Alexander Hamilton vs. the Balanced Budget Amendment

by Ed Whelan

In an interesting essay on Public Discourse, political scientist Carson Holloway makes the case that Hamiltonian principles argue strongly against adoption of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Just back from a week of canoeing in the wilderness of Canada, I’m racing to catch up on things, so I’ll just very briefly state some additional objections to a balanced-budget amendment: (1) I don’t see how a balanced-budget amendment could be meaningfully enforced without a dramatic and (from the perspective of principles of representative government) disastrous shift of power to the federal judiciary. (2) The whole effort seems like a wasteful diversion from the more urgent work of entitlement reform. I don’t want it to be easy for spendthrift legislators to posture themselves as fiscal hawks merely by supporting a balanced-budget amendment.

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