Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On Reading The Constitution

When reading the Constitution, most of it it straight forward. I get it. It’s almost like the 10 Commandants. There is no wiggle room in Thou shalt not kill. However, the Constitution has 225 years of interpretation. I am not aware of any formal changes to the Big 10.

However, you can not just read the Constitution and take it as written because we have 225 years of case law, precedents, that may alter the meaning that lesser mortals such as me have of any section of the Constitution.

For instance, perhaps the section most abused is the Commerce clause. (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." The first thing that grabs me is states shall not discriminate against other states. Also that states are prohibited from engaging in treaties with foreign nations and Indian Tribes or other states. This is reserved to Congress. It seems fairly straight forward to me. Read it again, can you find any thing in it that would restrict how much wheat you plant on your land for your own use? Well do you? If not it may show that your don’t have the kind of mind needed to interpret the Constitution as a Supreme Court Justice.

For 160 years no one saw that the Commerce Clause could not only restrict wheat growing, but a wide variety of actions. Wickard v. Filburn, was a 1942 United States Supreme Court decision that recognized the power of the federal government to regulate economic activity.

A farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat for on-farm consumption in Ohio. The U.S. government had established limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to drive up wheat prices during the Great Depression, and Filburn was growing more than the limits permitted. Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops and pay a fine, even though he was producing the excess wheat for his own use and had no intention of selling it. The Court decided that Filburn's wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for chicken feed on the open market, and because wheat was traded nationally, Filburn's production of more wheat than he was allotted was affecting interstate commerce. Thus, Filburn's production could be regulated by the federal government.

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