Hey libs...what's the point of the enumerated powers?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Liberty, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. Liberty
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    Liberty Silver Member

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    If the enumerated powers are intended to be the responsibilities of the federal congress (article 1 section 8), but the "general welfare clause" supersedes the enumerated powers (according to your doctrine) and allows the federal government to do whatever it deems necessary to preserve the "general welfare" (IE. do whatever it wants without constraint), then what, pray tell, is the purpose of enumerating congressional power at all?

    If you have a somewhat decent answer, please back it up with documents/letters/federalist papers from the period.
     
  2. Dragon
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    Dragon Senior Member

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    It does not. There is no "general welfare clause" as such, rather that is a modifier on the power to tax and spend.

    The language has a specific meaning that is bound up with the original idea of "United States" as a plural rather than singular noun phrase. (The complete language is "Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect taxes . . . to . . . provide for the general welfare of the United States." That means the welfare of the whole country rather than for one state in particular.

    Congress does not have the power to do anything it pleases to provide for the general welfare, it is only empowered to levy taxes and spend money to do so. Further, any such spending must be for the whole country; a program available in one state must also be available in all states insofar as common sense allows (e.g., if it's about protection of coastal wetlands one would not realistically expect to see any federal money spent for that in Nebraska).

    For powers other than taxing and spending, see the other enumerated powers, to which no "general welfare" modifier applies.
     
  3. Syphon
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    Syphon BANNED

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    interestingly enough, by your explanation, wouldnt this make earmarks illegal since they only benefit one state and not all the states as a whole?
     
  4. Liberty
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    Liberty Silver Member

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    What say you about Madison's explanation of "general welfare" as simply a preamble and has no power in law when addressing the anti-federalists critique of the proposed constitution? Federalist 41:

    The Federalist #41

    It seems the author himself deems the preamble of article 1 section 8 to be nothing more than an introduction to the enumerated powers.
     
  5. Syphon
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    Syphon BANNED

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    whats your opinion of Federalist #10 then?

    The Federalist #10

    Federalist No. 10 is sometimes considered the most important of the essays. A strong national government, the Federalists argued, would prevent factions from taking control by forcing debate and compromise.
     
  6. Liberty
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    youre going to have to be more specific. To which part of the constitution does federalist 10 address that contradicts federalist 41?
     
  7. C_Clayton_Jones
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    C_Clayton_Jones Diamond Member

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    Case law?

    That's all that matters, having nothing to do with "libs"
     
  8. Dragon
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    Dragon Senior Member

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    I say that you need to take Madison's critique in context, and that you did not quote enough of the language of Federalist 41. here:

    Madison is addressing here, not the idea that the Constitution gives Congress a general power to tax and spend for the general welfare, but rather the idea (quite mistaken) that it gives Congress the authorization to exercise all powers whatsoever for that purpose, or in his words, "an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare." Madison was right in saying that it does not, and that the power here extends only to raising taxes and (by implication) appropriating funds. Note the implication of these words: " though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms "to raise money for the general welfare."

    Madison's views at the time he co-wrote the Federalist Papers were essentially the same as mine. He did express a different and narrower concept later when he occupied the White House. I believe he was right when he wrote the above, and wrong when he was President (although of course, the president may veto any bill for any reason, so he wasn't in the wrong to do that).
     
  9. Syphon
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    Fed 10 has to with keeping more power within the Fed than with the States. Since the GOP always argues that things are a state issue, this applies directly to that argument.
     
  10. Liberty
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    Liberty Silver Member

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    "things?" the 10th amendment has no purpose then?
     

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