NRI’s 2010 Challenge Winners
Worthy ideas from within and beyond the Beltway.


Kate O'Beirne

Over 300 public-spirited individuals submitted ideas for National Review Institute’s 2010 Challenge. In launching the contest, we were confident that worthy ideas would flood in from beyond the Beltway — and we were right. Constitutional amendments were proposed, the growth of the administrative state was addressed, agencies were recommended for elimination, and clever rhetorical arguments were made. The entrants shared a commitment to the proper constitutional order and a frustration with the present state of affairs. Many contestants recognized that remedies to federal encroachments rest with the states. We are sincerely grateful to all the contestants for sharing their ideas and are pleased to announce the contest winner and those who’ve earned an honorable mention.

Arkansas legislator Dan Greenberg recognizes that Congress is unlikely to propose constitutional amendments to limit its own power. The legislatures of two-thirds of the states can bypass Congress by calling for a convention to propose amendments. Greenberg notes that some people worry about the prospect of a “runaway” convention, but thinks that political and legal constraints could prevent that from happening — and that the first convention should consider an amendment to Article V that would explicitly permit state legislatures to limit a convention to the consideration of a single amendment or eliminate the requirement that the requisite number of states must call a convention in order to propose an amendment. It would be in state legislators’ interest to propose and ratify such an amendment because revitalizing the states’ ability to propose amendments to the Constitution would “enhance their power in dealing with Congress.”

Note: A survey of our entries reveals a popular subject for a constitutional convention: repeal of the 17th Amendment. The amendment changed the way U.S. senators are elected, taking the power to appoint senators from state legislatures and giving it to directly to the electorate. Many believe this shift did damage to federalism by radically reducing the influence of state governments on the federal government. These contributors see restoration of the original constitutional process as a prerequisite for the restoration of federalism.

Honorable Mentions
Re-schedule tax day. Peter Caylor of Virginia proposes moving tax day to September 30, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. While this shift would allow for a simplification of federal accounting practices, the real benefit of the proposal is that taxpayers would be reminded of the enormous cost of government just a few short weeks before general elections are held. Caylor suggests coupling the proposal with other reforms, including adjusting withholding schedules so that fewer people would receive regular refunds and suffer from the illusion that they get money from the government.