A movement known as the Convention of States (COS) has been gaining traction across the country. The movement seeks to bring together delegates from all 50 states to propose new amendments to the federal constitution by invoking Article V of the United States Constitution. Nineteen states have passed legislation approving such a convention, and another 21 states have bills that are active in their legislatures.

While I acknowledge the plight of the movement, and sympathize with many goals of its supporters, I think Edmund Burke’s brand of conservatism can lend some valuable insights on how to achieve similar end goals, albeit in a pragmatic and piecemeal fashion.

Edmund Burke, an 18th century philosopher and statesman, is widely heralded as the founder of philosophical conservatism. Burke’s conservative philosophy can essentially be summed in one sentence: all change is not change for the better; proceed with caution. According to Burke, our approach to human affairs should be done with “mistrust” to both “a priori reasoning and revolution” (revolution meaning abruptness) and that we ought to put our trust in “experience and in the gradual improvement of tried and tested arrangements.” Basically, pragmatism and incrementalism should reign supreme.

The COS, and its unconventional approach, is antithetical to Burkean (also known as traditional) conservatism. Whereas traditional conservatism prizes slow, gradual, and step-by-step changes, the COS movement eyes the abrupt and expedient route, which could result in unforeseen consequences.

What follows are three reasons why the Burkean method should guide us if we are to make any changes to the United States Constitution.

First, our republic with its democratic institutions of checks and balances is, by its very nature, meant to be slow and deliberate. People often gripe and moan about how checked and balanced we are, and how it results in nothing getting done. In my opinion, this is good because it ensures that decisions are not made on a whim. To make sure that a policy or amendment is really worthwhile, and that it ought to become law, it should have to pass through the gauntlet of our democratic guardrails.

This is especially true of a proposed amendment to the federal constitution, given that it will have an effect on all 330 million citizens. If friction is encountered, then the policy or amendment should go back to the drawing board: i.e. more deliberation and further compromise. In today’s political environment, more compromise guarantees that one side won’t get more than the other, thus changes will be gradual opposed to sweeping.

Secondly, a tried-and-true avenue to amending the Constitution already exists. Article V, the same Article that allows for the calling of a constitutional convention, provides that an amendment to the Constitution can be made if passed by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures approve of it. In order to call a convention, 34 states are needed; but in order to pass proposed amendments at the convention, 38 states are needed. These 38 states would represent the aforementioned three-quarters of legislatures needed, so the two-thirds of Congress that is needed is an added layer of gradualism that Burkean conservatism advocates for.

Lastly, if a constitutional convention were to be called today, in this hyper-partisan era, all things proposed would likely be done with partisan ends in mind. Any proposed amendment should be indicative of moderation, not partisanship. Expedited and partisan measures do not align with the pragmatic and piecemeal modus operandi that is a hallmark of Burkean conservatism.

At the end of the day, the COS movement has valid and legitimate reasons for wanting to invoke a constitutional convention. However, the movement’s desire to invoke Article V of the Constitution is the nuclear option, which should only be done in the case of a runaway government. For now, deliberation and compromise leading to gradual and incremental change is our best and safest bet moving forward.