Monday, February 14, 2011
Original Intent of the Commerce Clause and a Water Spicket
By Douglas V. Gibbs
Every time I turn around I hear liberals use The Commerce Clause as an excuse for something. The progressive understanding of that clause is basically "if it crosses a state line, the federal government can regulate it." That is not the original intent of the Commerce Clause.
Democrats believe that virtually every aspect of government policy is allowed by the Commerce Clause because virtually every issue has the potential to have an effect on interstate commerce. Therefore, the liberal left maintains that the power of Congress to regulate is unlimited. However, the Constitution authorizes the Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not intrastate (internal) commerce. Then, if one digs deeper, even the authority to regulate interstate commerce does not go as far as the liberals in the federal government contends.
Thomas Jefferson, when referring to Congressional authority regarding interstate commerce, stated that the authority of Congress is limited: "For the power given to Congress by the Constitution does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State (that is to say, of the commerce between citizen and citizen,) which remain exclusively with its own legislature; but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes. . . with the intent to eliminate trade barriers to promote free trade between states for the nation's economic general welfare.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was aware of the original intent of the Commerce Clause, and being knowledgeable of that fact, he called the commerce clause a relic of "the horse and buggy age." As a progressive, FDR held the same view as today's American Liberal. He believed that changing away from the political foundation of this nation's founding documents was the wave of the future, saying, "We have developed an entirely new philosophy".
The Supreme Court justices of that day chose to honor their oaths to uphold the Constitution's original intent, and refused to support Roosevelt's revised version of the commerce clause to give Congress "unlimited" economic power. Roosevelt worked to "pack the court" with activist justices who supported his new philosophy, however, and the unconstitutional rulings of that court has never been overturned. The electorate, ignorant about the truth, failed to act, and we have been systematically voting ourselves into slavery ever since.
To understand the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, with Indian tribes and among the states," we must understand the history around the events that led the attendees of the Constitutional Convention to place that clause in our Constitution.
The debates during the Constitutional Convention over the Commerce Clause were primarily influenced by the fear by the Founders of the American economic system being controlled in a manner similar to the British Mercantilist System. They wished to ensure they maintained control over deep-water shipping as related to foreign trade. More so than international trade, however, was the fact that commerce between the States was nearly at a stand still due to the squabbles between trade rights, tariffs, and favored producers. Though the roots of the emerging philosophies of capitalism, a free market, and free trade were only beginning to take hold (The Constitution was written prior to Adam Smith's laissez faire becoming dominant economic thinking), such thinking was present and supported by the Founding Fathers that also championed a limited federal government.
Among the original reasons for writing the Commerce Clause into the Constitution was the need to give Congress the power mediate the disagreements between the States.
The word "regulate" was used because at that time the primary definition of the word was "to make regular." In other words, giving the federal government the power to "regulate" commerce between the states meant that the federal government was given the task to ensure that commerce between the states flowed more freely.
Today's American Liberal will argue that the power to regulate by the federal government means that the federal government has the power to control and restrict commerce, when in reality it was all about allowing commerce to flow.
"Regulate" is best explained through your water spicket. When you turn the water on you are regulating the flow. You have the ability to turn it on all the way, to ensure that the water flows freely. This is the intent of the Commerce Clause. The federal government was to serve as a mediator, a spicket if you will, opening up trade and ensuring that the squabbling between the States did not interfere with the flow of interstate commerce.
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