Sunday, September 18, 2005

An Anniversary Worth Remembering

Yesterday was the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution (September 17th 1787) by a convention of states. Ratification was not complete until June of the following year. In the 200+ years of its existence, it has only been amended 18 times.

As much as the founders were able to anticipate abuses of power, and as carefully worded as the Constitution is, we've still departed from its original intent. To avoid any further misinterpretation of the Constitution, I have two small changes to propose:
  1. Remove the phrase "promote the general Welfare" at the beginning. It has become popular to believe that government's purpose is to make laws promoting the "general welfare," rather than that the purpose of writing a constitution which limited central government was to promote the general welfare.
  2. Remove the commerce clause, which allows the federal government "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes," or alter it so that its meaning is not so easily distorted. The commerce clause allows for the federal government to regulate interstate commerce (not intrastate commerce) - which was subsequently interpreted to allow federal government to place any regulations it desires on any activity that might affect interstate trade. Its purpose was to allow the federal government to prevent states from creating barriers to trade with other states (e.g. taxing goods that come from other states). It has been the justification for many rulings, including a recent case which upheld federal restrictions on medical marijuana, regardless of whether it was legal in individual states. It was misused in a 1942 Supreme Court ruling (Wickard v. Fillburn) which allowed for regulating a small farmer's harvest of wheat, which he did not sell but used only for himself and his household. The court ruled against Fillburn, reasoning that although Fillburn grew wheat only for himself and did not sell it to other states, his activity"may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as 'direct' or 'indirect.'"
Note that my proposed "changes" are merely changes to the wording and not the original intent. The Constitution was intended to limit government, not to be used as a tool to manipulate law and expand federal power.

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