CSG: Introduction to Systematic Politics Classes, April 2021

The Center for Self Governance is holding three different Introduction to Systematic Politics courses in April. The live classes are taking place in various places in Missouri, but they are all also available online at the same time.

April 7th, Morning, Cape Girardeau, MO, Live/Online

April 7th, Evening, Jackson, MO, Live/Online

April 9th, Washington, MO, Live/Online

In Block 1 you will distinguish Partisan from Systematic Politics, learn the origins of Systematic Politics, and identify the Systematic Politics of Layer and Marble Cake Federalism.

Cato Institute: Supreme Court Doesn’t Need Fixing, Everything Else Does

In Supreme Court Doesn’t Need Fixing, Everything Else Does the Cato Institute gives their opinion on current issues.

The Supreme Court has been in a political crosshairs recently, and various reforms have been proposed to “fix” the court. But the court, especially in recent months, has proven it does not need to be fixed. What should be fixed is our continued focus on addressing our problems in Washington, D.C., rather than locally.

True federalism is one of the only ways we can begin to heal our fractured nation, and the Supreme Court can help with that provided we don’t pass reforms that break what isn’t broken.

President Joe Biden has proposed a commission that will look at various reforms to the court. While many significant reforms would require a constitutional amendment to pass — something that seems unlikely given our closely divided country — there are other reforms that could receive attention. Court packing, which can be done via simple legislation, has received the most attention, with Democrats threatening to increase the number of justices on the court to counteract the conservative majority.

Court packing is an unquestionably horrible idea that would permanently damage the court in a way that might be unfixable. Our independent judiciary is essential to our democracy, and the Constitution has ably protected our judges from political control by establishing lifetime tenure for good behavior and preventing judges’ pay from being altered. Once confirmed, a judge has no reason to supplicate himself or herself to the president that appointed them or to any other political actor.

But court packing would irrevocably politicize the court and force justices to think not just about the law but also about the political reaction to their decisions. And, of course, court packing now may benefit Democrats, but it in no way is guaranteed to always do so. Republicans would pack the court in response when given the chance, leading to an arms race with the only outcome being the destruction of the court as an effective institution.

Our independent judiciary has proven to be one of the most effective parts of our Constitution, and that was put on display over the last two months. A Supreme Court with three Trump appointees denied the administration’s attempt to have the court intervene in the election. On the 3rd Circuit, Judge Stephanos Bibas, another Trump appointee, wrote the opinion in another case denying an election challenge.

Others have called for judicial term limits, the most popular proposal being 18‐​year terms staggered so a nomination comes up every two years. This would require amending the Constitution, and while it’s not nearly as bad as court packing, it’s unlikely to do much to better the image of the court. Eighteen years is a long time, and justices will still be perceived by many as applying the partisan biases of the president who appointed them. The stakes would remain high for any nominee, whether the vacancy is the product of term limits or not. And if a Republican Senate wishes to block the nominee of a Democratic president and leave the seat open, there’s really nothing to stop them.

True, term limits could make each open seat seem a little less important given that the post‐​1970 average tenure for a justice is 25 years, but it is hard to imagine term limits returning the court to an “era of good feelings.” It’s better to ask how we got to the era of bad feelings in the first place.

In a country of 50 diverse states and 330 million people, Americans have increasingly looked to Washington to solve their problems rather than state and local governments. While there are some things the federal government should have control over, questions concerning health care, education and other basic values should be given to local and state control as much as possible. California can choose its path and Alabama can do likewise.

If Congress isn’t passing massive laws of dubious constitutionality, such as the Affordable Care Act, it’s mostly doing nothing. Over the past decade, Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama increasingly tried to use executive power to get around Congress’s recalcitrance. That trend will continue.

The Supreme Court is too often called in to answer questions like whether the entire ACA is unconstitutional and whether a president’s massive executive order is tantamount to them passing laws by themselves. Putting the court in those situations inevitably politicizes its decisions beyond the framers’ intentions. Rather than reforming the Supreme Court, we should look to how to reform the other branches.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

CSG: Introduction to Systematic Politics Classes, Feb. 2021

The Center for Self Governance is holding three different Introduction to Systematic Politics courses in Washington and Idaho states in February. These courses are both live classroom and online.

Feb. 19, Coeur d’Alene, ID

Feb. 20, Benewah County, ID

Feb. 27, Cowlitz County, WA

In Block 1 you will distinguish Partisan from Systematic Politics, learn the origins of Systematic Politics, and identify the Systematic Politics of Layer and Marble Cake Federalism.

Mises Institute: Why Governments Hate Decentralization and “Local Control”

Ryan McMaken at the Mises Institute talks about Why Governments Hate Decentralization and “Local Control”. No one with power wants to have to exercise that power through intermediaries; they want direct control.

In recent decades, many have claimed that advances in communications and transportation would eliminate the different political, economic, and cultural characteristics peculiar to residents of different regions within the United States. It is true the cultural difference between a rural mechanic and an urban barista is smaller today than was the case in 1900. Yet recent national elections suggest that geography is still an important factor in understanding the many differences the prevail across different regions within the US. Urban centers, suburban neighborhoods, and rural towns still are characterized by certain cultural, religious, and economic interests that are hardly uniform across the landscape.

In a country as large as the United States, of course, this has long been a reality of American life. But even in far smaller countries, such as the larger states of Europe, the problem of creating a national regime designed to rule over a large diverse population has long preoccupied political theorists. At the same time, the problem of limiting this state power has especially been of interest to proponents of “classical” liberalism—including its modern variant, “libertarianism”—who are concerned with protecting human rights and property rights from the grasping power of political regimes.

The de facto “answer,” to the this problem, unfortunately, has been to empower national states at the expense of local self-determination and institutions which had long provided barriers between individual persons and powerful national states. Some liberals, such as John Stuart Mill, have even endorsed this, thinking that mass democracy and national legislatures could be employed to protect the rights of regional minorities.

But not all liberals have agreed, and some have understood that decentralization and the maintenance of local institutions and local power centers can offer a critical obstacle to state power.

The Growth of the State and the Decline of Local Powers

Among the best observers and critics of this phenomenon are the great French liberals of the nineteenth century, who watched this process of centralization unfold during the rise of absolutism under the Bourbon monarchy and during the revolution.1

Many of these liberals—Alexis de Tocqueville and Benjamin Constant in particular—understood how historical local autonomy in cities and regions throughout France had offered resistance to these efforts to centralize and consolidate the French state’s power.

Alexis de Tocqueville explains the historical context in Democracy in America:

During the aristocratic ages which preceded the present time, the sovereigns of Europe had been deprived of, or had relinquished, many of the rights inherent in their power. Not a hundred years ago, amongst the greater part of European nations, numerous private persons and corporations were sufficiently independent to administer justice, to raise and maintain troops, to levy taxes, and frequently even to make or interpret the law.

These “secondary powers” provided numerous centers of political power beyond the reach and control of the centralized powers held by the French state. But by the late eighteenth century, they were rapidly disappearing:

At the same period a great number of secondary powers existed in Europe, which represented local interests and administered local affairs. Most of these local authorities have already disappeared; all are speedily tending to disappear, or to fall into the most complete dependence. From one end of Europe to the other the privileges of the nobility, the liberties of cities, and the powers of provincial bodies, are either destroyed or upon the verge of destruction.

This, Tocqueville understood, was no mere accident and did not occur without the approval and encouragement of national sovereigns. Although these trends were accelerated in France by the Revolution, this was not limited to France, and there were larger ideological and sociological trends at work:

The State has everywhere resumed to itself alone these natural attributes of sovereign power; in all matters of government the State tolerates no intermediate agent between itself and the people, and in general business it directs the people by its own immediate influence.

Naturally, powerful states are not enthusiastic about having to work through intermediaries when the central state could instead exercise direct power through its bureaucracy and by employing a centrally controlled machinery of coercion. Thus, if states can dispense with the inconveniences of “local sovereignty” this enables the sovereign power to exercise its own power all the more completely.

The Power of Local Allegiance and Local Customs

When states are dominated by any single political center, other centers of social and economic life often arise in opposition. This is because human society is by nature quite diverse in itself, and especially so across different regions and cities. Different economic realities, different religions, and different demographics (among other factors) tend to produce a wide range of diverse views and interests. Over time, these habits and interests supported in a particular time and place begin form into local “traditions” of various sorts.

Benjamin Constant, a leading French liberal of the nineteenth century, understood these differences could serve as effective barriers to centralized state power. Or, as noted by historian Ralph Raico: “Constant appreciated the importance of voluntary traditions, those generated by the free activity of society itself….Constant emphasized the value of these old ways in the struggle against state power.”

In his book Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments, Constant complains that many liberals of his time, having been influenced by Montesquieu, embraced the ideal of uniformity in laws and political institutions.

This, Constant warns, is a mistake and tends to create more powerful centralized states, which then proceed to violate the very rights that Montesquieu thought could be preserved through uniformity.

But political uniformity can lead down very dangerous paths, Constant insists, concluding, “It is by sacrificing everything to exaggerated ideas of uniformity that large States have become a scourge for humanity.” This is because large politically uniform states can only reach this level of uniformity by employing the state’s coercive power to force uniformity on the people. The people do not give up their local traditions and institutions easily and therefore, Constant continues,

It is clear that different portions of the same people, placed in circumstances, brought up in customs, living in places, which are all dissimilar, cannot be led to absolutely the same manners, usages, practices, and laws, without a coercion which would cost them more than it is worth.

This may not be “worth it” to the people, but it appears to be worth it to the regime. Thus, states over the past several centuries have expended immense amounts of time and treasure to break down local resistance, impose national languages, and homogenize national institutions. When this process is successful, a nation’s laws end up reflecting the preferences and concerns of those from the dominant region or population at the expense of everyone else. When it comes to these large centralized states, Constant writes:

one must not underestimate their multiple and terrible drawbacks. Their size requires an activism and force at the heart of government which is difficult to contain and degenerates into despotism. The laws come from a point so far from those to whom they are supposed to apply that the inevitable effect of such distance is serious and frequent error. Local injustices never reach the heart of government. Placed in the capital, it takes the views of its surrounding area or at the very most of its place of residence for those of the whole State. A local or passing circumstance thus becomes the reason for a general law, and the inhabitants of the most distant provinces are suddenly surprised by unexpected innovations, unmerited severity, vexatious regulations, undermining the basis of all their calculations, and all the safeguards of their interests, because two hundred leagues away men who are total strangers to them had some inkling of agitation, divined certain needs, or perceived certain dangers.

For Constant, the diversity among communities ought not be seen a problem to solve, but rather as a bulwark against state power. Moreover, it is not enough to speak only of individual freedoms and prerogatives when discussing the limits of state power. Rather, it is important to actively encourage local institutional independence as well:

Local interests and memories contain a principle of resistance which government allows only with regret and which it is keen to uproot. It makes even shorter work of individuals. It rolls its immense mass effortlessly over them, as over sand.

Ultimately, this local institutional strength is key because for Constant state power can be successfully limited when it is possible to “skillfully combine institutions and place within them certain counterweights against the vices and weaknesses of men.”

Unfortunately, it appears even the last few institutional vestiges of localism are under attack from the forces of political centralization. Whether it is attacks on Brexit in Europe, or denunciations of the electoral college in the United States, even limited and weak appeals to local control and self-determination are met with the utmost contempt from countless pundits and intellectuals. Two centuries after Tocqueville and Constant, regimes still recognize decentralization as a threat. Those who seek to limit state power should take the hint.

Mises Institute: America at the Point of No Return (Book Review)

The Mises Institute has published a book review of Michael Anton’s The Stakes: American at the Point of No Return. Some people could learn a bit about their country just from reading the review.

…In one of the best sections of the book, Anton sets forward his understanding of the Constitution. He says, “Our founders sought to establish the weakest possible federal government capable of performing its essential functions, for three fundamental and intertwined reasons. First, government is inherently dangerous, so the less power it has, the better. Second, the states—being closer to the people and more responsive to regional differences and needs—are better equipped to handle most matters than a far-off centralized administration. Third, the states were prior to the federal government; the people, through their states, created the latter to serve them, not the other way around.”

Anton continues: “According to the parchment [the Constitution], the federal government is supposed to field and fund an army and navy, protect the borders, make treaties, regulate foreign trade and interstate commerce, maintain a sound common currency…and that’s about it. But if you haven’t noticed, there is almost nothing today that the federal government doesn’t do—or try to. The fact that it fails embarrassingly at most of the tasks it sets itself never circumscribes its ambitions, which seem to multiply by the year.”

Again sounding like a supporter of the free market, Anton says about the federal budget: “That leaves about a trillion for means-tested welfare—which, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are not constitutionally authorized; they are also of dubious and uneven effectiveness at best.”

Anton notes that the founders believed that the American Revolution was grounded in universal truths, “but they did not expect their declaration to revolutionize the world—nor were they under any illusion that it, or they, had the power to do so….America is—in the words of John Quincy Adams—‘the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all’ but also ‘the champion and vindicator only of her own.’”

Those who wish to restore these principles face a challenge of unprecedented severity. Anton argues that an elite based in certain blue states disdains ordinary Americans. “The core message of the meta-Narrative is that America is fundamentally and inherently racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and so on. The flaws and sins of America derive directly from those of its founding stock, who are natural predators, inherently racist, and malevolent.”

Elite policy is at its worst in California, now under the near-total domination of the left wing of the Democratic Party. “In modern California, hypocrisy and double-standardism aren’t merely part of the business climate; they’re endemic to the whole society….Sam Francis dubbed this system ‘anarcho-tyranny’: complete freedom—even exemption from the gravest laws—for the favored, maximum vindictive enforcement against the pettiest infractions on the disfavored.” Anton fears that if President Trump isn’t reelected, the Democrats will seek actively to suppress whomever in the red states challenges them, and they will prove very difficult to dislodge from power.

Who are the ordinary Americans the elite disdains, and who are the elite? The ordinary Americans are those whom Hillary Clinton called “deplorables,” i.e., white males who value their family, their religion, and their property, including their guns. “Funny thing, too: a core tenet of modern liberalism is supposed to be the sanctity of ‘one man, one vote.’ Except, you know, not really. The barely concealed presupposition of denouncing Republicans as ‘racists’ simply because whites vote for them is that all votes are not created equal. Votes of color are morally superior to white votes, which are inherently tainted. Which is why the left holds any election won by a Republican to be morally if not (yet) politically illegitimate.”

The elite consists at its core of wealthy financiers and business interests allied with government. It is buttressed by professionals who have attended top universities, especially those of the Ivy League. In a way that readers of Hunter Lewis on “crony capitalism” will recognize, Anton writes: “So-called ‘public-private cooperation’ will increase. This benign-sounding phrase—who could object to ‘cooperation,’ to government and business ‘solving problems together’? —masks a darker reality. What it really describes is the use of state power to serve private ends, at private direction. Hence foreign policy…will be further reoriented around securing trade, tax, and labor ‘migration’ patterns and paradigms that benefit finance and big business.”

If elite dominance continues, Anton predicts that those of us who dissent will be rigidly restricted. “Free speech as we have known it—as our founders insisted was the bedrock of political rights, without which self-government is impossible—will not survive coming leftist rule. The playbook is already being expanded to include banking and credit. Getting on the wrong side of elite-woke opinion is increasingly to find oneself locked out of the financial system: no bank account, no credit card, no ability to get a loan or pay a mortgage. Pay cash? The move to a ‘cashless society’…will obviate that option right quick.”

Anton cites an especially chilling instance of the policy of suppression. “A new regulation in the United Kingdom—which we must assume will be proposed here sooner or later—would allow Britain’s National Health Service to deny non-emergency care to those deemed ‘racist, sexist, or homophobic.’ Government bureaucrats, naturally, will be the ones doing the deeming.” Small wonder that Anton has had enough…

Tenth Amendment Center: The Constitutionality of a National Bank – Hamilton vs. Jefferson

Here another US government history article. From Mike Maharrey at The Tenth Amendment Center, The Constitutionality of a National Bank: Hamilton vs. Jefferson.

The First Bank of the United States was charted for a period of 20 years by Congress on Feb. 25, 1791. Alexander Hamilton championed the bank, but it wasn’t without its detractors. One of the most vocal opponents of the bank was Thomas Jefferson who argued that it was unconstitutional.

The debate was really about more than chartering a bank. At its core, it was an argument about the extent of federal power. Jefferson held to the promise of the ratification debates – that federal authority would remain carefully circumscribed by the enumerated delegated powers. Given that the Constitution doesn’t authorize Congress to charter corporations, much less a national bank, Jefferson argued that it was an unconstitutional act.

On the other hand, Hamilton pivoted from the position he took during the ratification debates and justified his project by invoking the doctrine of “implied powers.” His arguments foreshadowed how federal policies of every imaginable stripe would be justified moving forward. Arguably, Hamilton’s arguments for the First Bank of the United States set the foundation for much of the federal overreach we have today.

Jefferson and Hamilton both wrote documents making their cases for the establishment of the bank. Jefferson wrote his Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank first.

He rested his argument on the Tenth Amendment, writing:

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That  ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.’ [XIIth amendment.] To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

He then succinctly stated his conclusion.

“The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill, have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States, by the Constitution.”

Jefferson proceeded to outline the various clauses of the Constitution supporters of the bank used to constitutionally justify and explained why they failed to bear the burden of that power.

The primary justification was the Commerce Clause, but Jefferson argued that “to erect a bank, and to regulate commerce, are very different acts.” Erecting a bank actually creates an institution of commerce, and as Jefferson pointed out, “to make a thing which may be bought and sold, is not to prescribe regulations for buying and selling.”

He went on to argue that if erecting a bank is an exercise of the commerce power, it would be void because it would also impact commerce within individual states.

“For the power given to Congress by the Constitution does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State, (that is to say of the commerce between citizen and citizen,) which remain exclusively with its own legislature; but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes.”

Next Jefferson tackled the General Welfare Clause, pointing out that Congress cannot lay and collect taxes for any purpose it pleases, “but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union.” Likewise, Congress can’t do anything it pleases to promote the “general welfare.” It can only further the general welfare by laying taxes and acting within its enumerated powers.

“In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase, not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please, which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. It is an established rule of construction where a phrase will bear either of two meanings, to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which would render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lacce them up straitly within the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect.” [Emphasis original]

Jefferson drove his point home by pointing out a very inconvenient fact for Hamilton – the Philadelphia Convention debated and rejected delegating the power to charter corporations.

On one of the final days of the convention, James Madison proposed the federal government be delegated the authority “to grant charters of incorporation where the interest of the U.S. might require & the legislative provisions of individual State may be incompetent.”

Rufus King of Massachusetts objected specifically on the grounds that “It will be referred to the establishment of a Bank, which has been a subject of contention in those Cities (New York and Philadelphia). He also warned that “In other places it will be referred to mercantile monopolies.”

George Mason of Virginia proposed limiting the power to charting corporations for the construction of canals. “He was afraid of monopolies of every sort, which he did not think were by any means already implied by the Constitution as supposed by Mr. Wilson.”

Ultimately, the convention rejected the proposal completely. Historian Dave Benner wrote, “This casts overwhelming doubt on the notion that the Constitution allowed Congress to form such monopolies. No enumerated power to grant monopolies and corporate charters was ever included in the document, and during the ratification campaign, none of the Constitution’s advocates cited the presence of such a power.”

But Hamilton’s arguments didn’t rely on the existence of any delegated power. Instead, he appealed to the existence of unwritten “implied powers.”

In response to Jefferson’s appeal to the Tenth Amendment and that the federal government can only exercise delegated powers, Hamilton affirmed it, and then effectively nullified its limiting force. He wrote, “The main proposition here laid down, in its true signification is not to be questioned.” But he continued, insisting, “It is not denied that there are implied well as express powers, and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter.”

But who decides the extent of these implied powers? Who determines their limits? In effect, Hamilton sets up an almost unlimited reservoir of power the general government can dip into in order to take whatever actions it deems appropriate. This was a 180-degree reversal from the position he took during the ratification debates when he insisted that the new general government would only exercise limited powers.

Hamilton primarily based his defense of the national bank on the “necessary and proper clause,” citing it as the source of these “implied” powers. While Jefferson relied on a very narrow definition of “necessary and proper,” Hamilton used the phrase to milk implied powers out of the Constitution.

The debate centered on the meaning of the word necessary. Jefferson took a very narrow view, arguing that the government can carry out all of its enumerated powers without a national bank. “A bank therefore is not necessary, and consequently not authorized by this phrase.”

“It has been urged that a bank will give great facility or convenience in the collection of taxes, Suppose this were true: yet the Constitution allows only the means which are ‘necessary,’ not those which are merely ‘convenient’ for effecting the enumerated powers. If such a latitude of construction be allowed to this phrase as to give any non-enumerated power, it will go to everyone, for there is not one which ingenuity may not torture into a convenience in some instance or other, to some one of so long a list of enumerated powers. It would swallow up all the delegated powers, and reduce the whole to one power, as before observed. Therefore it was that the Constitution restrained them to the necessary means, that is to say, to those means without which the grant of power would be nugatory.”

Hamilton found this view too limiting. He wrote, “It is certain that neither the grammatical nor popular sense of the term requires that construction. According to both, necessary often means no more than needful, requisite, incidental, useful, or conducive to.”

“It is a common mode of expression to say, that it is necessary for a government or a person to do this or that thing, when nothing more is intended or understood, than that the interests of the government or person require, or will be promoted by, the doing of this or that thing. … To understand the word as the Secretary of State does, would be to depart from its obvious and popular sense, and to give it a restrictive operation, an idea never before entertained. It would be to give it the same force as if the word absolutely or indispensably had been prefixed to it.”

Jefferson hit the problem with Hamilton’s view on the head. It opens up a door to virtually unlimited government power. This runs counter to James Madison’s assurance in Federalist #45 that “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” [Emphasis added]

Under Hamilton’s “implied power” doctrine and his loose reading of the necessary and proper clause, there is very little the federal government can’t do. After all, virtually anything could be defined as “needful” or “useful” to the government. During the ratification debates, opponents of the Constitution worried that the necessary and proper clause would be construed exactly as Hamilton read it. At the time, Hamilton swore they had nothing to worry about. In Federalist #33, he wrote, “It may be affirmed with perfect confidence that the constitutional operation of the intended government would be precisely the same, if these clauses [necessary and proper and the supremacy clause] were entirely obliterated, as if they were repeated in every article. They are only declaratory of a truth which would have resulted by necessary and unavoidable implication from the very act of constituting a federal government, and vesting it with certain specified powers.” [Emphasis added]

Hamilton pivoted from “specified powers” in 1788 to “implied powers” just three years later.

In his push for a bank, Hamilton also invoked a rule of construction very favorable to the government. He wrote, “This restrictive interpretation of the word necessary is also contrary to this sound maxim of construction, namely, that the powers contained in a constitution of government, especially those which concern the general administration of the affairs of a country, its finances, trade, defense, etc., ought to be construed liberally in advancement of the public good.”

This was not “a sound maxim of construction” at the time.

St. George Tucker was an influential lawyer and jurist, and he wrote the first systematic commentary on the Constitution. Published in 1803, View of the Constitution of the United States served as an important law book, informing the opinions of judges, lawyers and politicians for the next 50 years. He explained that we should always construe federal power in the most limited sense possible.

 “The powers delegated to the federal government, are, in all cases, to receive the most strict construction that the instrument will bear, where the rights of a state or of the people, either collectively or individually, may be drawn in question.”

This is the exact opposite of Hamilton’s maxim. As “Light Horse” Harry Lee put it during the Virginia ratifying convention, “When a question arises with respect to the legality of any power, exercised or assumed by Congress, it is plain on the side of the governed. Is it enumerated in the Constitution? If it be, it is legal and just. It is otherwise arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

When political power resides in the people, the default position should always be to assume the most limited government power possible – not the most liberal reading as Hamilton insisted.

Later in his life, Jefferson made a similar point in a letter to William Johnson.

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

There was no probable construction authorizing charting a national bank.

Reading Hamilton’s arguments for the bank, it becomes clear he was trying to “squeeze” meaning – and power – out of the Constitution. Under the limited general government promised by supporters of the Constitution during ratification, including Alexander Hamilton, there would have been no national bank.

Hamilton’s twisting of the Constitution to wring out new powers set the stage for all the federal overreach that would follow. It was the “foundation” for the “living breathing” Constitution we live under today.