Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Remembering 1942

Today is the 68th anniversary of the Wickard V. Filburn decision.  This court case extended the encroachment of the federal government into activity in the individual states by way of the "Commerce Clause" in the U.S. Constitution.

Article 1, section 8, clause 3 grants to the U.S. Congress the power:
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
The events leading up to this case were these:
  • The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 established limits on the amount of wheat any given farmer was allowed to grow.
  • In July of 1940 Filburn was given notice that he would be allowed to plant wheat on 11.1 acres.
  • In the Fall of 1940 Filburn planted 23 acres of wheat.
  • In the Spring of 1941 he harvested an additional 239 bushels of wheat from the 11.9 acres he had planted in excess of his allotment.  He never sold any of this excess wheat, but kept it for his own consumption.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1942 overturned the Federal District court ruling that found for Filburn holding that even though none of the excess wheat was ever sold, the fact that he grew it meant that he did not have to buy it elsewhere on the market, and thus by deciding to not engage in commerce, he was, in fact, engaging in interstate commerce, and his actions were therefore subject to be regulated by the federal government.

I would like you to consider:
  1. Is there any activity in which you can engage in which it is impossible to involve commerce of some form?
    1. If it could possibly involve commerce, then by the logic of the Marshall court, it is subject to the laws of the federal government, even if you decide to not engage in commerce.
  2. The 10th amendment  states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  If all activity is under the purview of federal authority, then what does this mean?
It is under this "interpretation" of the Commerce Clause that the federal government has used to justify its ever expanding usurpation of power from the people and the states to who the federal government is supposed to serve. This is the justification for:
  • Federal Criminal Drug Laws
  • Federal regulation of a local Chicago meat market
  • The subjugation of a local Pennsylvania steel manufacturer to the National Labor Relations Boar
  • Many more federal laws regulating individual conduct, many of which may have laudable goals, but are really the responsibility of the State and local governments, who are really in a better position to craft rules appropriate to their local populations.
California Democrat Representative Fortney Stark pretty much summed up this attitude recently when he infamously said "The federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country."  Jerk.

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