Saturday, August 5, 2017

Strict construction

Some oppose liberal interpretation of the Constitution and call for strict-construction. They argue it is not a living document (subject to interpretation) and oppose things called “welfare entitlements” as outside the constitutional enumerated powers saying any action not specifically designated is prohibited.
What does the Constitution have to say about welfare?  Starting with the Preamble  We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and …, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.  Is that just rhetoric?  Article I.  Sections 8 - Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;
So it appears that welfare programs they object to are not violations of the original intent, but its fulfillment.
Unlike the received-wisdom of religious law, the Constitution was negotiated by fallible humble men and has a provision for amendment.  It was obviously intended to be updated and it has been, 27 times.  The Constitution was written at a time of tumultuous change often called the industrial revolution.  No longer the static nothing new under the sun world of Ecclesiastes, but the dynamic world of inventors  Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Eli Whitney, James Watt, John Fitch some of whom were participants.
If strict-interpretation means literal, well Article. VI. no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. Would it matter if Obama was Muslim?
Would strict adherence to Amendment 1 - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; allow Preservation of Religious Liberty to justify prejudice as free practice of religion? Likewise, does or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; not apply to modern media? There were no radios, TV or internet in 1789, are Fox, CNN and Alex Jones only entitled to oration on a soap box and the printed page?
Strict-constructionists don’t object to the National Security Act of 1947 that created the Air Force merged it into the Defense Department, contradicting the Constitutional limits on Army funding.  In Article I.  Section 8 Powers of Congress To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.  Are programs for developing new ordnance, or the promise of a career limited to two year appropriations?  
Where in the Constitution is the justification for all the special tax provisions rich liberals and conservatives enjoy?  Would not strict-construction not invoke Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform …?
The framers, and especially James Madison who wrote it all down eloquently, expected it to serve for a long time, and it has.  Longer than any comparable document!  One could argue that religious rules have lasted much longer, but how many of us live by the literal interpretation of Biblical commandments.  Religious rules get reinterpreted too; they just don’t have an orderly non-violent process to do it.  Otherwise for example Christian women would all dress like 16th century nuns.  There are multiple versions of many religious texts, each with ardent followers of their one true version.
The logic of strict-construction seems to rely on Amendment 10 The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.  The Constitution limits what the Federal Government can do to you. Congress clearly has the power to tax, whether or not liberals or conservatives agree with how the money is spent.  

Strict-construction doctrine is like apostasy, Gods-will or Inshalla an all-purpose do-it-my-way objection without substance.