Why do we have unlimited government? Probably because the document that was supposed to limit it has done the opposite.
People were told the federal government could do no more than was specified – as in clearly described – by the Constitution, which supposedly enumerated its powers and left those not specifically enumerated to the states and the people (via the 10th Amendment to the Constitution).
So why does the federal government have power over essentially everything? Including over such things as how much gas the vehicles we’re allowed to buy may use? The answer is because the Constitution endowed the federal government with unlimited powers, without enumerating them.
But how did it do that?
Via the wording of the Constitution. Including words with open-ended definitions designed to be amendable to parsing in such a way as to countenance any power those in power (or grasping after it) wished to assert.
Wording such as “general welfare” – and “necessary and proper.” By incorporating such words – which can mean almost anything as they are matters of opinion – the lawyers who wrote the Constitution assured the federal government would assume unlimited power. It took time, of course. But that was always the point as it was necessary to engineer a gradual increase in the power wielded by the federal government for the same reason it is necessary to place the frog in a pot of cool water before gradually turning up the heat.
At the time of the Constitution’s ratification in 1787, the war for independence from the unlimited power of the British government was still fresh in people’s minds. They had to be told they were getting a limited government – one that could not go beyond the specified powers enumerated by the Constitution. Federalists – the lawyers who wrote and backed ratification of the document they put together in secret – had to author a cavalcade of anonymous articles defending what they wrote and assuring the people (non-lawyers, mostly) who read it that the Constitution would limit the powers of the new federal government.
They were very well-written, too. If you read them – as a non-lawyer – you might have believed the arguments put forth that the proposed Constitution (which was being pushed to replace the Articles of Confederation because these actually did limit the powers of the government) that would empower the federal government would limit it.
Lawyers aren’t necessarily smarter than non-lawyers.
But they are extremely careful and deliberate about the words they choose to use. There is always a purpose – and a meaning. A non-lawyer reading about the “general welfare” and “necessary and proper” would likely take these words at face value – as harmless generalities. Yes, of course! We’re all for the general welfare. By which they thought was meant a kind of “good” in the way Jefferson meant when he spoke of “happiness” being good.
The lawyers who chose to embed general welfare in the Constitution knew exactly what they really meant.
Being lawyers, they knew such words could be used to justify exactly what later was done. Alexander Hamilton was one of the first to use what had been made ready, asserting “implied” powers in the Constitution – emanating from the injunction to promote the “general welfare” (and to accomplish what those who wanted more power deemed “necessary and proper”).
If words with open-ended meanings had been expunged from the Constitution, we might have had limited government. Of course, that was not the point of the Constitution – which was to address the problem (from the vantage point of those who wanted more power) of the Articles, which did exactly what the Federalist Papers assured the boobs the Constitution would prevent the newly empowered federal government from doing.
The tactic is brilliant in its oiliness – most especially because those being oiled do not realize they are being greased. Even now – when it is a self-evident truth that the effective power of the federal government is unlimited – many still like to pretend we live in a country governed by a Constitution that limits the power of the federal government.
Until it decides otherwise.
And when it does, how can anyone object? It is all being done for the sake of the “general welfare” and because it is “necessary and proper” and most of all, because that’s what was ratified – which is to say, that’s what we (supposedly) consented to.
Most recently to further increase the power of unlimited government, via the use of two more words specifically meant to do just that:
Is it not as oilily magnificent as “general welfare?
Who can say what “change” is? Or – rather – anyone can say anything they like constitutes “change,” because it’s true. The “climate” does “change.” It does not matter that it lacks specificity. Indeed, that is the whole point of using exactly those words. Exactly the same as the use of words such as “general welfare” and “necessary and proper.”
You can use them to get anything you want.
And that’s exactly what those who use them are getting – because not enough of us yet understand them.
. . .
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