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Before any discussion on the validity of governmental powers and taxation, discussion time must be given to the “official’ role of our Federal Government. There is a difference between Federal limits of power and State limits. These notes1 are intended to help discuss Federal powers. When we omit the constitutionality question, we allow groups to establish the terms of the debate to the “isms,” liberalism, socialism, communism, totalitarianism, etc. Just because a majority of people want something (or even a vocal minority of people, it does not make it constitutional. Our Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. When we define and reduce Government in line with the limits imposed by the Constitution, the government will be small, and our federal budget would be balanced.

The Constitution’s Preamble says the federal government was established (and the Constitution was adopted) to “form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” The Constitution’s articles, and the subsequent Amendments, specify the powers of our government. They are listed in Article I, Sec. 8; Articles II-V; Amendments XIII-XVI, XIX-XX, XXIII-XXVI. These powers derived from one of the following categories:

  1. Defense, war prosecution, peace, foreign relations, foreign commerce, and interstate commerce;
  2. The protection of citizens’ constitutional rights (e.g. the right to vote) and ensuring that slavery remains illegal;
  3. Establishing federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court of the United States;
  4. Copyright protection;
  5. Coining (and printing) money;
  6. Establishing post offices and post roads, a road designated for the transportation of postal mail;
  7. Establishing a national set of universal weights and measures;
  8. Taxation needed to raise revenue to perform these essential functions.

The list above are the only prerogatives of the Federal Government. The Tenth Amendment states that all prerogatives not explicitly given to the Federal Government, or explicitly prohibited by the states are reserved to the states or to the people (citizens). Our Federal Government has been prohibited, via our Constitution from handling any issues not explicitly listed in the Constitution; their prerogatives are limited to what the Constitution explicitly states.

James Madison

James Madison2, the principal and original author of our Constitution’s original text, who also wrote the first 10 Amendments called the Bill of Rights, also wrote in the Federalist Papers that “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.”– Federalist Paper #45, paragraph #9.

The Constitution clearly limits the Federal Government’s role to providing for the common defense, management of foreign relations, protection of citizens’ constitutional rights, establishment of federal courts; and application and explanation of federal law ( there are a few other minor exceptions). No branch of the Federal Government is authorized to handle any other issue. Therefore, the Federal Government should be strictly limited to these tasks. All other tasks/issues should be reassigned to the states, local governments, and individual Citizens. Congress cannot legally delegate its authority to someone else, as per the nondelegation doctrine3 If and when they do, this becomes an issue of constitutionality. The loss of individual rights and the growing annual budget deficit are a result of our Federal Government dealing with affairs not assigned to it by the Constitution.

Find Lostpine’s Comprehensive Resource on the Impact of the Declaration of Independence on our Constitution HERE.