Tuesday, December 28, 2010


... I sent a note to my contact list, answering the question 'how to get a letter printed in the WSJ': Pick 80 words of James Madison, bracket them with 20 each of your own, send it in. It worked for me.

Chicago AM Tuesday 28 December 2010

Editors, The Wall Street Journal


The Wall Street Journal of Monday 27 December has Randy Barnett and David G Oedel writing a fine explanation of the Constitution's Article I Section 8 General Welfare clause. There is no statement of United States governance more in need of explanation than that clause, and no two people better able to do it.

The wonder is that this key statement could need any help, considering that 221 years ago James Madison clearly identified some common misunderstandings of the clause, and explained what the founders meant by them, clearly, thoroly, and I'm sure he felt finally, when in Federalist Number 41 he wrote :

Some [Constitution doubters]... have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power "… to provide for the general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the... general welfare....

Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it.... but what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? “

And following that semicolon is a list of 17 Congressional powers, from 'borrow money on the credit of the United States' thru 'make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers' ..... but not a sign of health care, environmental protection, education, housing etc.

Too bad the Father of the Constitution did not anticipate future misunderstanding of the Commerce clause.

Arnold H Nelson