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April 15th, 2010 7:11 pm
Where Is That in the Constitution?

Reading Joe Conason’s column today makes one wonder if the author takes seriously the words of the Constitution, or just its “spirit” – whatever that means.  In a piece that identifies the growing constitutionalist movement as fringe, Conason equates adherence to the words in the text as preferring a primitive, pre-enlightened society.

What exactly do they mean by “constitutional”? On the increasingly powerful fringes of the Republican right, a category that includes some Tea Party activists, the Constitution is interpreted as prohibiting every social and political advance since before the Civil War. They would outlaw the Federal Reserve System, the progressive income tax, Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, consumer regulation and every other important federal initiative of the past century.

What Conason misses is that arguing for a textually-based, limited federal government of enumerated powers says next to nothing about the ability of state governments to weigh in on the institutions he wants so much to preserve.  Experience shows that states like California and New York will bankrupt their treasuries to provide the kind of all-providing government Conason likes.  Seemingly, the fact that other states wouldn’t if the feds weren’t allowed is what really bothers him.

Too bad.  The genius of federalism is that it affords the greatest amount of people the greatest amount of choices in the scope and scale of their government.  Once again, liberals like Conason show that when it comes to public policy choices, there’s really only one they care to defend.

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