Enumerated Powers: What Defines Our Republic!
By: Guest Authors
By: Dr. Keith C. Westbrook Ph.D.
Here repeat after me “EEEENOOOMERATED POWERS”
What separates our Republic and all Republic’s that have come before it is this very singularly important distinction. Enumerated Powers
Here is an excellent interpretation by Kevin Price from his article titled: “What are “enumerated powers” and why do they matter?”
“Enumerated powers” have an academic sound to them. It sounds like something you would read about in a history book. Simply put, enumerated powers are those powers specifically delegated to the Congress by the US Constitution. By the way, they are still there.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution lists the seventeen powers specifically enumerated to the Constitution. All of these things are important and the government’s function in these areas was supposed to be strong, in order to protect the liberties of every American. Some of the things delegated to Congress include standard weights and measures, coining money, post offices and post roads, the protection of intellectual property, and a national defense. Beyond these and a few other very specific items, there was not much for which the federal government was responsible.
So how did new medicines get regulated? How would certain industries be licensed? What about the many other things done today by the federal government, who would do them? Those powers not enumerated to Congress were left to others, as seen in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution: “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.” That word, reserved, speaks of exclusivity. This was not a preferential view of public policy (“it would be better if the states and people took care of these things”), but a mandate (if it is not listed in the US Constitution, it is for the states and the people). The vast majority of regulations that exist in states came into place from states watching the works of one another. With the many states, our country had a vibrant laboratory with new ideas being brought to the surface and each state emulated those laws that worked best.
The ideas behind this system are both simple and profound. The state governments had virtually unlimited powers, but limited amounts of money. It could not “print money” to fund its programs, because only the federal government had the power to do such. On the other hand, the federal government only had 17 enumerated powers and it had no reason to use inflation as a vehicle to fund its programs. This contributed to the value of the US dollar remaining steady from the era of the founding until the early part of the 20th century (during the New Deal we began to devalue our currency to pay for “extra Constitutional” or unconstitutional government programs).
The Founders of this republic believed in the dispersion of power. They did such in order to maximize individual freedom and to protect the power of the states. This unique system helped to limit the amount of money taxpayers spent on programs they disagreed with because on the federal level, all the enumerated powers were beneficial to all. Meanwhile, people had the power and freedom to move from state to state in order to find a government that best suited their needs. That power to “vote with their feet” kept most state government very small.”
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is widely cited as being an exhaustive list of Congressional power. But, in reality, there are a total of thirty (up to 35, depending on how they’re counted) Congressional powers that are listed throughout the document. Find them here:
- To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
- To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
- To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
- To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
- To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
- To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
- To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
- To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
- To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
- To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
- To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
- To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
- To provide and maintain a Navy;
- To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
- To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
- To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
- To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
- To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
- No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws:and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.
- The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
- In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
- The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
- The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
- The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
- Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
- New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union;
- The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
- The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress
- The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment… The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
- The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators.
There is a difference of opinion in the political arena on whether current interpretation of enumerated powers as exercised by Congress is constitutionally sound.
“This government is acknowledged by all, to be one of enumerated powers. The principle, that it can exercise only the powers granted to it, would seem too apparent, to have required to be enforced by all those arguments, which its enlightened friends, while it was depending before the people, found it necessary to urge; that principle is now universally admitted.
Another school of thought is referred to as loose construction. They often reference additional comments by Justice Marshall from the same case:
“We admit, as all must admit, that the powers of the Government are limited, and that its limits are not to be transcended. But we think the sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it in the manner most beneficial to the people. Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional,” wrote Marshall.
Why is a more strict adherence to the intent and measure of Enumerated Powers as defined by the “Federalist Papers” so important? It is what the Greek and Roman Republics did not have to protect them from the tyranny that befell both their Republican forms of government and ended them. Without “Defined Limits” to control one branch of government such as the “Executive” branch, they were destroyed by appointed “Caesar’s” that succumbed to the axiom “Absolute power corrupts: absolutely”. They are now just pages in history books.
Our current Executive branch of government unfortunately now defines the above axiom. If left unabated and continuing on its current trajectory we will no longer exist as founded before the end of this decade and if you think that that time frame is impossible to achieve here is a 20th. Century reminder of man’s folly believing that Govt. has all the answers:
The Weimar Republic (German: Weimarer Republik [ˈvaɪmaʁɐ ʁepuˈbliːk] ( listen)) is the name given by historians to the federal republic and parliamentary representative democracy established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government. It was named after Weimar, the city where the constitutional assembly took place.
Following World War I, the republic emerged from the German Revolution in November 1918. In 1919, a national assembly was convened in Weimar, where a new constitution for the German Reich was written, then adopted on 11 August of that same year. The ensuing period of liberal democracy lapsed by 1930, when Hindenburg assumed dictatorial emergency powers, leading to the ascent of the nascent Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler in 1933. The legal measures taken by the new Nazi government in February and March 1933, commonly known as the machtergreifung (seizure of power) meant that the government could legislate contrary to the constitution. The republic nominally continued to exist until 1945, as the constitution was never formally repealed, but the measures taken by the Nazis in the early part of their rule rendered the constitution irrelevant. Thus, 1933 is usually seen as the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich.
In its fourteen years, the Weimar Republic faced numerous problems, including hyperinflation, political extremists (with paramilitaries – both left and right wing), and continuing contentious relationships with the victors of World War I.
Regular readers know that I reference this period in history often because it is historically significant that all of the monetary policies as well as the govt. regulatory climate then is identical to now. “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”
There is legislation in the House of Representative’s that could slow and stop the current momentum of Un-Constitutional legislation if we can elect Citizen Statesman and not the “Political Ruling Class” that now occupies the District of Corruption.
From Downsize DC:
Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) has re-introduced The Enumerated Powers Act (EPA) – HR 450. (You can read the entire bill on our Background Page.) EPA would require Congress to reference the specific clause(s) of the U.S. Constitution that grant them the power to enact laws and take other congressional actions.
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.” —James Madison, Federalist No. 45
So what difference will it make if we require them to cite “chapter and verse” the section of the Constitution that gives them authority to pass a law, create or maintain a program, or impose a tax?
- Well, it might slow them down.
- It might mean that they reconsider a proposal instead of introducing it.
But we freely admit, this new law won’t stop them.
We believe the real power of this requirement is that it would, over time, build the evidence necessary to make some real reforms. After all, how many different, un-constitutional actions per day can they blame on the Commerce Clause before a judge rules or a reforming group stands up and says, “This is a hole large enough to drive a fleet of trucks through; let’s tighten it up!”
EPA might even, eventually, embarrass Congress. As Walter Williams has pointed out, “Congressmen, openly refusing to live up to their oath of office, exhibit their deep contempt for our Constitution.” EPA would expose these politicians because their actions would speak louder than their phony rhetoric.
There’s an old Texas legend that says, a young politician by the name of Lyndon Johnson (yes, that Lyndon Johnson), was looking for an edge in his campaign. Johnson suggested to his campaign manager that they start a rumor that his opponent enjoyed sexual congress with pigs.
His campaign manager reacted in shock: “Lyndon you know that’s not true.”
“Sure,” Lyndon is alleged to have replied, “I just want to watch him deny it.”
Well, Congress does lots of unconstitutional things. And that’s no rumor. Walter Williams is almost certainly right; most members of Congress seem to have “deep contempt for our Constitution.”
Now, we just want to see them compelled to deny that charge.
Contact your representative and demand they sign on and support passing this legislation and if they don’t then you know who the traitor’s are.
Dr. Keith C. Westbrook
Pres. Conservative Party-Florida