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March 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-5


A Commentary on the American Constitution


Part 10



Article I, Section 10 is a list of actions prohibited to the states.  We will restrict our discussion to the first clause, which reads:  “No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex-post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.”  You have undoubtedly noticed that several of these topics were also prohibited to the national government and were treated above.  The interesting part left to be discussed here is “make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts. “At Article I, Section 8, Clause 5, we previously discussed the necessity of a money supply at least backed by precious metal.  That implicitly implies that the paper issue can be converted to something of intrinsic value, which is to be COIN ON DEMAND.  (You may want to refresh your memory at this time.)  In that clause, you find that it is the duty of the national government to “coin money.” and in this clause you find that this function is prohibited to the states.  The national government is to be the sole supplier of this commodity.


This would appear to present somewhat of a dilemma to the states.  The states cannot make anything but gold or silver coin a tender in payment of debt; they cannot coin it themselves, and the national government fails to provide the very, and only, thing they mandated the states use to satisfy a debt.  A catch 22 if ever there was one.  We have elected public officials to govern on our behalf, and each has sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.  It would appear to me that this abdication of responsibility, in not providing the sound and redeemable currency provided for in the Constitution, is dereliction of duty and a violation of the oath of office.  It is dangerous to our liberty to a point beyond description, and, therefore, it is perfidy of the highest magnitude.


Before we leave the arena of the legislative branch of national government, there is one final matter that causes me great concern which we should touch upon.  It was saved for last because this particular topic seems to fall most heavily on the legislative branch and because it does not fit neatly into any of the subjects we have so far discussed.  It is the subject of delegation of power or authority.  In fact, as nearly as I can ascertain, the specifics of this authority are not tended to directly in the whole body of the Constitution.  As has been stated several times before, our elected officials receive their authority as a temporary grant from the electors, that is, the citizens of this nation.  We are properly entitled to make this grant, and it is our responsibility to hold those in whom we place this authority accountable.  Our officials in high public office are obliged to perform a myriad of duties on our behalf, and it is no stretch to perceive that they would not be able to complete their appointed rounds without some assistance.  It is therefore both necessary and proper that they have the capacity to delegate such portion of their power and authority as they deem essential to still others.  In turn, it is our elected representatives’ responsibility to hold those others accountable in whatever shall be their assigned task.  That is, those others are to implement the directives of our elected officials as regards the governing of this nation.  Insofar as concerns what we have specifically just lain down, there should be no objection.


In practice, this does not seem to work so well as in theory.  Those “others” we referred to seem to have been transformed from the well-intentioned, concerned assistants we desire.  Instead, they have become large, jealous, unelected, and well-entrenched bureaucracies.  The implementation of the “directives of our elected officials as regards the governing of this nation” have taken on a life of their own.  In far too many instances, their actions have become less the directives of our elected officials than the personal and/or political agenda of an unelected, and largely unaccountable, “bureau rat,” albeit with at least the tacit consent of those duly elected officials.  Our elected officials pass laws in the form of the barest matrix and pass them along to the bureaucrat to fill in the blanks. 


The bureaucrat, being paid to fill in the blanks and to validate his own position, gladly does so, at times with reckless abandon.  I will not trouble you with a set of examples in this instance because entire books have been written on the subject.  Another alternative, if you were curious about the matter, would be to merely peruse a copy of the Code of Federal Regulations, which if one desired to move it about in its entirety, one would find that it must be moved about in a truck.  When it comes to “the capacity to delegate such portion of their power and authority as they deem essential,” it should not be out of line to ask what “such portion” may be.  Under the circumstances described above, it would appear they have delegated to the unelected bureaucrat the power of de facto legislator.


The latitude granted to the unelected bureaucrat in these endeavors is also questionable.  The laws being enacted under these circumstances, when they are general in nature or ambiguous, provide far too much latitude for the unelected bureaucrat to ensconce his own personal agenda within the laws of the land.  It also provides a method for unscrupulous legislators who cannot enact the statutes they desire, or who don’t have the courage to expose the statutes they desire to the general public, to gain the same result surreptitiously through the back door of the bureaucracy.  And in either case, the private citizen has no direct method to countermand these actions.


Yet even this is not the reason so much has been made of the unelected bureaucrat.  None of this would be a fatal flaw if our elected officials were a bit more zealous in their obligation to hold the bureaucrat accountable for his actions.  If silence does indeed imply consent, one must be on firm footing to surmise that our elected officials are willing participants in this enterprise.  It must be stated that some elected officials and unelected bureaucrats are much more culpable than others in these matters.  Even so, on the whole each of the two bodies continues to broaden the scope of interest in which the central government chooses to interject itself.  They refuse to limit themselves to things national in nature, that is, the matters that pertain to the “several states” as a whole — the Union.  Instead, they concern themselves more and more with matters that are indigenous to the individual states and even to the private individual.  This state of affairs is surely perfidy.


“We the people” are not entirely unsullied in this matter.  Though we are entirely dependent on an indirect method for our remedy, namely our vote, we cannot excuse ourselves.  The right to vote, by itself, is next to worthless if we do not educate ourselves and cast an informed vote.  It is at the peril of our liberty that we do not identify and elect candidates that understand and respect the difference between things that are the prerogative of the several states and those that are national in nature and that will energetically labor to position each in its respective and proper place.




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