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March 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-5


A Commentary on the American Constitution


Part 16



The first two sections of Article IV concern relationships: those among the several states, and those between any of the several states and the citizens of a different state.  It is as important to note that which is absent from this Article as that to which it pertains.  The Constitution makes no mention of the relationship of the citizen and that particular state in which he abides.  Was this an oversight on the part of our Founders, or did they feel this was something that just was not worth their time to deal with?  Or could it be they truly did believe in the principles of federalism and understood that under those principles this was “none of the business” of a national government?  I am strongly inclined to believe it to be the latter.


Today the national government thinks nothing of interfering in the relationship between the citizen and his state of residence.  In fact, most of our officials elected to national office give every evidence that they actually believe it to be their duty.  Do they have authority to take such actions?  If they do, from where are they granted their authority?  A case in point, at the present time the national government is engaged in a ham-handed effort to eradicate smoking among minors.  As before, it makes no difference whether you favor or disfavor the act of smoking by our young people.  The item up for discussion is whether or not it is within the province of the national government to control this activity.  Does this act of our youth legitimately fall into a category that is the proper dominion of national government?  Does this particular activity of the youth of one state affect the citizens of any other state to their disadvantage?  Are they hurting anyone outside of their home state?  If not, this is not a matter with which the national government need concern itself.


There is an argument that says if they smoke and thereby develop health problems, then it becomes the government’s responsibility to provide for their care.  In order for the government to fulfill its responsibility, they must tax other citizens, some of whom may be in other states.  This is a disadvantage to those citizens; ergo, the national government has a duty to stop young people from smoking.  This is a bogus argument because it is based on a false premise that premise being that it is the national government’s responsibility to provide (you name it) based on the, “promote the general welfare” clause of the Preamble, or the “provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States”and “To regulate commerce . . . among the several States” clauses of Article I, Section 8.  There is a lengthier discussion to be found at that section.  The short argument is this:  in the Preamble, the goal is to promote, not provide the general welfare. 


At Article I, Section 8, the direction is to provide for the general welfare of the United States, not the individual citizen.  It certainly does not appear to me that the Constitution directs us to this action.  Therefore it is my contention we have undertaken this obligation voluntarily, and so this cannot be a disadvantage to other citizens.  For those who consider it a disadvantage to themselves, you can relieve yourself of the obligation by relieving of their office those elected officials who support this state of affairs.  This is just one specific instance, but the principle applies to myriad others.  We will again take up the subject of government’s obligation for the general welfare later.  Now for what Article IV does say.




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