NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Should Use Constitutional Amendment to Rein in Federal Government

February 25, 2011

Americans are increasingly questioning -- and resisting -- the endless growth of the federal government.  Part of this resistance finds voice in efforts to enforce state sovereignty through litigation and legislation such as the Health Care Freedom Act and the Firearms Freedom Act.  Measures such as these protect existing, fundamental rights from erosion at the federal level.  But the growing discontent has also reignited interest in an even more direct route for the people and the states to regain control over the federal government -- the Article V constitutional amendment process, says Robert G. Natelson, a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute.

  • Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the states have the power to apply to Congress to hold a convention for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments.
  • This power was meant to provide a fail-safe mechanism to control the federal government.

Natelson's report demonstrates that the historical record during the Founding era establishes a clear roadmap to guide the Article V amendment process.  Among other discoveries, this report reveals that the Framers rejected drafts of Article V that contemplated the very kind of wide-open convention that could "run away," substituting instead a provision for a limited-scope convention, attended by state-chosen delegates, and addressed to specific subject matters.

Natelson recommends that states seriously consider initiating the Article V constitutional amendment process to restrain the federal government.

Source: Robert G. Natelson, "Amending the Constitution by Convention: A Complete View of the Founders' Plan," Goldwater Institute, September 16, 2010.


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