Sometimes putting things in simple language is the best way to get people to assess what they truly think about something.
For example, if I said to you, “What do you think about giving money to the poor?”
You might say, “I think it’s a good thing to help the poor, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
A politician could take that to mean that you support welfare or socialism, and for many Americans, that is what they believe socialism or welfare is. Words mean things.
Let’s rephrase. I’m sure for many of my readers, if I were to rephrase the question and ask, “What do you think about the federal government forcibly taking your money to give it to the poor”?” you would (and likely even those who support socialism but haven’t been challenged with what it practically means) recoil. Your money is your private property, you should be able to do with it what you’d like—including choosing to give it to the poor.
This simple fact is, people don’t really understand the practical implication of the laws they demand.
Given this, I want to step through a few of our federal laws (that are unconstitutional) and bring them back down to practical reality, grounded in theory. For those of you that have been following me for a while, you can use these simple explanations when talking with friends and family who clearly don’t understand the reality of the laws they support. You’ll be surprised how dramatically the way we phrase something can change someone’s stance on that something. In this post, I will step through three popular and well known federal laws and bring them back down to reality—through the lens of private property and the Constitution.
One: Federal Minimum Wage
In the United States, we now have a federal minimum wage. In other words, no employee can be paid less than this certain amount, dictated by the federal government. The federal minimum wage has been a prominent talking point in the democratic primaries as citizens are clamoring for and demanding that the federal government increase the minimum wage.
Increasing the minimum wage sounds nice, right? Maybe. Let’s back up and look at the practical reality of a federal minimum wage. First, make sure you read my posts on what the Constitution says Congress can make laws about so that you better understand this article.
Also, remember from my posts about why we need government that government exists for one purpose: to protect private property. That means if you write a fantastic book, the government will protect your sweat and labor, your book/property, from being stolen and used by another. And just as government was created to protect your private property from others around you, the Constitution prohibits the government from violating the very thing it was created to protect—your private property. John Locke actually said that if the government were to ever infringe on our private property, thereby violating the very reason for its existence, such a move was grounds for a peaceable overthrow of that government.
So, let’s look at the federal minimum wage through the eyes of John Locke and the Constitution.
(I usually challenge my students with the following question to get them to internalize the reality, the practical reality, of what the federal government is doing when it sets a minimum wage. And remember, there’s nothing wrong or unconstitutional with a state government setting a minimum wage).
What if you owned your own business? You’d worked your butt off to get it started and it was yours. You’d want to control who you hire, how much you pay them, and if you can fire them, right? How would you feel if the federal government came in and told you that you had to pay your employees a certain amount of your businesses’ money, or else you were breaking the law?
My students balk at this, immediately saying they would want control over their own business. Their reactions made me realize, Americans all seem to internalize the Lockean ideal of private property and the fruit of their their labor being their own. And yet, in the same breath, the same Americans who would likely balk at the idea of the federal government telling them what to do with their company’s money and how much to pay their employees, will demand that the federal government make sure people are paid a certain minimum wage around the country. See the disconnect?
Do you understand the practical reality of what the federal government is actually doing when it sets a federal minimum wage? Do you ever sit back and think about the federal minimum wage in this way?
It very literally is the federal government coming in to your business to tell you how much of your own money (private property) that you are required to pay your own employees.
Tell me, is there anywhere in the Constitution that Congress is given the power to do this?
The simple answer is…no.
Two: Social Security
I have to admit. I have a personal distaste for social security and if it were up to me, I’d gladly give up the “fair share” that I’ve paid to the government to eliminate it. It discourages Americans from feeling the need to responsibly save their own money and forces the federal government to pay money it does not have. But my personal distaste is neither here nor there. If social security was a Constitutional law, I’d simply have to suck it up and deal with my dislike of the program.
But, guess what? It is not Constitutional and yet the vast majority of money spent in the federal budget goes to social security payouts. Believe me, I know that social security is one of those untouchables. It is one of those policies that no reasonable politician, conservative or liberal, will ever try to change or remove. Why? Because we’ve all paid into it and want our fair share when we reach our retirement age.
But, have you ever thought through the practical reality of social security, in terms of private property and the Constitution?
Let’s think of it this way:
Let’s assume social security doesn’t exist. As a politician, I asked you this, “Do you want to feel secure in your retirement, like your government is there for you to protect you and make sure you have an income when you retire?”
What would you say?
My guess is you may say (or at least most Americans would say): “Sure, that’d be great!”
What if I asked you this instead: “Would you like the federal government to forcibly make you save a large portion of your paycheck every year?”
You’d have a different reaction wouldn’t you?
Guess what, my friends? That is all social security is. It is the federal government coming in and telling you that you must save your own money (the private property that you worked for) or you are breaking the law.
There is nowhere in the Constitution that Congress is given the power to tell individual American citizens what to do with their own private income. And yet, in America today, we have all grown accustomed to this principle, as if it is normal for our private property to be violated so easily.
Three: Federal Drinking Age
Can anyone tell me, in the Constitution, where the federal government has the right to come in and tell you at what age you can drink a drink, regardless of its substance?
The Courts have used the commerce clause to justify this reach of power, but it is a reach. By setting a federal drinking age, the federal government has established that it has the power to come in and dictate to you what you can and cannot spend your money on, depending on your age. If the federal government can do it for alcohol, why can’t it do it for anything else? The answer is, it can, it just hasn’t used this power for too much yet.
There is nowhere in the Constitution that Congress is given the ability to tell individuals at what age they can or cannot purchase a product—of any kind.
Some of you may be thinking, “Come on, these laws are good. They have helped increase what workers get paid, stopped kids from hurting themselves with alcohol and given our elderly retirement money.”
My response is, remember, I’m not talking about the virtues of these laws, or whether or not these laws have done good for the world. I’m talking about whether or not they are Constitutional. And quite simply, they are not. Hey, the states are more than welcome to offer social security, set a drinking age, or establish a high minimum wage. The states are not confined by the Constitution, only the federal government is.
We encounter a problem when our federal government chooses to breach the Constitution, thereby passing arbitrary law, and in these instances effectively dictating to every citizen how much of their personal income to save, how much of their business’s income to pay their employees, and how they can or cannot spend their personal income.
What’s to stop this power from going further?
Here’s a hint. Nothing.
And guess what, it has gone further, much further. I’ve just hit on three biggies here that I know most of you will recognize, and perhaps have never considered in these terms.
Since these popular and accepted laws are unconstitutional and hence, arbitrary, there is nothing limiting federal power anymore. It’s a roll of the dice now.
We are so inoculated to federal power in America today that we don’t fight about or complain about these laws anymore. They are a given part of the federal government’s power. Oh, we’ll keep tabs on free speech and gun rights, but not our property rights. We’ve grown accustomed to these unconstitutional violations of our private property. We may have even grown fond of them. My friends, don’t be fooled. If the federal government has the right to force us to save our own personal income, there’s nothing to stop them from telling us to give up our guns or shut our mouths. It’s simply a matter of time.
The Liberty Belle