"The growth of federal power and programs over this century -- involving the regulation of business, the expansion of "civil rights," the production of environmental goods, and much else -- has taken place in large measure through the power of Congress to regulate "commerce among the states." That power has been read so broadly by the modern Court that Congress today can regulate anything that even "affects" commerce, which in principle is everything. As a result, save for the restraints imposed by the Bill of Rights, the commerce power is now essentially plenary, which is hardly what the Framers intended when they enumerated Congress’s powers. Indeed, if they had meant for Congress to be able to do anything it wanted under the commerce power, the enumeration of Congress’s other powers -- to say nothing of the defense of the doctrine of enumerated powers throughout the Federalist Papers -- would have been pointless. The purpose of the commerce clause quite simply, was to enable Congress to ensure the free flow of commerce among the states. Under the Articles of Confederation, state legislatures had enacted tariffs and other protectionist measures that impeded interstate commerce. To break the logjam, Congress was empowered to make commerce among the states "regular." In fact, the need to do so was one of the principal reasons behind the call for a new constitution."
by:
Roger Pilon
Vice President for Legal Affairs for the Cato Institute
Source:
Restoring Constitutional Government, Cato's Letter #9, p. 6, published by the Cato Institute (1995).
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Reader comments about this quote:
Today's government often twist the text of the Constitution and rings out the broadest definition possible. Instead of studying the vocabulary of the Constitution, we should study the meaning behind the words. We should study the reasons and manner in which it was ratified. Everyone should read the Federalists Papers. Thomas Jefferson declared them the greatest literary work on the subject of politics in human history. They truly show what the people expected from the government. They reveal what powers the people were willing to invest in the government and which liberties they declared unencroachable. If we wish to know what the words mean to us, we must know what they meant to the people who wrote them and the people that accepted them.
 -- Publius, USA     
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    very accurate !
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    There is a wide gulf between "what the framers intended" and what is going on in our government today. To call the people in Washington "Public Servants" is a joke, unfortunatly the joke is on us.
     -- jim k, Austin,Tx     
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    By that argument for how we should behave today, no matter how historically correct or incorrect it is, the framers should have framed the constitution to address problems of the 1500s not the then current problems.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA, US     
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    The interpreted expansion of the Commerce Clause was a result of Alexander Hamilton's forays into central banking. He layed the groundwork for special interests and general taxation. It's sad the other founders did not have him shot as the original traitor. And thanks again Reston for yet another totally twisted interpretation from whatever planet it is you live on.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Just one example of government ignoring the laws/rules under which it is supposed to be allowed to operate. The 9th & 10th Amendments are a joke. We are ruled by a criminal government.
     -- Stew, Fredericksburg, VA     
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    While I'm sure that was viable at the time, the challenges that face the free market today are not so simply defined. To think that "the framers" would have written the constitution the same way, had they been able to comprehend the challenges of commerce in modern society is pure fiction.
     -- Alex, Los Angeles, CA     
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    Excellent observation. When the Congressional bureacrats of today are asked where in the Constitution have they been authorized to require Americans to buy health insurance, to turn in their gold for interest-bearing script, tell farmers what they may or may not grow, give money to banks and trade unions, criminalize the possession of certain plants, tax our air, tax our labors, tax property we have already purchased and paid tax on, they invariably say the 'commerce clause.' Thus rather than the common law, we have been forced into commercial law under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Commercial Code -- the largest volume of laws in the nation. Congress believes today that there is really nothing that they cannot do -- and it is true not because of the commerce clause, it is because the people have no recourse other than to trust Congress to police themselves. A grave error in our Constitution. The only real check is the jury which is to decide not just the facts of the case but the law itself. The 'Justice' system is as corrupt as it can get. This is fascism, through and through. Hey, Reston, you may think giving the government unlimited power is a good thing -- but what about when the opposing party takes control -- then you will be screwed double. Creating these seats of arbitrary power results in the worst scoundrels vying for position. It is contrary to the very purpose of a federal -- not national -- government. Don't be a fool.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Alex, we're talking about "principles" here. Maybe that's where the quote lost you. Yes it is that simple.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    I read and re-read the US Constitution and find it to be most amazing, both in its simplicity and tremenously intelligent content; one of the most viable documents ever written; as important today as it was when written. So important that elected officials swear an Oath of Office to "...protect and defend..." it just prior to ignoring it completely(where are the honorable people?). That we have had leaders and justices who would subvert the Constitution shows us that we the people have been too busy to care about the reprobates we put into office. All men would be tyrants if they could, stated Abigail Adams...and she was right...then and now. Only in her day the intelligent people were declaring an independency from much the same as what is going on right now in this country...history repeats...so it is good to know what the history was to avoid falling into the enslaved trap yet again. But for some, only a slap up along side the head with sledge hammer will remind them.
     -- A Adams, newport     
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     -- Julie, Lancaster      
    the "A" from Reston and Alex, "those that can not remember the past are condemned to relive it." The "laws of nature and of nature's God" are the same yesterday, today and forever. One of the brilliances of the Constitution was it was a culmination of historical cause and effect understanding(s). The founders used common law (application of natural law) as their foundation and found it best to promote liberty and inalienable rights by highly limiting the federal government. The despotism, tyranny and malefactor enforced totalitarianism of today is a direct result of not addressing the problems at common law / natural law / constitutional law.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    How many truly believe, we will reverse the direction, stripping away of privacy and financial liberty? With blockchain technology the floating of two currencies in the US, fiat and Fedcoin, it will be done under the guise of security for all. Barter will return underground, out of necessity. " We should study the meaning of words", we should study the reasons and manner it was ratified."
    One of the greatest if not the greatest of understandings can be found through " rightly dividing the word of Truth " this, our Liberty and Freedom are founded upon. Obviously our Founding fathers Studied greatly, to understand what is to Us, as a nation at Liberty, being endowed by our Creator. I personally do not believe that man has the ability to reverse that which the Creator has said will be done. The stage is set for continuance of prophecy. 1307 moves forward, with all it reveals. " There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing, there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches." Prov 13:07. Such to Study that is poor, makes himself rich with the knowledge and understanding of Liberty and Freedom. Treasures in heaven that can never be corrupted. Everyone has eternal life, let them be wise though poor. If one doubts their salvation, they never had it to begin with. such is liberty and freedom.
     -- Ronw13, Oregon     
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