Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ask the wrong question; get the wrong answer

There's a revolt of sorts brewing in several of the States that make up The United States of America (you've never thought of them in those terms, have you?). Something in excess of 20 states have passed 'sovereignty memoranda' (or memorials). These memorials remind the federal government that it is a government of limited power and a creature of the states and caution it (the fedgov) to cease and desist overstepping the bounds of its lawful authority.

Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say.

Well, as a matter of fact there is. All of these memorials concentrate solely (or nearly so) on the topic of 'regulation of interstate commerce'. In the past century or so, the federal government has gradually expanded the scope of its power to 'regulate interstate commerce' from its original very limited scope to the point that the federal government now claims authority over anything that might conceivably one day be involved in interstate commerce. The states protesting have, furthermore, cast their objections almost exclusively as protections of the 2nd amendment -- the right to keep and bear arms -- by announcing that henceforth firearms made entirely within the borders of (state) and which do not leave the confines of (state) are not subject to federal infringements such as the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) or the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA68).

Sounds quite reasonable on the suface, doesn't it? In fact, until you start asking 'the right questions', it certainly does. The moment you begin asking the right questions, however, you realize what a bunch of nincompoops we have elected to represent us.

The Constitution grants to the federal government (Sect.8 clause.3) the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;". Today 'regulate' means 'bury under a mountain of legislation', but it didn't mean that when section 8, clause 3 was written. Then 'regulate' meant 'to make uniform or regular'. It is the same 'regulate' which appears in the 2nd amendment's 'well-regulated militia', where it means 'a militia which speaks a common language, has practiced operating as a unit, and can hit what they aim at'. It is the same word which today gives us the 'regulator' on a SCUBA tank, the device which makes sure you get air at the correct pressure whether you're two feet underwater or two hundred feet.

'Regulate commerce ... among the several states' doesn't mean that Congress gets to micromanage all transactions which cross a border. It means that Congress is authorized to put a stop to states colluding with each other to the detriment of other states. The goal of the writers of those words was The Free-Trade Zone of The United States of America. If they knew what was going to happen to their grandiose ideas, they would have stayed a colony of Great Britain.

So passing a "hands off our intrastate commerce" memorandum is the wrong answer you get when you ask the wrong question. Had they asked the right question, the answer would have been "none of our merchants are any longer required to follow your rules regarding (e.g.:) selling firearms to those who don't live in this state and if you send your federal agents in here to enforce your non-laws, they'll be arrested, tried, convicted, and hung by the neck until they are dead; have a nice day".

If that, or anything even vaguely like it, were to happen, a large portion of the federal bureaucracy would cease to exist, people in the affected states would suddenly notice that they are a damn sight freer than they were yesterday, and it might generate calls for more of the same.

No, I'm not holding my breath, either.

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