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A Constitutional Perspective of the Economic “Crisis”

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

Right now, there is a world wide economic squeeze happening. And, historically, economic hardship is one of the best if not the best weapons for governmental control that has ever existed. Sadly, there’s nothing new to see here, just a modern iteration. Look through American history and you’ll find that some of the greatest violations of federal power have come during economic crisis–second only, maybe, to war (also note that economic crisis almost always precedes war–perhaps even causes it. Then the war stimulates the economy, ending the crisis, giving rise to a new economic boom, which will eventually crash, followed by another war. The never ending cycle).

But you don’t have to only look at American history to see trend. Governments throughout history have always used the economy to squeeze, control and coerce their subjects. I’m sure many governments created the crises for such a cause, while some simply used what organically transpired for their own gain. People will do just about anything to survive, or more specifically, to have food and water. Without these basic necessities being met, people are lost and they will follow anyone who is willing to provide these two necessities for them.

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Jefferson says it plainly: “History, in general, only informs us what bad government is.”

That’s the great uniqueness of America (and the few past societies who have also reached such heights). In America, for the most part, food and water are not all everyone thinks about. In America, we have the luxury to think far beyond simply staying alive. We can create art, entertainment, sports, technologies and more. We can focus on issues like the “right” to one’s own sexual orientation or what bathroom someone uses. We can fight for and appreciate concepts like liberty. And yet, notice history… many of these concepts and pursuits–including liberty–fall by the wayside when the economy is squeezed.

And so, we sit at yet another precipice in this country. Have you noticed the economic trend? Have you noticed the government’s continued response–and I mean all government, not one party?

Here’s the thing:

The U.S. Constitution is unique in the world because the founders did not include a kill switch. There is no kill switch in the U.S. Constitution. It was made to never be put on hold, no matter the crisis. The framers were painfully aware that governments love to use or create a good crisis to destroy liberty. So, the U.S. Constitution afforded the government no way around it…even in the most dire of circumstances.

In other words, even if the citizenry is clamoring for the U.S. government to save them, the Constitution should prevent such “saving” federal behavior if unconstitutional.

“I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements.” - Thomas Jefferson
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The founders were intent on lifting up and protecting private property, of all kinds, particularly of one’s own body and mind. That was, as attributed first to Locke, the entire goal or point of government. The key word here is private property. Property is not private if government owns and manipulates it.

“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.” - John Adams 

It’s interesting to read about the slow shift in the psyche of the American public from that of laissez faire to a heavy amount of societal expectation on government to manage and control the economy. The problem is, the Constitution gives little room for the federal government to get involved in the regulation of banks and the economy. This does not mean that in some cases, it wouldn’t be better to change the government’s job description to allow for a bit more control (when private entities are abusing their power and the citizen’s property); but for government to step in when there is no Constitutional provision for it is just arbitrary and ends up causing more damage than help.

“And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” - Thomas Jefferson

When there is corporate abuse, economic greed or economic strain the answer to arbitrary private power is not arbitrary public power. The Constitution was never created to be put on hold for any reason. So, while it may be easy to blame our federal government for the current economic strain we’re experiencing (and this is not to say that it’s not the government’s fault), we insinuate, dangerously, that it is the federal government’s job to manage the economy and solve our economic issues.

We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land -- nor, perhaps, the sun or stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. That chart is the Constitution. - Daniel Webster
"In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." - Thomas Jefferson
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All this to say, be wary as you struggle through this current economic strain. I have a suspicion things are only going to worse, with reason. The reason? So that, as the squeeze tightens, more and more Americans abandon the principles of liberty, private property and the Constitution and turn in desperation to the federal government as our answer.

Friends, the federal government is painfully confined by the Constitution. It’s not and was never meant to be the answer to everything, much less our economic strains. That was left to churches, communities, and the local governments to solve. It’s about time we start acting like it.

With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators. - James Madison

The Liberty Belle

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