Here’s a nice big dose of the medicine our country needs. It’s an op-ed piece published in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, written by Andrew P. Napolitano, a retired Superior Court (NJ) judge.
The article is titled “Most Presidents Ignore the Constitution.” It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the bit I wish was front and center in the public discourse:
In virtually every generation and during virtually every presidency (Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland are exceptions that come to mind) the popular branches of government have expanded their power. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the size of your toilet tank, the water pressure in your shower, the words you can speak under oath and in private, how your physician treats your illness, what your children study in grade school, how fast you can drive your car, and what you can drink before you drive it are all regulated by federal law. Congress has enacted over 4,000 federal crimes and written or authorized over one million pages of laws and regulations. Worse, we are expected by law to understand all of it.
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.
What’s more, Congress can only use its delegated powers to legislate for the general welfare, meaning it cannot spend tax dollars on individuals or selected entities, but only for all of us. That is, it must spend in such a manner — a post office, a military installation, a courthouse, for example — that directly enhances everyone’s welfare within the 17 delegated areas of congressional authority.
And Congress cannot deny the equal protection of the laws. Thus, it must treat similarly situated persons or entities in a similar manner. It cannot write laws that favor its political friends and burden its political enemies.
There is no power in the Constitution for the federal government to enter the marketplace since, when it does, it will favor itself over its competition. The Contracts Clause (the states cannot interfere with private contracts, like mortgages), the Takings Clause (no government can take away property, like real estate or shares of stock, without paying a fair market value for it and putting it to a public use), and the Due Process Clause (no government can take away a right or obligation, like collecting or paying a debt, or enforcing a contract, without a fair trial) together mandate a free market, regulated only to keep it fair and competitive.
It is clear that the Framers wrote a Constitution as a result of which contracts would be enforced, risk would be real, choices would be free and have consequences, and private property would be sacrosanct.
Napolitano goes on to decry the $700 billion bank bailout as running “afoul of virtually all these constitutional principles.”
We’re sitting by and letting our federal government run amok. And nobody even realizes it’s happening because we’re so POORLY educated about our Constitution, what it says, and how its words defined a society — our America, this, our own dear country — that is so unique in history.
If we want to become more like Europe — if we want to become more socialized — if we want a government that takes care of people instead of (“merely”) creating a space where we can look after ourselves — then so be it.
But in doing so, we’re creating a different country than our Founding Fathers envisioned. And we should be honest with ourselves about that. We should make that choice with our eyes open.
We’re not. We’re being led to it by liars who make base appeals to our fears and present issues as cartoons that have nothing to do with what truly matters about how we govern ourselves.
It breaks my heart . . .
I only hope it’s not too late for us.