Friday, July 24, 2009

Where does the Federal Government der...

Where does the Federal Government derive so much power and influence?  Constitutional Originalists like me think they either steal it or derive it from smoke and mirrors.  Those in power would point to two places in the Constitution, the "Commerce Clause" and the "Necessary and Proper Clause".  Those in power would of course be wrong.

The Commerce Clause in the Originalists opinion gives Congress authority to regulate trade, when necessary, "among the several states".  Not within, but "among".  Also, authority doesn't suppose reason.  Congress still needs a good reason to use its Constitutional authority.  Further, nothing is said about trade among the people.  The Constitution takes great pains to differ between Federal, State and Individual.  Had, the Founders wanted Congressional authority over the individual it would have clearly stated it.  In fact, even the briefest study of our Founders shows that almost all of their efforts were to LIMIT governmental authority over individuals.

The legal community still debates to this day what the word "commerce" meant in the 18th century.  A liberal generally thinks it to mean every interaction among men.  As ridicules as that sounds, that is what some well respected scholars maintain.  A more Conservative and researched view points to commerce meaning trade among business and industry.  Again, leaving out the individual.  While I am a huge proponent of fancy-book-learnin' I freely admit that a lot of "study" is the product of boredom and an attempt to look busy to ones peers.  Anyone who surmises that "commerce" has ever meant, in any way shape or form, all interactions among men is surely after some end other than the truth!

The Necessary and Proper Clause or the "Basket Clause" is called such because to a liberal mind it gives the Congress the authority to enact any law it sees and necessary and proper, all that is needed is political will.  A Conservative view, a researched view, understands that the Founders meant that Congress could enact laws it found necessary and proper to uphold the Constitution.  Or "The congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the forgoing powers ,
and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of
the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."  OR... that this "necessary and proper" authority is incidental to the rest of the Constitution, more particularly the enumerated powers.  For example, you can't over-ride another part of the Constitution, say... Freedom of the Press, with a law enacted under the Necessary and Proper Clause.  Or more relevant, California should be able to regulate marijuana as a drug as long as that drug stays in California.  Congress enacting/enforcing a non-enumerated law or a law it sees as "necessary and proper" must be junior to an enumerated law like the 10th Amendment (State's Rights).

Confusing?  Yeah, it was meant to be.  Our Founders did not make the Constitution all encompassing.  It could have been hundreds of pages long and much easier to interpret.  But, they new that the more they wrote, the more we would interpret and mis-interpret.  Brevity was their most precious gift.  The Constitution was written by men and is interpreted by men, therefore it is imperfect.  But, it is quite sufficient and has been the standard barer for freedom ever since its inscription.  It is completely sufficient in the case of over reaching Federal power.  Sadly, it requires sufficient executors and adjudicators as well (Congress and the Supreme Court).  These government officials are the crux of the problem.  Too long have we sent fools to Washington expecting the impossible.  The only way forward I see is for the individual States to assert their power and stand up to the Federal system.  Hard to do if you are a state that is beholdin' to the Federal apparatus for education, roads, health-care, credit, etc. 

1 comment:

The Logic Connection said...

one of my favorite questions whenever i call a politician's office or whenever i talk to the average "progressive" is, what part of the constitution gives a basis for enacting that law? i wish more of the talking-heads would focus on this when bloviating nightly.