One of the basic functions of the Supreme Court is to check the power of the Executive and Congress. Unfortunately, the justices are appointed by the president, and approved by Congress. This was, methinks, a mistake, a clear conflict of interest. Certainly, the power of the federal government relative to the states has been constantly increasing.
Originally, the Federalists did not believe the Bill of Rights was necessary. As the Congress was not given the power to censor speech, what need was there for a right of the people to speak? As the Congress was not given the power to disarm the people, what need was there for a right to keep and bear arms? With campaign finance reform and gun control on the current political agenda, the need for a Bill of Rights is quite clear. Congress has grown quite accustomed to passing laws not tightly coupled to any enumerated power. There are precedents aplenty where the Supreme Court has approved such out of bounds measures. Even where the Bill of Rights sets specific prohibitions on government power, the Court has found interpretations of the Constitution that allow cancerous growth of federal authority.
Some of this has been for the best. The Civil War, Second World War and Cold Wars could not have been won with a loose alliance of sovereign states. A modern superpower has more need for a strong central government than an isolated group of primarily agricultural colonies. We cannot go back to what we once were.
We can, however, restore rule of law. We can bring the written Constitution closer to our government's actual habits. We can look at the more questionable Supreme Court rulings, and either confirm or deny them with firm language.
I am no lawyer. I am sure my proposals and wordings imply unintended consequences. I am also erring on the radical side. I am more interested in making people think about whether change is necessary than constructing a minimalist list with the best chance of passing.
But it is near time for a Constitutional Convention, or at least time to start daydreaming about one.
Rights - Powers - War - Jury