Thursday, July 12, 2012

Founding myths in the US Constitution?

Saturday, June 9, 2012 9:41 PM

Chicago PM Saturday 9 June 2012

Editors, UK Financial Times


The Financial Times' Gillian Tett writes a thoro review of a new book “Me the People: One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America” [FT SatSun 9/10 June 2012] that “sets about busting taboos by gleefully mocking that revered constitution.” Tett admits that “... as a piece of humour she does not entirely like "Me the People,'” but further admits that “... It is fascinating. It is a truism of social anthropology that societies... tend to have founding myths, which bind them together.... And these founding myths typically incorporate intellectual contradictions that adherents prefer to ignore.”

What Tett never mentions is the 8,000 word US Constitution is supported by the 192,000 word Federalist papers that explain away myths. For example Article I Section 8 of the Constitution opens: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States....” There are still people who think 'general Welfare' means Congress can do anything it wants to do. James Madison, The Father of the Constitution, , responded to this opinion in Federalist number 41:

”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 specific 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....' Too bad Madison did not anticipate future misunderstanding of the Commerce clause.

Arnold H Nelson

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