natelson, Princeton’s Robbie George and Georgetown’s Randy Barnett, virtually all of today’s great conservative thinkers agree: the states need to use their power to put the breaks on D.C. These guys, along with countless others (including Michael Farris, Thomas Sowell, and the late Senator Thomas Coburn, just to name a few) support efforts to hold the first “convention for proposing amendments” under the Constitution’s Article V.
He seems to rely on the possibility that his ability to recite quotes from the Founders will dazzle committees into believing that his ultimate conclusion is right.
There is a large — and growing — grassroots movement to get two thirds of the states (34 of them) to apply for a convention. They seek amendments that do three things:
- Impose fiscal restraints on D.C.,
- Limit the power and scope of the federal government, and
- Set term limits for federal officials.
So far, 15 states have applied. Several others are close right now. At every committee hearing, citizens flock to the state capitol, often filling overflow rooms, to voice their support.
Rational citizens who want real solutions to federal overreach see Article V as the right tool. After all, it has been used before to reverse bad Supreme Court cases. It can be used by the states to wipe away cases that have given the feds too much power.
The real experts — including those who have done scholarly research, written books, published peer-reviewed articles, and received formal training — agree that Article V is the right tool for the states to use, and that now is the time.
Beware the Legal Quacks
Enter a couple of self-proclaimed “constitutional experts.” They have no actual credentials. On behalf of the infamous “John Birch Society,” they go from state to state to inspire a paralyzing distrust in Article V among those with the power to use it for the nation’s benefit.
Take, for example, Robert Brown. The best anyone can tell, he is (or used to be) an insurance broker. The best anyone can tell, he has neither legal expertise, nor peer-reviewed or published research on the topic of Article V.
And yet, for reasons unknown, he holds himself out to state legislators as an expert on Article V. He slanders the Founding Fathers as dishonorable men who violated the public trust in 1787. He butchers historical texts by quoting them totally out of context. He seems to rely on the possibility that his ability to recite quotes from the Founders will dazzle committees into believing that his ultimate conclusion is right.
And what is that ultimate conclusion, you ask? It goes something like this: “The Founders made a big mistake in Article V. So whatever you do, don’t let the states hold a meeting and come up with proposals to rein in D.C. Meetings are scary and dangerous!”
A Call for Discernment
The committee hearing room is very different from a court of law. There are no rules of evidence. There is no one to cross-examine the witnesses. There is no judge to decide whether a given witness actually qualifies as an “expert” or not. And this opens the door to potential mischief.
Retired law professor Rob Natelson put it this way:
“Suppose John Q. Quacker regularly influenced government health policy by holding himself out as a ‘nationally known cardiac surgeon’ — but had never gone to medical school, never served a residency, and never performed an operation. We would be justifiably concerned. We should be equally concerned when a person offers constitutional and other legal advice, and affects legislative policy, without any justifiable basis for doing so.”
One of the great things about our state legislatures is their accessibility to any and every citizen. Any and every citizen can share their thoughts and opinions about public policy. That is exactly as it should be. But we need our elected officials to remember that calling oneself an expert doesn’t make one such. We need them to discern the real experts from the quacks.