Is it Possible to Restore Constitutionalism?

by Gary S. Lawson, Heritage Foundation

When the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification in 1787, many citizens worried that the new national government proposed by the document was a Leviathan in waiting. During the crucial New York ratification debate, James Madison, writing as Publius, sought to allay these fears in the 45th Federalist Paper by emphasizing that adoption of the Constitution would create a government of enumerated, and therefore strictly limited, powers. Madison said: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined… [and] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce….”[1] Federal tax collectors, Madison assured everyone, “will be principally on the seacoast, and not very numerous.”[2] Exactly six months after publication of this essay, New York became the 11th state to ratify the Constitution.

Once the national government was up and running, disputes naturally arose about the proper scope of its “few and defined” powers and about the proper institutional form for the exercise of those powers. It is helpful to examine just a few of those early disputes to get a sense of the frontiers of constitutional argument in the Founding era–that is, to gauge the kinds of claims regarding federal power that generated serious discussion. Those examples provide an interesting basis for comparison with modern law.

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Why Do You Pay Taxes?

by William ‘BJ’ Lawson, UnitedLiberty.org

As various tax-related mail begins to appear in the mailboxes of hardworking Americans across the country, it’s instructive for all of us to reflect on why we carry the burden of our government every April.

Take this morning, for instance. We can credit the “ingenuity of the markets”, and specifically the ingenuity of John Thain, for moving annual executive bonus payments by Merrill Lynch up by a month last November, thus disbursing $15 billion in executive bonuses just before closing Merrill’s acquisition by Bank of America. Fast forward a few months, and the United States taxpayer just gave Bank of America another $20 billion in newly-borrowed funds to put a band-aid on mortar wounds in Merrill Lynch’s balance sheet.

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The Future of Limited Government

by Jeff Wartman

If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.Jacob Hornberger.

Every four years, voters in the United States are given a choice between two major party candidates in the Presidential election.  We are often told that either of these candidates are the “mainstream” candidates and if you want your vote to count, you need to choose between either one of the two major party candidates who have a “chance” at “winning”.

However, for true supporters of limited government and personal liberty, this is often a choice made in vain.  If you truly believe in a limited, decentralized government which protects both economic and personal liberties and rights, during most elections there isn’t a major party candidate that will generally fit your values.  You have a choice between the Democratic Party, of which too many members wish to violate your economic rights and liberties, and the Republican Party, of which too many members wish to violate your personal rights and liberties.  This is not a judgment of individuals in either party.  Most individual members are doing what they think is right.  This is a judgment on those than run the major parties.

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Strengthening or Weakening the Economy?

by Rep Ron Paul

The economic situation continues to deteriorate this week as past and future bailouts were discussed on Capitol Hill.  The debate was over the accountability of already disbursed TARP money, and on whether or not to release remaining funds.   Banks that had already been bailed out before are looking for more money to fill the black holes that are their balance sheets, warning that they are simply too big to fail.

However, whatever ‘devastating’ consequences these banks are dreaming up and pushing on Capitol Hill regarding their own collapse will be nothing compared to the collapse of our currency if we keep debasing it through these foolish bailouts.  It should be that they are too big to bailout.  The world will not come to an end without this or that bank.  The most troubling thing to me is this rhetoric that only government can save the economy, and must act.  This is so counter-productive.

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Only the States can stop the Feds now

by Rich Hand

It is completely out of control in Washington DC. We have a bunch of bumbling idiots in charge of the treasury and the country’s future. Talk of trillion dollar deficits, cap and trade, bailouts, tax welfare to those that don’t pay, taking over our healthcare and economy; like in the Meatloaf song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” where the woman screams – “STOP Right There, before we go any further do you love me, will you never leave me…”

The state Governors must pull out their pocket constitution and read the 10th amendment carefully for their next step in strategy. Instead of putting their hands out, they should be shutting the door on the federal government. As Raficki in the Lion King says to Simba- “It is time…”

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Starting from Scratch

by William E. Morris, DelawareOnline.com

The infamous $700 billion bailout is a symbol of the incompetence of big government. It results from previous government actions that have caused a recession, and threaten a depression. The bail-out to the risk we already had of severe inflation and a financial catastrophe.

What if we started over to design a government from scratch a government that really worked for us?

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Government and Fraud

by Rep Ron Paul

Billions of dollars were recently lost in the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s self-described Ponzi scheme, in which too-good-to-be-true returns on investments were not really returns at all, but the funds of defrauded new investors.  The pyramid scheme collapsed dramatically when too many clients called in their accounts, and not enough new victims could be found to support these withdrawals.  Bernie Madoff was running a blatant fraud operation.

Fraud is already illegal, and he will be facing criminal consequences, which is as it should be, and should act as an appropriate deterrent to potential future criminals.  But it seems every time someone breaks the law, politicians and pundits decide we need more laws, even though lack of laws was not the problem.

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Economic Freedom or Socialist Intervention?

by Rep Ron Paul

The freedom to fail is an essential part of freedom.  Government- provided financial security necessitates relinquishing the very essence of freedom.  Last week, the big 3 American automakers came back to Capitol Hill with their hands out to the government.  Congress spent this past week debating how much money to give them and what strings should be attached.

Though the bailout plan for the auto industry has suffered what I would call a temporary setback in the Senate, other avenues for public funding are being explored through the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.  I am afraid the American auto industry will soon learn that having billions rain down from Washington will not be the blessing one might expect.

The government, after it subsidizes an industry, tends to become a very demanding benefactor.  Politicians may not have any real idea about how to build a car, run a bank, educate a child, heal the sick or build a road, but they are quite adept at using carrots and sticks to manipulate and threaten those who do.  Most of the federal control over education, roads, healthcare, and now banking and soon auto manufacturing, is done through money, mandates and conditions. 

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The Meaning of Federalism

by Clarence B. Carson, Fee.org

Several developments have contributed to making the meaning of federalism obscure. Some are old, some recent. Some may be more or less innocent; others are destructive of federalism itself. One of these that may be more or less innocent is the habit of referring to the United States government as the “federal government.”

Whether it is innocent or not, it does tend to confuse the unwary. These United States have a federal system of government. The system embraces both the general government and those of the states. Thus, both the United States government and the state government are correctly alluded to as “federal” governments.

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Liberty and Obedience

by David Gordon, Mises.org

The dedication of Restoring the Lost Constitution, “To James Madison and Lysander Spooner,” at once alerts us that we confront an unusual book. During the Constitutional Convention, Madison supported a strong national government; Spooner, by contrast, subjected to withering criticism the notion that the people of the United States had consented to the Constitution. Whom does Barnett support? The Father of the Constitution or the author of The Constitution of No Authority?

Barnett soon makes clear his response. He finds convincing Spooner’s assault on consent theories of political obligation. But this does not lead him to question the need for a state. Quite the contrary, he aims to extricate government from Spooner’s challenge: since consent does not underlie our obligation to obey the state, Barnett must locate something better that will do the job.

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Random Thoughts On Secession

by Logos, Unlawful Government

One of the arguments I frequently hear against secession is that the Constitution never mentions this right, so the right must not exist. Assuming for a moment that the rules of a political system control whether a group of citizens may cease participating in that system (a notion that contradicts the Declaration of Independence), how exactly does constitutional silence disprove secession?

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