General Provisions of Part Two Commentary
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10 General Provisions of part two

10.1 Election day

The establishment of an election day (section 10.1) has two purposes:

A) To prevent the government from postponing elections and direct votes indefinitely thereby effectively depriving the citizens of their right of democratic government.

There are unfortunately, a very large number of instances where even democrati­cally elected governments have used this and similar tactics. In the United States there are numerous cases of state legislatures designating ordinary legislation as emergency legislation in order to prevent it from being subject to a referen­dum. Similarly, in Switzerland during and after the Second World War the Swiss government enacted a number of highly unpopular measures and prevented the people from exercising their right of referendum. The Swiss eventually amended their Constitution to preclude similar occurrences in the future.

B) To facilitate voting by enabling the voters to decide several issues with only one visit to the polling place.

Experience seems to indicate that if too many visits to the polling place is required throughout the year, a certain amount of voter fatigue sets in. (This may of course, be alleviated by the introduction of technology or methods that allows the people to vote without having to show up at a certain place at a certain time.)

10.2 Limit on other office of profit

The purpose of this clause is to protect the separation of powers, and prevent the corruption of legislators. Without this clause, the President for instance, may bribe legislators by offering them important and/or profitable positions within the administration.

10.3 Compensation

This section 10.3 corresponds to U.S. II.1.7 where the same mec­hanism is employed to enjoin the U.S. President from being party to the determination of his own compensation. Each President's compensation is in effect determined by his predecessor and by Congress.

The clause is expanded to include senators, representatives and other elected public officials.

10.4 Sunset clause

Section 10.4 serves three purposes: A) It ensures that obsolete statutes are taken off the books, B) It restores separation of powers, and C) It reduces long-term effects of special cir­cumstances.

Removes of obsolete statutes

Statutes accumulate continuously. This section ensures that obsolete statutes are taken off the books, and that other statutes are examined from time to time to bring them up to date with changes in society at large. The 35 year period represents about one generation which seems a reasonable interval. 

Restores separation of powers

In a federal or confederate system of government and /or in a system of government relying on multiple independent branches there is a further advantage in a sunset clause. It undoes any shifts in powers caused by legislation.

Without a sunset clause, there is for instance, a strong tendency for the executive's powers to be compromised over time in relation to those of the Congress.

Reduces long-term effects of special circumstances

Similarly there is a tendency for central governmental powers to increase at the expense of individual states and citizens. A sunset clause will, to a certain extent, alleviate this problem by eliminating those encroachments tolerated by the courts due to special circumstances. For instance, during times of war or crisis, the people and the courts will tolerate statutes and the interpreta­tion of statutes that in times of peace would have been inconceiv­able. The sunset clause increases the likelihood that these measures will eventually get off the books again when cir­cumstances change.

10.5 Sunrise clause

The purpose of this section 10.5 is to minimize legislative interference with the referendum.

10.6 Confederate budget

The purpose of this clause is to make it more difficult for the President and the Congress to embark on creative budgeting.

The inclusion of provisions for contingent liabilities, eliminates or reduces the budgetary "gains" of off-budget financing. The inclusion of provisions for obligations payable in the future, is intended to make sure that each Congress pays its own way. (It tends to minimize the budgetary consequences of Louis XV like attitudes: "After me, the deluge".)

The carry-forward of accumulated deficits reduces the effects of eternally optimistic program cost estimates. (Similar fudging of the confederate revenues is not possible, as they are determined directly by the people on a per capita basis.)

10.7 Constitutional convention

The purpose of the constitutional convention is not to propose an entirely new constitution, but to provide a forum for the periodic more systematic evaluation of the text of the constitution. The purpose is to provide the same kind of critical assessment of constitutional clauses as the sunset clause provides for ordinary legislation.

Revised: 2004-07-02

Copyright © 1991-2003 John F. Knutsen

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