Big Government

Ely's exercise in Thesaurus use earlier contained this little section:

The West Wing involves starry eyed Democrats who solve international and domestic troubles by spending lots of money o­n government assistance programs.

Which got me thinking. By what authorization does the Federal government derive its ability to spend money on practically anything they can muster a mojority vote for? What gives Congress the right to spend my money on social programs?

In Federalist Paper 45, James Madison wrote: "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; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."

If it were reversed, if the powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite and those of the states are few and defined, would the Constitution have ever been ratified?

First, I do want to stress that my quote was delivered entirely in the spirit of humor. It''s not a serious statement at all. I know you weren''t suggesting it was, but I just wanted to be clear.

If it were reversed, if the powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite and those of the states are few and defined, would the Constitution have ever been ratified?

Almost certainly not. Also, if the Constitution had contained any language looking down on the practice of slavery it would never have been ratified, which is why those drafting the constitution had the good sense to realize it was not immutable. That it could be adapted and interpreted as the age and the society dictated.

I think what happened over the course of a few centuries experience is that it became clear the states didn''t do as good a job as a more centralized and competent government. Additionally the unity of the union proved an important factor, meaning that shared values and efforts became of greater importance. When Madison was talking he was speaking from a position where the nation was little more than barely connected colonies. Of course, now the fates of states, cities, and the nation as a whole is intertwined. What happens in California or any state has an effect on everyone else.

What I''m saying is that a large centralized government is an extension and development from the constitution Madison envisions. Particularly on the largest of social and domestic projects it just does a better job than any single state likely could, and it establishes some baselines of importance. That''s not to say all spending is good, that there''s not pork, or that every social program is a worthy one, BUT the ability of the federal government to pool its resources and do good should not be underestimated.

I agree with you in part, Elysium, with regard to the way our country has changed and the states are now more interdependent. But, the problem lies in that our federal government isn''t really set up to handle government on that scale. Not really enough checks and balances (either that or they have become too diluted and warped to try to fit the current trends). Our country is just so damn big. State and local government having a lot of leeway makes sense to me, but it becomes difficult now that media, connectivity, travel, and communication are homogenizing our nation.

I don''t know the solution, but my perception is that a bigger federal government creating social programs and administering them from afar isn''t going to work well with the way its lined out in our constitution.

I really can''t point to a better government in the world, though. I''m proud of what we have achieved.

I think what happened over the course of a few centuries experience is that it became clear the states didn''t do as good a job as a more centralized and competent government.

Elysium, other than national defense, name one thing this ""centralized and competent government"" you are talking about (a mythical beast, indeed) does better than the states...

Of course, now the fates of states, cities, and the nation as a whole is intertwined. What happens in California or any state has an effect on everyone else.

Ah, but why should the Federal government have the ability to set standards on anything but those things that do, in fact, impact multiple states? I can see the need for Federal regulation when it comes to a national highway system or air traffic control. I can even see it for setting standards in the way that different states communicate with each other.

But can you possibly justify why Education (an example) should be handled at anything other than the state level?

a bigger federal government creating social programs and administering them from afar

And that, my friends, is the crux of the problem.

"JohnnyMoJo" wrote:

Ah, but why should the Federal government have the ability to set standards on anything but those things that do, in fact, impact multiple states? I can see the need for Federal regulation when it comes to a national highway system or air traffic control. I can even see it for setting standards in the way that different states communicate with each other.

I agree.
I don''t understand how the federal government should be allowed to challenge a state''s decision on things like medical marjuana and ""right to die "" issues.
Especially if the state has already voted on these issues and turned those voted on decisions into law. What right should the federal government have to come in and change those laws?

I don''t think they should. Politicians currently use the ''general welfare'' clause as their justification. But, I hate to burst Ely''s bubble, the Founders did take that into account. In 1798, Thomas Jefferson said, ""Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."" The Constitution''s father, James Madison said: ""With respect to the two words "˜general welfare,'' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.""

Perhaps politicians are constitutionally ignorant. Would it be too much to ask that every politician be required to take a few basic steps to educate themselves before being allowed to take office? Maybe a basic economics class, an introduction to law and ethics, and be forced to read both the Constitution and the Federalist papers?

Perhaps politicians are constitutionally ignorant. Would it be too much to ask that every politician be required to take a few basic steps to educate themselves before being allowed to take office? Maybe a basic economics class, an introduction to law and ethics, and be forced to read both the Constitution and the Federalist papers?

I absolutely agree. Political Science degrees aren''t truly preparing people for service to the public; our ""leaders"" need a better education on what''s truly involved in running the country, and in understanding our origins and development as a nation.

It''s why I know I''m certainly not qualified for office; I may have ideas (or rather, may just be idealistic), but I''m not fully educated enough to understand all the issues and needs at stake.

I agree.
I don''t understand how the federal government should be allowed to challenge a state''s decision on things like medical marjuana and ""right to die "" issues.

Exactly. Ashcroft is attacking both of these voter approved laws in Oregon.

Except for setting and maintaining minimum standards for infrastructure, national defence and international relations the feds should defer to the states. I''m sure I''m missing something in this list, but ""things that impact multiple states"" just about covers it.