You missed Constitution Day, but your Friends don't understand it anyway

in liberty •  5 months ago

You missed Constitution Day this year. I missed Constitution Day!

Tom Woods' notes that Constitution Day, you'll recall, is the day of the year when the federal government unconstitutionally requires schools to teach about the Constitution.

Without fail, I get pushback every year when I point that out. I then wonder how anyone who would object to that obviously true statement could have wound up following me.

Regarding the Constitution: I don't recall ever getting the sense in school that the Constitution might actually prohibit anything major that the federal government was doing.

I trust you had the same experience.

Nobody leaves school and thinks, "Oh, gosh, almost everything is unconstitutional!"

Instead, they think: everything I like is ipso facto constitutional.

Or, more commonly: they never give the subject another thought.

Just days ago, I came across a Facebook page whose admin thought he was being clever: he took a screenshot of someone demanding to know where in the Constitution the federal government had been given the power to spend money on health care. Onto that screenshot he superimposed the preamble to the Constitution, and circled the "general welfare" clause.

Get it? He thinks he's really stuck it to that strict constructionist of the Constitution. Why, that rube doesn't realize there's a general welfare clause, and that authorizes health care spending!

WOMP WOMP. No, it doesn't.

First: preambles do not delegate powers. This is the universal practice and understanding. The preamble of the U.S. Constitution is merely descriptive of the ends of that document.

Now it's true, you also see "general welfare" in Article I. But in that case, James Madison made clear that the clause did not mean that the federal government had been empowered to do absolutely anything it thought would benefit the general welfare. Had that truly been its meaning, then there would have been no need to list specific powers being delegated to the federal government, as indeed happens elsewhere in Article I. As Madison put it, "It would be absurd to say, first, that Congress may do what they please; and then, that they may do this or that particular thing."

Madison went on:

After giving Congress power to raise money, and apply it to all purposes which they may pronounce necessary to the general welfare, it would be absurd, to say the least, to superadd a power to raise armies, to provide fleets, &c. In fact, the meaning of the general terms in question must either be sought in the subsequent enumerations which limits and details them, or they convert the government from one limited as hitherto supposed, to the enumerated powers, into a government without any limits at all.

It's true that Alexander Hamilton had a different view of the "general welfare" clause. But Hamilton's view changed after ratification of the Constitution. Before, he took a much narrower view of the clause. After, once Americans were stuck with it, Hamilton suddenly found a more expansive view of the clause convincing. Convenient.

Incidentally, even Bill O'Reilly (remember him?) promoted this idea -- that the general welfare clause justifies government health care spending -- on his FOX News program.

Best way to inoculate yourself against intellectual shysters like these:

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Unfortunately the constitution later says congress may pass all laws they deem necessary.

Which means, anything.

The US can regulate you growing wheat on YOUR land, because, once it is grown it MAY be sold and shipped across state lines.

The constitution for The US is a very sick, sick document.
Fortunately, you and i are not a party to it. So, it doesn't really apply to us...