America needs a constitutional discussion about the role and structure of government. From executive order abuse to overreaching legislative action, the federal government is straining the bounds of the Constitution. Eminent domain abuse abounds. Requirements to buy health insurance. Massive debt. Overbearing environmental regulations. Questionable domestic surveillance programs. The IRS scandal. The list goes on and on.

In the simplest terms, the American Constitution is a contract between Americans, state governments, and a federal government. Over two hundred years ago, the American people agreed to give up some inherent rights and liberties to the federal government. The Founders designed a federal system with built-in checks to restrain power by dividing power among three branches and the national and state governments. The Constitution specifies the powers each branch has as well as the checks the branches have on each other. These divisions are necessary, for as Federalist No. 51 declares, “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

The federal government, then, is far less likely to abolish the Constitution overnight than it is to infringe it, one principle at a time. Therefore, Americans must be vigilant of a regulatory overreach, an infringement on due process, or an obscure, but unlawful executive order instead of waiting for a dictator to suddenly appear. The checks on governmental power designed by the Founders must be maintained and protected by the people with their Constitution. In today’s current political climate, Americans need to call for an Article V Convention and have a serious conversation about Constitutional principles.

What exactly is an Article V Convention? Let’s consult Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…

The Convention would actually be a “proposal convention,” one in which amendments were proposed and then submitted back to the states for potential ratification (two-thirds [34] of the states request, but three-fourths [38] must ratify). States have called for an Article V Convention many times before, and though one has never occurred, it has helped force Congressional action on Constitutional amendments. States have named a variety of specific topics when requesting a convention, but recently, the requests have focused on the federal budget and elections.

The scope of the Convention is determined by the states requesting one. For example, twenty-two states currently have requested a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of a balanced budget. If twelve more states join them, Congress will be forced to call a Convention. Once convened, the Convention would most likely be restrained by the balanced budget topic. If they could address the nation’s massive debt and deficit spending problems, it would go a long way toward fiscal security.

Of course, states could call for a more general convention to address federal government authority – as several states already have done. This will give the “proposal convention” more room to correct and address abuses of federal power. Alexander Hamilton reflects my hopes in Federalist No. 85: “We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.” The states must at least call for a “proposal convention” to fuel a discussion of federal authority.

Even if the states fail to amend the Constitution, the Convention process will fuel an essential discussion of Constitutional principles. This, perhaps, will be even more important than a constitutional amendment. A “proposal convention” about federal government overreach will allow Americans to highlight abuses in the separation of powers between branches and states. It enables a review of governmental infringement on individual and group rights.

Additionally, it force a national discussion on the role and purpose of the federal government. The domestic policy initiatives, levels of taxation and spending, and foreign policy decisions can be reviewed from a bare-bones, constitutional perspective. The national conversation should be first about what government is constitutionally permitted to do, and then what it should do. Government needs to be limited to its Constitutional mandate, and no more.

Our rights and liberties are inherent and deserve the utmost protection. America is a great nation, and her people are greater. Today, the people’s constitutional contract with government provides our strongest line of defense. Today’s Constitution needs to be protected. James Madison says it best: “The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.”