Episode 4: Power Tends to Corrupt - The Expansion of Federal Power





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Published on Apr 23, 2012

As you await the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, you owe it to yourself to cut through all of the hype and truly understand the Commerce Clause - why it's so contentious and why the outcome in this case is absolutely critical to the individual liberty of all Americans.

Episode 1: Learn why the Framers of the Constitution included the Commerce Clause in the supreme law of the land. What problems were they trying to fix and why did they believe that this was the right solution?

Episode 2: For the first 150 years after the Constitution was adopted, the Supreme Court adhered to a literal interpretation of Commerce Clause as allowing Congress the power only to regulate buying and selling across state lines. Congress and the President wanted the exercise federal control over the national economy and tried to use the Commerce Clause to justify that expansion, only to be thwarted by the Court at every turn. As the Supreme Court famously said in the landmark 1936 case United States v. Butler - "The question is not what power the Federal Government ought to have, but what powers, in fact, have been given by the people."

Episode 3: Understand the radical U-turn made by the Supreme Court during the Great Depression. Beginning in 1937, the Court's rulings granted the federal government progressively more power over the country's economy. In the process, they effectively reversed their earlier Commerce Clause rulings. To some, this change meant that the Court had finally woken up to the reality of the need to give the federal government broad control over the national economy, particularly in the face of the suffering caused by the Great Depression. To others, it was a betrayal of the bedrock principles of the Constitution which created a federal government of limited powers. Based on this reinterpretation of the Commerce Clause, Congress has the power to make it illegal for you to grow your own food instead of buying it from the grocery store. Or to forbid you to make a pizza from scratch instead of ordering take-out from the local pizzeria.

Episodes 4 and 5: Learn how the federal government has used the Commerce Clause over the last 70 years to explosively expand its powers. We are now as the point where the Supreme Court is about to decide whether or not that power is unlimited. If the federal government can force you to buy a product or service such as health insurance, then there is nothing it can't force you to do. And then our Constitution, which created a federal government of limited and enumerated powers, will be meaningless. If you trust the government, then you think this is a good thing. If you believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely, then it scares you to death.

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