The Constitution, Article One, Section One.

Section. 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

     This short paragraph should address, in part, the tendency toward a bloated government. The first five words are the key. “All legislative powers herein granted…”

     First, a definition of the word legislative most likely understood and intended by the authors: Having the power to make laws. Second, the Merriam Webster definition of law: “a binding custom or practice of a community :  a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.”

     Using these two definitions, we can conclude that all laws, to include rules of conduct or action, “shall be vested in a Congress…..which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

     No where in this Section is the authority given to the Congress to delegate the creation of laws to the other branches of government. With this in mind, the question arises, what of bureaucratic regulations and executive orders?

     Executive orders are understandable only in their capacity to manage the executive branch itself, and only if in compliance with the Constitution. Any executive order outside of these confines is an infringement on the stipulation that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress.”

     Likewise, bureaucratic regulations are an infringement on this stipulation, even if Congress assigns this authority to the bureaucracy, since Congress has no authority to delegate the creation of laws (rules of action or conduct) to any other entity, and has therefore violated the Constitution by attempting to do so.

     It follows this brief analysis that most executive orders and all bureaucratic regulations are unconstitutional, and can not be legally enforced, even if they are enforced in practice.

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The Constitution, The Preamble.

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This is the Preamble to the Constitution. Its intent is to describe the scope and purpose of the entire document. Therefore, the entire text of the Constitution must be evaluated with the meaning of this paragraph in mind.

The goals are clearly defined, and all subsequent sections can be seen as the means of attaining these goals. Here are the six goals:

  1. To form a more perfect union. As we have seen, the Articles of Confederation were less of a device to form a nation than a treaty to bind several separate nations together. As a result, there were severe problems in the relations between the erstwhile colonies, and this was seen as a prelude to the dissolution of the union.
  2. To establish justice. This was another drawback to the Articles, that justice was not uniform amongst the separate states. It was seen as necessary that a common system of justice be established.
  3. To ensure domestic tranquility. The states simply did not get along well at all times, especially in trade, and a device was sought to regulate their interactions.
  4. Provide for the common defense. Prior to this there was no mechanism to guarantee coordination in the effort of defense from foreign aggression. Each state would essentially field its own separate army, or none at all, at its own discretion and with little regard for strategic considerations pertaining to other states. There was simply no authority vested in the Congress strong enough to mandate this level of cooperation.
  5. Promote the general welfare. This may be the most commonly misinterpreted phrase in the entire document, so here we must go back for clarification to the Declaration of Independence, where the concept of general welfare is better explained. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” The government is to promote the general welfare by ensuring that all are treated equally and that their rights are protected.
  6. To secure the blessings of liberty. The blessings of liberty can best be described as the benefits that free people can attain for themselves by being allowed to freely experience their rights. This requires the government to see to it that no one, including the government itself, violates or infringes upon the rights of each individual person.

Clearly, by listing these goals and their attendant requirements, I have described a government somewhat different than the one we know now in the 21st century, but nevertheless, this was the point at which it began.

The US Constitution, The Articles of Confederation.

 

An honest evaluation of the US Constitution would not be complete without a look at the document it replaced, The Articles of Confederation, and the deficiencies therein which led to its replacement.

The Articles of Confederation can best be described not as a document which founded a nation but as a treaty which loosely bound a set on independent nations together. It was governed by a council appointed by these states, and closely resembled what we now have in the United Nations.

Some of the weaknesses which led to its downfall were:

  • Lack of enforcement authority. The individual states could disregard much of what the council agreed to, leading to a lack of cohesion which was unacceptable in their current time and situation. It must be remembered that England still had a desire to regain control of these former colonies, and their wealth, and they were only strong enough to resist this together.
  • There was no consistent leadership. The complexion of the Congress changed as the states appointed different representatives, and the continuity of policy would necessarily suffer. Also, strong representatives from a particular state could sway the Congress in that state’s favor.
  • No provisions were made for a national army or navy. This was a major weakness in view of the possibility of invasion.
  • No national courts. At the very least, this would prove to be necessary to ensure that the Congress did not overstep its bounds.
  • The states could place tariffs on goods moving between states. This was detrimental to the free trade which was necessary for the economic survival of the various states as a whole.

As a result of these weaknesses, it was determined that the document had to be replaced with one which corrected these, and other, perceived deficiencies. Next time we’ll start in on its replacement, the Constitution.

An Evaluation of the US Constitution, Prelude.

 

I have finally decided to begin a long overdue effort to evaluate the US Constitution, with a goal of demonstrating where it went right, where it was insufficient, and why.

There are people to be found in both extremes of opinion, some calling the document the best and most perfect instrument of freedom, others calling it a thinly veiled scam meant to usher in a powerful state. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremities of opinion.

Had the Constitution been as perfect as proclaimed, we would not be suffering the oppressive government of today. On the other hand, the allegation that it was a scam can be discounted by examining not only the people involved, but, more importantly, the people not involved.

Up until the time of the Revolution, most of the people in the Colonies still viewed themselves as English. This did not change until the approach of the Revolution, when the idea of independence entered the thinking of a large number of people. These new supporters of independence were generally not thinking on the scale of a large, united country, though, but of the future of their individual colonies. They were not thinking of a large central government, but of their own communities, and of the communities close enough for them to interact with. Those who supported a central government tended to support the existing central government, the Monarchy in England. Most of these supporters of the government in England were quickly labeled as Tories and ostracized, or worse.

Those who were left to form the new government were more inclined to place the bulk of their loyalty with their individual colonies, hence the large number of compromises to be found in the final version of the text.

These numerous compromises are  at the heart of most of the debate. I will attempt to show over time that these compromises were neither a perfect solution nor a covert plan to usher in a powerful state, but rather the only available solution to the problem then at hand of preserving the newly won independence.

This project will take some time, but if it interests you please follow along. Also, as always, your insights are helpful, so comment freely as we go along.

A Critique of the Methodology of Mises & Rothbard

azizonomics

I find myself in the middleof a huge blowup between Max Keiser and Tom Woods over Mises, Menger and Austrian economics and feel that this is an opportune moment to express some doubts I have regarding contemporary Austrian methodology.

I am to some extent an Austrian, on three counts.

First, I subscribe to the notion that value is subjective; that goods’ and services’ values differ according to different individuals because they serve various uses to various users, and that value is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

Second, I subscribe to the notion that free markets succeed because of the sensitive price feedback mechanism that allocates resources according to the real underlying shape of supply and demand and conversely the successful long-term allocation of labour, capital and resources by a central planner is impossible (or extremely unlikely), because of the lack of a market feedback mechanism.

Third, I subscribe to the notion that…

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