30 October 2008

Well Said

This article in the Wall Street Journal from Wednesday (29 October) is excellent. My favorite part:

The truth is that the Constitution grants Congress 17 specific (or "delegated") powers. And it commands in the Ninth and 10th Amendments that the powers not articulated and thus not delegated by the Constitution to Congress be
reserved to the states and the people.
This is why I get frustrated when I hear presidential candidates, to take one small example, talking about the need "to pay our teachers more." If the teachers in your school district are working three jobs and eating cat food, then by all means, increase your local taxes and pay them more. Godspeed.

How much teachers get paid or what or how they teach is of no concern whatever to the federal government. If you think it is, why then propose an amendment to the constitution changing Article I, Section 8 to include "...to provide education standards and funding," or some such language. Absent this, any money given by the federal government to local school districts (or to states to provide to local school districts) is an abrogation of the constitution without the niceties of the formal amendment process.


Unfortunately, these presidential attitudes about the Constitution are par for the course. Beginning with John Adams, and proceeding to Abraham Lincoln,
Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush, Congress has enacted and the president has signed laws that criminalized political speech, suspended habeas corpus, compelled support for war, forbade freedom of contract, allowed the government to spy on Americans without a search warrant, and used taxpayer dollars to shore up failing private banks.
The courts have also been complicit. The Supreme Court decision in Wickard v. Filburn (1942) reinforced the federal arrogance that pervades current society. FDR felt that his administration had the authority to tell a farmer that he could only grow wheat on 11.1 acres of his land in 1941. Appellee Filburn, being an American, grew wheat on 23 acres harvesting an additional 239 bushels of wheat. These were to be used for consumption and production on his own farm. None of it was to affect interstate commerce, the only concern of the congress.

Well, poor Farmer Filburn lost his case and now most people wouldn't raise an eyebrow if you said to them that there may be a federal law restricting the use this or production of that. No one seems to ask, "Why" or "Under what authority?"

Why are teachers or farmers (farm subsidies) or automakers (see here) entitled to extra-constitutional care? What separates them from, say, motel operators? Why isn't it the concern of Barack Obama that a motel operator might have to work a second job? Or doesn't spend enough time with his children? Why doesn't the congress subsidize motel operators and pay them to keep their rooms unoccupied so that all motel operators can charge consumers (that is, us) more money? Why shouldn't motel operators be given huge sums of federal money to insure that they continue to produce inefficient rooms that many people don't seem to want to rent and encourage them to enter into fiscally irresponsible labor agreements with their staff?

Since we seem to disregard completely the fact that none of the above mentioned examples are of any federal concern, why not include everyone? We'll just tax rich people, like 70% of everything they make and 90% of their estates, you know, to spread everything around. To make life "fair."

The federal government was designed ambitiously and humbly. Not every possible scenario was capable of being foreseen. No one knew this more than the collection of genius that wrote the constitution. That's why there are "gaps," as it were. That's why they left it open to amendment. There was disagreement then of what the thing meant. Hamilton regarding the congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce and to coin money and regulate its value as a sound basis for the establishment of a national bank--he also saw the bank as integral to the nation's survival and growth. Madison looked at the lack of the explicit authority to establish the bank and fought Hamilton on this.

Both men looked to the constitution and were able to make strong, informed cases. The nation is the poorer that no one seems to know what the thing says anymore. It is regarded as an anachronistic afterthought. Its beauty is unappreciated.

We act now because it is the "right" thing to do; or it's "for the children," or it's "compassionate," or "when someone hurts, the government has to move," or it "will grow (sic) the economy." A pox on all of it. The majority of people are unworthy of our constitution. Sadly, we all deserve the government we have and the people we send to run it.

There is no correlation between the government and its charter. And no one cares.

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