The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz
Website: Liberty Book Shop
A fan of ever-expanding government wrote in this month, complaining about an aside in a recent Review-Journal editorial on the 70th anniversary of the Federal Register -- an editorial lamenting the fact that it took “only” 2,620 pages to itemize all the new federal regulations promulgated in the year 1936, but that by 2004 the Federal Register was publishing a whopping (and impenetrable) 75,600 pages of new rules and regulations annually.

The remark in question?

“On March 14, 1936, the first edition of the Federal Register counted a whopping 16 pages,” the Review-Journal editorialized on March 15, “featuring rules for the new Social Security system and trade practices for buttons on clothes. (Surely authorization for federal meddling in the button business resides in the Constitution somewhere, if only we look hard enough.)”

It was that final, parenthetical touch of sarcasm that was apparently the last straw for our letter writer.

“What’s disturbing about the R-J editorial page staff is their treatment of any constitutional law decision with which they disagree,” our correspondent lamented. “Their approach amounts to this: act as if it doesn’t exist. Writing about 1936 regulations concerning trade practices for buttons on clothes, the writer made a snide parenthetical remark that the federal government has no constitutional right to regulate business. However, as any CCSD twelfth-grader can tell you, Congress does have the right to regulate interstate commerce (Article I, Section 8, Commerce Clause), as was affirmed in Gibbons v. Ogden, in 1824. At issue was a conflict between state regulation and federal regulation of a ferry business between New Jersey and New York. ...

“The comment was emblematic of the R-J's editorial approach. This brings us to 2003’s Guinn v. Legislature of the State of Nevada. The R-J's editorial staff would have us believe that the Nevada Supreme Court simply disregarded an amendment to the state constitution requiring a super-majority to raise revenue, i.e., taxes. What the R-J conveniently and consistently neglects to mention is that there was another constitutional issue involved: Nevada Constitution, Article 4, Section 18, subsection 2. This guarantees a free public education for Nevada’s children. ... Just because the Review-Journal editors disagree with a court’s decision, doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional. ...”

Well, well.

Taking our correspondent’s points in order:

1) The Constitution certainly does authorize the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. If the state of Ohio were to enact a selective tariff against the import across the river of Kentucky buttons, in a foolish effort to “protect” inefficient Ohio button manufacturers, this duly delegated power would allow the Congress to step in and overrule such a tariff -- a good thing, since a great part of our economic prosperity has resulted from America being, in effect, one huge “free trade zone.”

But nowhere does the Constitution grant a federal power to regulate “things that MOVE in interstate commerce,” a phrase which the Founders could have added if they wished, but which they left out precisely because that would make of the federal government “a complete government” -- Mr. Jefferson’s honeyed phrase for an absolutist tyranny in the Bonapartist mold.

“Trade practices” is cheerfully vague, but “buttons on clothes” is not.

Regulate interstate traffic in buttons? Yes. A federal power to regulate or standardize anything else concerning “buttons on clothes,” or guns, or what have you, simply because they MOVE in interstate commerce? (See the “Gun-Free Schools Act.”) The newspaper does not need to “act as if it doesn’t exist” -- it doesn’t. And the incremental usurpation of such power -- along with the parallel untruth that the constitutional phrase referring to “the general welfare” means Congress can do anything it believes might promote someone’s welfare -- are such hideous betrayals of the American concept of limited government that it is the duty of any thoughtful and freedom-loving citizen (or newspaper) to bugle an ongoing protest from the rooftops. (See Mr. Jefferson’s letter to Albert Gallatin, June 16, 1817.)

Have virtually all our cynical and power-hungry courts and lawmakers cheerfully embraced these clever lawyerly excuses for limitless expansion of federal power, particularly since the high court’s loathsome and traitorous 1942 decision in Wickard v. Filburn, which held an Ohio farmer could be forbidden from growing and using wheat on his own land -- not shipping it anywhere -- since that could “affect” the price of wheat moving in interstate commerce?

Yes they have.

Does that create an obligation for us today to shrug and say, “Oh well, if that’s the way they want it”?

On that day, the last hope and spark of freedom in America will truly have died.

2) As for the repulsive betrayal of the public trust which was the Nevada Supreme Court decision in “Guinn v. Legislature,” our correspondent now joins those corrupt judges in simply making stuff up.

Nowhere does the Nevada state Constitution require the Legislature to allocate as much loot for free schooling of “all the children” as our rapacious local superintendents might dream or desire.

As I wrote on this topic on July 17, 2003: “First, there is no constitutional requirement that the legislature ‘fully’ fund the state’s schools ‘and universities.’ The words ‘university’ and ‘fully’ do not appear in the referenced Article Eleven, Section 2 of the Nevada state Constitution (ratified by the voters in 1938), which merely holds that ‘The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district for at least six months in every year ...’ ”

(Our correspondent has the numbers of his two constitutional sections switched -- an easy mistake.)

“On July 10, 2003,” I wrote at the time, “there was no conceivable conflict between this mandate and the two-thirds majority requirement for a tax hike, because current Nevada tax rates are projected to provide plenty of income for the state to fund at least one school in each school district for six months of the year, as required, virtually forever, with no tax hikes whatsoever.

“There’s even enough to fund the current 227 schools in Clark County -- at a rate 10 percent higher than last year. With no new taxes whatsoever.

“But even if there were some perceived conflict or ‘tension’ here, the common doctrine is that a later constitutional amendment overrules an earlier one (the voters having known about the first when they approved the second, but not vice versa.) And the constitutional amendment calling for the two-thirds supermajority for tax hikes was ratified by the voters (who knew full well it might affect funding for the youth propaganda camps) in 1996, by a whopping majority of 71 percent.”

What would have happened if the cynical 2003 Democrats who had put off funding the schools till last -- figuring the Republicans would never call their bluff and limit school spending growth in order to balance the massive and counterproductive Democrat-RINO spending hikes everywhere else (lest they be accused of “hating the children”) -- had been hoist by their own petard? What if Nevada school spending had grown by less than they sought?

By some small increment -- given that home schoolers and private schoolers almost always do better than the inmates of the government youth propaganda camps -- the overall quality of learning in Nevada would have improved.

If we limited spending to the one school per county required by law, admitting only the best students by competitive exam (pretty much the way the Europeans and Japanese do it)?

Productivity and prosperity would soar, as young people with no desire or aptitude for college preparatory studies would stop dragging down our gifted students, being set free to apprentice themselves in useful trades, enter adulthood at an earlier age, and marry the mothers of the children they now conceive out of wedlock.

Want to see a real return to full literacy? Close and auction off all the literacy retarding government youth propaganda camps (see John Taylor Gatto), and refund all related tax dollars to the people for use in educating their own children.

That was the system that produced the Founding Fathers, after all -- along with a populace that could actually read and understand a limited-government Constitution.