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Limited Federal Powers

by on March 11, 2012

The Federalist Papers

Originally published anonymously, under the name “Publius,” the Federalist Papers appeared in various New York State newspapers of the period between October 1878 and May 1788.  The 85 Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Through publishing them, the authors hoped to both explain the new Constitution to the people of America and to garner their support for it.

In Federalist Paper No. 45, James Madison wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States.”

Federal and State governments operate very differently.  The federal government is limited by the Constitution and is only allowed to do what is expressly permitted by the Constitution.  The federal government needs Constitutional authority for its power and express Constitutional permission.  The States are not limited by that same authority so they are free to enact their own laws and mandates.  States cannot override federal law or violate the Constitution, but States are not limited to having to find express permission in the Constitution. States may do whatever the people of the State or their State representatives approve as long as it does not violate the Constitution.  Since the Constitution says nothing about mandates, States are free to implement them at a State level; however, the federal government cannot because the federal government needs the express permission from within the Constitution to do so .

So what does it matter that the current president and his administration copied the Massachusetts health care law or used it as a blueprint?  It’s truly irrelevant since they should not have tried to enact a State law at the federal level.  While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, the federal healthcare mandate is unconstitutional because the federal government does not have the express permission of Constitutional authority to require it.

  1. Anonymous permalink

    Whether we realize it or not, we already have an “individual mandate” in place. It’s called “taxes.” We are each mandated to cover the unpaid for hospital/medical costs of someone without insurance being treated at a hospital. They must be treated — it’s the law. The state governments bear this financial burden initially. But then these costs are passed on to the taxpayer in the form of higher taxes. The medical care of someone who doesn’t have any insurance isn’t free. Hospitals, doctors, medicines, medical tests, etc. are not just donated or free of charge. Someone has to pay these costs. When a person being treated doesn’t pay, we, the taxpayers, are “mandated” to pay these costs through our taxes. So in essence, there already is an “individual mandate” in place!

  2. guitargod permalink

    i think it’s the spirit of the individual mandate that is most damaging and the fact that we have an author of one wanting to represent liberty while trying to take down the biggest threat to our liberty in our lifetime! what’s MittMcCain gonna say when Dr. O looks at him appreciatively and says “thx brother we liked your healthcare “vision” so much that we expanded & went national!” i think if McMitt whips out his pocket federalist papers and tries to explain… it may not go over that well for us 😦

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