When we beat the British at Yorktown in 1782 the thirteen colonies became independent sovereign states who lived under the Articles of Confederation. It became evident that there was a need for there to be a government over the states for good reason. I will give two examples as reason for this need.
Some people had borrowed money and signed a contract to repay the money in gold or silver coins which is the form widely used in those days, usually foreign coins from Spain, France or Britain. Instead of repaying what they had borrowed some went to their state representatives and pleaded for a line to be drawn through that clause in the contract so that they could repay with a paper currency such as the Continentals which had been created to pay the men who came forward to fight the British in the War for Independence. This was later referred to in the Constitution as “impairing contracts.”
Another thing was that local governments would create tariffs to help local producers to compete with producers from other states. This led to customers having to pay higher prices for goods and was considered unfair. This led to the clause in the Constitution which called for “regulation” of trade and meant to make trade regular meaning no tariffs, not to the government intrusion and intervention in trade which businesses have to contend with today.
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A major concern that the Founders such as Thomas Jefferson had was that the government they were going to create might become tyrannical and dictatorial such as the monarchy they had just freed themselves from in their war with the British Empire and King George whom they referred to as a tyrant in the Declaration of Independence.
We are taught that the Founders divided the power of the new government between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial branches in order to have checks and balances between them. But in addition they carefully granted only certain specific powers to the Congress which they listed explicitly in Article 1 Section 8 as the enumerated powers. All other powers not among those listed were to be retained by the states or to the people unless prohibited in Articles 9 or 10, under the Tenth Amendment.
The Founders thought this was so important that they included an oath of office so that lawmakers would adhere to the limits granted to the Congress. We are led to believe that the Supreme Court is the official body which determines and interprets the Constitution’s meaning. Most politicians today don’t even allow themselves to think about the constitutionality of laws they are contemplating. They ignore the oath they took, treating that oath as merely a rite of passage in order to take their seats in the Congress or Senate where they largely follow the leader of their party in deciding how to vote on a bill.
Citizens are not taught that it is their duty and responsibility to decide such matters for themselves as sovereign citizens. In our history as a nation laws have been passed by both houses of the Congress, signed into law by the president and upheld on challenge in the Supreme Court, yet today you would easily realize that the law is unconstitutional. For example the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 held that an escaped slave from a Southern state who found his way to a free state such as Kansas should be captured and “returned to his rightful owner.”
That outrageous law was held to be constitutional and had the support of the President and the Supreme Court. But the citizens of Kansas knew it was wrong and passed a law in their state which required that anyone who attempted to act in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act should be arrested and charged with kidnapping. This was in keeping with a process called “nullification.”
Nullification of unconstitutional Federal laws occurred in response to the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 which was signed into law by President John Adams, at the urging of his wife Abigail, who was angered when she learned that men were criticizing John Adams in taverns when they had too much to drink. Over five hundred men were arrested, fined and imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Act. Many were ultimately pardoned be our third president, Thomas Jefferson who had been moved to write the Kentucky Resolves in response to the Alien and Sedition Act. James Madison had written the Virginia Resolves as well which suggested that the State Legislatures could interpose between the unconstitutional laws and the citizens of the States and could nullify those laws by declaring them null and void based on their being unconstitutional.
The historian Tom Woods has written a book entitled Nullification which he asserts may be the way we can restore our constitutional government to the limits imposed by the Founders. It would just require that enough citizens understood the issues involved including just what powers were granted to the Congress and just what laws, powers and programs in effect today are essentially unconstitutional.
To give you an idea let me point out that there is no authorization in the Constitution for there to be a central bank, a national retirement program, a national health insurance program, a national disability program, a paper currency not backed by gold or silver, regulatory agencies which dictate how businesses must operate, military bases in hundreds of countries around the world, to mention a few examples.
Roughly half of the Federal expenditures are for unauthorized programs and have driven the nation to the verge of bankruptcy. The official national debt is said to be 19 trillion dollars but does not take into account the cost of keeping the promise the central government has made to pay Social Security retirement checks and Medicare payments for the Baby Boom population which has begun to reach the age of eligibility for such unconstitutional benefits at the rate of 10,000 people each day!
The prominent economist from Boston University, Lawrence Kotlikoff estimates that the actual cost of those benefits and hence their contribution to the national debt over the next dozen years will be 256 trillion dollars!
That is why the younger generation believes correctly that Social Security will not be there for them in the future.
In order to deal with that enormous promise some combination of benefit cuts, increasing taxation, printing of money, raising the retirement age must be done. As long as the myth of a mere 19 trillion official national debt is maintained, the issue will not be discussed or dealt with in time to avoid the crisis which faces us in the very near future.
There is reason to be hopeful because there is a movement in the country determined to enlighten the populace in these matters. It is crucial that enough people have a proper understanding of our history, economics, the Constitution, the need to audit the Federal Reserve and perhaps to abolish it and restore sound money as the Constitution requires.
Read Ayn Rand’s Capitalism:The Unknown Ideal, Atlas Shrugged; Griffin’s The Creature From Jekyll Island; Henry Hazlitt’s Economics In One Lesson to begin with. Become familiar with the works of Ludwig von Mises: Planning For Freedom, Planned Chaos etc. all free online at www.mises.com
Support Students For Liberty and Young Americans For Liberty which are both growing exponentially in the colleges by virtue of the actions of student activists who are recruiting their colleagues to join the movement for individual liberty and limited constitutional government which is the Founder’s vision.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.