We only need a fraction of the Founders’ courage

by Nick Dranias
Goldwater Institute

Federal debt listed on the books now tops $14 trillion. But the federal government has made long-term spending commitments that actually exceed $100 trillion. As a result, the states increasingly look like colonies of Washington, D.C. Like the colonists who objected to taxation without representation during the American Revolution, those who have the most to lose from federal irresponsibility—our children, grandchildren and unborn generations to come—have no voice in the current political process. Congress will never limit its own power for their sake. Change led from outside of Washington, D.C., is their best hope for a better future.

A similar situation faced the Founders of the United States in 1776. They risked everything to throw off the chains of a distant and unresponsive regime. They did not know with absolute certainty that their rebellion would result in greater freedom and a more representative government. The Founders risked losing their lives and fortunes, as well as what few English liberties their countrymen still enjoyed.

But the Founders understood the greater risk was the status quo because London had no political reason to respect the rights of mere colonies. The sacred honor and practical judgment of American patriots demanded action, not submission.

Similarly, accepting today’s status quo will lead us down a road that threatens massive federal tax hikes, hyperinflation, and national bankruptcy. Fortunately, the Founders made sure the states can lead the way for change. Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, 34 state legislatures have the power to initiate proposals of constitutional amendments that could limit any increase in the federal debt, require a balanced budget every year, and take other steps to prevent a disaster created by excessive federal spending.

On Friday, the Goldwater Institute will host a policy forum from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. to discuss the use of Article V to rein in the federal government. I hope you can join us.

Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn More:

Goldwater Institute: Make your reservation for the policy forum “Using Article V to Rein-In the Federal Government”

Goldwater Institute: Amending the Constitution by Convention: A Practical Guide for Citizens and Policymakers

Goldwater Institute: 10 Facts to Rebut the Mythology of a Runaway Convention

Forbes: America Poised for a Hyperinflationary Event?

Arizona Legislature: Senate Concurrent Resolution 1016

Arizona Legislature: Committee hearing on SCR1016 (47 minute mark)


  1. Here we go again.

    First it’s not a constitutional convention, then it is, then it’s not, today it is again, per Nick, “A similar situation faced the Founders of the United States in 1776”

    What Nick hasn’t talked about is that 3/4 of the delegates control the convention.

    In other words, though Arizona might CALL the convention for one purpose, the other delegates can decide to do something else and there’s nothing the Arizona delegates can do about it.

    Further, there is not higher power (except God) to constrain what the delegates do, not the constitution, no one and nothing.

    So, if Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et al. were around today, I’d say GO FOR IT.

    Since they’re not, there’s no one I trust alive with the power to rewrite the constitution.

    Not you. Not Nick. Not anyone.

    Sorry, Nick.

  2. amattclarkson says


    Like the American colonies in 1776, the states currently have an unresponsive regime jacking up the national debt, putting today’s burdens on the backs of the next generations. Mr. Dranias is not calling for a Constitutional convention, but a convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution.

    It seems you’ve misunderstood the process of calling the convention, the convention itself, and the possible outcomes.

    Calling the convention: It takes 2/3 of the state legislatures to request the convention. The language of those requests needs to be similar enough that Congress will not have much leeway in calling it.

    The Convention: 3/4 of the delegates don’t control the agenda of the convention. The agendas for delegates are put forth through the states. You’re not correct when you said there is not a higher power that constrains delegates. If the states call for a National Debt Relief Amendment, they cannot come out with an amendment about immigration.

    Outcomes: Whatever proposals that come from the convention, if any, are given to the state legislatures for ratification. It takes 3/4 of those legislatures to approve in order to ratify it. 3/4 of the states ratifying the amendment proves that there is a consensus on the issue.

    Do you think 3/4 of states would have created the absurd laws that were pushed through over the last few years? This is a check the states need to employ to reign in the ability for the federal government to spend.

    Excellent piece, Nick. Go get ’em.

  3. “The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest.”

    The Democrats just overspent into literally the next generation and are now scampering all over the nation like ground squirrels to dodge any attempts to remedy their actions, so we all need to look at what tools are available to get control of this terrible situation.

  4. amattclarkson,

    Once the convention is convened, the DELEGATES control it not congress.

    Furthermore, there is no authority over that convention.

    So, explain again how the delegates are stopped from doing more or something different than what their convention calls entailed?

    You cant.

  5. amattclarkson says


    The delegates are only given as much leeway as the agenda proposed by the state legislatures allows. It would be considered the authority. Any proposals would need to be found within the scope of that agenda.

    It would seem you are against the Article V amendment convention for fear that we would have a runaway convention, completely rewriting the Constitution. Even if the convention proposed a completely new bill of rights, it would still need to be ratified by 3/4 of the states. That type of majority proves consensus.

    The interesting thing is that it is a fear of the unknown. I’d dare into the dark a little if the light is giving us Obamacare and Cap and Trade. This is a check the states need to use to reign in the Federal government. The status quo of government spending is no longer good enough.

  6. amattclarkson,

    You don’t know that. You completely made it up.

    Furthermore, 50 different states could call for 50 different things. So are you saying there’d be 50 items on the agenda?

    Please provide a reference for what you write.

    You have no idea what you are talking about.

    The delegates might CREATE an agenda at the beginning of the meeting and vote on that and that agenda MAY OR MAY NOT contain, for example, what Arizona called for in it’s call for a con con.

    AND THERE IS NO AUTHORITY TO STOP WHAT THE DELEGATES DO IN CONVENTION, as they become the supreme authority of the land once the convention convenes.

  7. amattclarkson says


    Sorry for taking so long to get back. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most knowledgable Constitutional scholar out there. So instead, I’ve attached a link to the study produced by the Goldwater Institute:


    Your sentiments fall closely in line with the antiquated tenets of the John Birch Society. I fear the current rate of government spending more than what a Constitutional convention might produce.


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