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Let's do some detective work

Walter E. Williams


December 10, 2003


I'd like to enlist the services of my fellow Americans with a bit of detective work. Let's start off with hard evidence.

The Federalist Papers were a set of documents written by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to persuade the 13 states to ratify the Constitution. In one of those papers, Federalist Paper 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."

If we turned James Madison's statement on its head, namely that the powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite and those of the states are few and defined, we'd describe today's America. Was Madison just plain ignorant about the powers delegated to Congress? Before making our judgment, let's examine statements of other possibly misinformed Americans.

In 1796, on the floor of the House of Representatives, William Giles of Virginia condemned a relief measure for fire victims saying it was neither the purpose nor the right of Congress to "attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require." In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill intended to help the mentally ill, saying, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity," adding that to approve such spending "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." President Grover Cleveland was the king of the veto. He vetoed literally hundreds of congressional spending bills during his two terms as president in the late 1800s. His often given reason was, "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution."

Today's White House proposes and Congress taxes and spends for anything they can muster a majority vote on. My investigative query is: Were the Founders and previous congressmen and presidents, who could not find constitutional authority for today's bread and circuses, just plain stupid and ignorant? I don't believe in long-run ignorance or stupidity, so I reread the Constitution, looking to see whether an amendment had been passed authorizing Congress to spend money on bailouts for airlines, prescription drugs, education, Social Security and thousands of similar items in today's federal budget. I found no such amendment.

Being thorough, I reread the Constitution and found what Congress might interpret as a blank check authorization -- the "general welfare clause." Then I investigated further to see what the Framers meant by the "general welfare clause." In 1798, Thomas Jefferson said, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." The Constitution's father, James Madison said: "With respect to the two words ˜general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."

My detective work concludes with several competing explanations. The first is that the great men who laid the framework for our nation were not only constitutionally ignorant but callous and uncaring, as well. The second is it's today's politicians who are constitutionally ignorant. Lastly, it's today's Americans who have contempt for the Constitution, and any congressman or president upholding the Constitution's letter and spirit would be tarred and feathered.



©2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela

© MBM

Original Post

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What's the matter, MBM?

Couldn't get any of the self-proclaimed B-Con's to present a substantive arguments so you have to go to "established" ones.

I find a Black man's uncritical adherence to the Constitution to be a bit funny! Much to the chagrin of Williams... I'm sure he could find specific language in the Constitution as written by the "founders" that should have been amended.

It's pretty idiotic to act like the Constitution was suppose to lay out the entire extent of what the government should and shouldn't do. I can respect the idea of adhering to a resonable framework but to be so anal about a document and to esteem the "founders" as if envisioned everything or had a firm grasp on everything this nation was to become.

It seems like they are stuck on a theory that they give very little practical thought as to what it means in practice. Granted that there should be limits to everything but that's something we all must agree on. The "founders" left no specific instructions on what do as far as race was concern besides promoting elitist, white supremacy...

So he can save most of what he has to say! Eventhough I'm a purist in some respects like he is...
I think Walter Williams has found "a place to stand" in his profession. Found a/his niche, if you will. To achieve and sustain status, one must find a position to advance, and defend. It must also be somewhat unique. Walter Williams' niche is that of Constitutional Pragmatist. That's bad. Nor is it intended to be derogatory. It's just opinion. Every commentator has his/her bag.

I think he is thorough.

I often disagree.

I particularly don't like his presentation of his identity to America. But, that too certainly is his prerogative.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
quote:
Originally posted by James Wesley Chester:
I think Walter Williams has found "a place to stand" in his profession. Found a/his niche, if you will. To achieve and sustain status, one must find a position to advance, and defend. It must also be somewhat unique. Walter Williams' niche is that of Constitutional Pragmatist. That's bad. Nor is it intended to be derogatory. It's just opinion. Every commentator has his/her bag.

I think he is thorough.

I often disagree.

I particularly don't like his presentation of his identity to America. But, that too certainly is his prerogative.
JWC...

I just heard a presentation (speech)... (can't think of her name right now... she was a Black Panther)... (Elaine Brown!)

Anyway, she articulated in perhaps the most striking terms exactly why I have an issue exhalting the Constitution the Williams does... She asked the rhetorical question:

Are there any Jews who have esteemed the "founders" of Nazi Germany and what would you think about them if they did?

Of course, her question was more about the "founders" than the Constitution itself but it follows that if you esteem the "founders" then exhalting the Constitution follows. She was speaking specifically about Jefferson (I believe).

Below is my argument in-principle to Williams' Constitutionalism:
quote:
    "White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I contend that MLK's statement still holds true today. From a
revolutionary sense, those radical changes have never occurred. Revolutionary meaning fundamental... fundamental change. And, no, simply including African Americans into *the system* does not constitute radical or fundamental change... Revolutionary meaning something of the same essential essence of what
was the idealistic impetus of the American republic in the first place - In Order To Form A More Perfect Union.

Why Fundamental & Radical Change?

Simply put... The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree!
Adapted from the Legal Principle, The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree then is the doctrine that something obtained and/or arrived at by an
illegal, unethical, or immoral means developes into something of little legitimate use or worth.

The theory is that the TREE - originally planted and nutured in the soiled history of illegitimacy - is poisoned and thus taints what grows from it. Hence, the necessity for radical change to uproot and cast aside the spoiled fruits and roots of the whole rotten tree!
One might quibble over perhaps some exaggerated wording of mind but the principle of the Poisonous Tree is sound legal doctrine which is the hallmark of ethics...
quote:
Originally posted by James Wesley Chester:
I think Walter Williams has found "a place to stand" in his profession. Found a/his niche, if you will. To achieve and sustain status, one must find a position to advance, and defend. It must also be somewhat unique. Walter Williams' niche is that of Constitutional Pragmatist. That's bad. Nor is it intended to be derogatory. It's just opinion. Every commentator has his/her bag.

I think he is thorough.

I often disagree.

I particularly don't like his presentation of his identity to America. But, that too certainly is his prerogative.
JWC...

I just heard a presentation (speech)... (can't think of her name right now... she was a Black Panther)... (Elaine Brown!)

Anyway, she articulated in perhaps the most striking terms exactly why I have an issue exhalting the Constitution the Williams does... She asked the rhetorical question:

Are there any Jews who have esteemed the "founders" of Nazi Germany and what would you think about them if they did?

Of course, her question was more about the "founders" than the Constitution itself but it follows that if you esteem the "founders" then exhalting the Constitution follows. She was speaking specifically about Jefferson (I believe).

Below is my argument in-principle to Williams' Constitutionalism:
quote:
    "White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I contend that MLK's statement still holds true today. From a
revolutionary sense, those radical changes have never occurred. Revolutionary meaning fundamental... fundamental change. And, no, simply including African Americans into *the system* does not constitute radical or fundamental change... Revolutionary meaning something of the same essential essence of what
was the idealistic impetus of the American republic in the first place - In Order To Form A More Perfect Union.

Why Fundamental & Radical Change?

Simply put... The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree!
Adapted from the Legal Principle, The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree then is the doctrine that something obtained and/or arrived at by an
illegal, unethical, or immoral means developes into something of little legitimate use or worth.

The theory is that the TREE - originally planted and nutured in the soiled history of illegitimacy - is poisoned and thus taints what grows from it. Hence, the necessity for radical change to uproot and cast aside the spoiled fruits and roots of the whole rotten tree!
One might quibble over perhaps some exaggerated wording of mind but the principle of the Poisonous Tree is sound legal doctrine which is the hallmark of ethics...
I agree with the "fruit of the poisonous tree" philosophy.

I think the most enduring fruit of the poisonous tree of chattel slavery is the embedding the loss of ancestral nationality as irretreivable in the psyche of Americans of unknown African ancestry. I further think this mental condition is the final bondage of chattel slavery, the poisonous tree.

As for revolution, I think the overthrow of our view of our personal authority is the ultimate revolution. Please remember, the institution of slavery did not create sovereign State, but rather a mental state of contrition/acceptance. Overthrowing that state (of mind) is the revolution that frees us.

Manumission.

Ancestral nationality is what was taken.

Ancestral natiionalty is what has been denied.

Ancestral nationality is what fills the void.

Ancestral nationality is what restores identity.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
My point was that the Constitution was/is Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree.

Of course, I know my view is "radical"... hence the quote of mine (taken from a post on another site) that I have dubbed, "The Doctrine Of RADICAL Change".

I contend that in order to properly respect BLACK humanity then a Constitutional Convention should be convene wherein ALL "Americans" - and not just White males - can have their input into the "Law Of The Land". That doesn't mean that you "Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water"... It means you "change" the water!

So, the core principles of the current Constitution can remain perhaps with slight revisons (if any at all) and the great issues that Williams address can be ironed out as well. What sense does it make to continue to revisit the same issues over and over because of the vagueness of the Constitution? There are some things that should not be left up to interpretation, lest we resign ourselves to a perpetual political tug-of-war that results in different polar swings every decade of so based on the varying interpretations.

Again, I consult MLK:
quote:
"For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values."
I feel it is beneath the dignity and a disgrace to the legacy of our ancestors to accept the Constitution as-is even with it's amendments. To me, it represents the epitome of White Supremacy.

It says that only Whites can dictate by virtue of forming the Constitution itself and devising the language - and therefore the meaning, extent and degree of both the interpretations and amendments - principles that govern our nation. I categorically reject that Slave-master relationship.

If we feel like this is our country and (as you have said JWC) that we should "fight for it" then I see no greater or more noble fight than this one. We, too, should have our hands in shaping what this democracy is... And, that's what my position is all about.

At present, by virtue of the Constitution, all we have is the White conception of Democracy that was born in an age of unmitigated White Supremacy. Like some argue that the Confederate Flag represents America's racist past... well the Constitution for all its "good" points does as well.

Again, we should have our hands in shape what this democracy is at the most fundamental level... and that starts with the Constitution, IMO.

Also, implicit in my position is the very idea we don't have to be so beholden to the "founders" because the very nature of human progress says that we should advance (or should at least seek to) beyond our predecessors. I have faith that we have people who are just as smart if not smarter than the "founders" (for a number of obvious reasons). So, acting like we can't function without or outside of what they prescribed is self-degrading to an extent.

But I could ramble on forever on that...
I get you point. Of course, the stance and opportunity must be afforded every other non-European. I think the "give and take" of the Constitution is a major part of its strength. Remember palm trees grow the way they do, because that's what it takes to survive.

For all of Walter Williams' constitutional posturing, he says nothing about the protection of the Constitution not being afford people who look like him.

When you look closely, most the changes we would like to have are not specifically expressed in the text of the Constitution. Most of our problems, African Aamerican problems, are of policy and practice.

Many of our problems are limitations we put on ourselves.

As much as we hate to hear it, we are indeed our own worst enemy. If we aren't, the person who is looks an awfully lot like us.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
I do not consider myself a neo-con, or a Federalist, but I do see a pragmatic use for Williams' Federalist position.

I have long believed that the Federal government's powers have been and should be limited to providing for the people [of the nation] what the people [the States] are unable or unwilling to provide for themselves. The Federalist Papers advocate for a strict limiting of the Federal government to only those matters enumerated in the Constitution. Namely, providing for the common defense, facilitating inter-state and foreign commerce, international relations, and of course taxation (but only to the extent to fund these activities). The above powers are specifically spoken to in the Constitution. These Papers also advocate that the remaining powers escheat to the States.

However, the Federal government's powers are expanded through the "general welfare clause" to include those areas where the States have shown that they are unable or unwilling to act in the best interest of the citizenry. Examples of these include the areas of civil rights and environmental protections.

IMO, Black folk can/should embrace the Federalist position as a pragmatic means for gaining real political influence.

The fact is in our present governmental structure, "the people" (the common man/woman) have very little influence on the national agenda. The national agenda is set by the radical special interest groups of both the left and the right. These groups write the legislation and then buy our federal representatives' votes. The majority of congress couldn't care less about the common person's political agenda because the common person can't/won't finance the congress person's upcoming campaign, nor will the common person provide the lucrative consulting contracts, where the congress person will land where they leave office.

And, even if this were not the case, and our congress persons' agenda were based on the electorate's agenda, the reality is Black folks don't have the demograghic clout to influence the political agenda on the national level. The way the congressional districts are drawn, our votes are concentrated into narrow districts. So while we may capture a few seats, we will never have enough to really influence the national agenda.

However, the same demograghics that limit our national influence increase our l;ocal influence. While we don't have the numbers to elect, outright, a president or even a senator, we do have the numbers to elect council persons; in many places, we do have the numbers to elect mayors; we do have the numbers to strongly influence the state level elections, we even have the numbers to influence state-wide elections.

To illustrate this concept, pick an issue, then try to speak with your representatives. Start with your council person, then your mayor, then your state reps, then you congressional reps, then call the president. I believe you'll find an inverse relationship between level of the rep and your ability to talk with them. This is a direct representation of the importance of your vote (i.e., political opinion) to the elected official.

By embracing the Federalist position, we will see a rise in the power of the states to provide services to the people. We will see a rise in programs and policies that directly impact our lives. We will see a decline in the proportion of our tax dollars going to Washington, only to be sent back to the states. We will see a decline in local governments promoting unneeded local programs just because the fed is paying for it. Rather, local governments will have the money to institute local programs that will have positivem effects on the local population.

We also will see a boost to local economies, because our talented citizenry will be encouraged to "stay home" rather then go to Washington.
And, even if this were not the case, and our congress persons' agenda were based on the electorate's agenda, the reality is Black folks don't have the demograghic clout to influence the political agenda on the national level.--- Kweli4Real

This is true ONLY as long as we continue to "fit" into current political structure. That structure is indeed designed to minimize our power. When African America gets a "line on the ballot", that will change immediately. Political parties are given a "line on the ballot."

No other construction can succeed.

As you have said, the federal government should step in when, and where the States fail.

When do you see the States failing. All of the difficulties of African America have been founded in the States failing/prevailing.

That doesn't sound like a formula for success for African America.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
quote:
Many of our problems are limitations we put on ourselves.

As much as we hate to hear it, we are indeed our own worst enemy. If we aren't, the person who is looks an awfully lot like us.
I'm tired of this idiotic refrain.

White people in this country, politically, have always been split near 50/50 for the longest but no one suggest because of their partisan bickering that "They Are Their Own Worst Enemy"... That alone shows that they have had perpetual "divisions" but again those divisions aren't seen as them self-inflicting their own demise.

As much as you hate to hear it. What you say is relative BS! It is based on some false pretense for what you believe Black people should be about and some serious ignoring of the actual conditions that influence the matter.

Again, check the voting trends... We are, at least in presdential election years (I believe), mere percentage points behind Whites in voter turn-out and the trend shows our numbers rising while everybody else's are falling! And the Hispanic vote is anemic compared to ours!

Apparently you believe in some type of osmosis or think that Black people should be monolithic or something in order for us not to "be our own worst enemies"!

That's like most of your statements! Shallow, Superficial, and without substance that demonstrate your contention and devoid of the qualifying reality!

Again, I guess we are suppose to be monolithic. I guess that the crisis that engulfs a lot of our communities are suppose to stop for that one magical moment for us to act in monolithic unisome.

My point is you need to analyze your expectation, acknowledge what it actually is and if it's realistic in the way that you conceive it. But I have come to know that you will not think beyond the shallow and answer/address the harder, deeper questions of WHY?

Why are we our own worst enemies?

Again, it seems as if you think we are suppose to be monolithic. It seems as if we all are somehow organically suppose to be educated enough to understand things as you presume.

The issues you presented before DO NOT RISE to the level of us being "our own worst enemies". They reflect issues you have. Issues you have with grasping reality... So, I guess you could imagine, in your imaginary world, that we are every bit of "our own worst enemies"... But that again is devoid of reality. So what does that say about your contention?
I see both the strong points and shortcomings of both Kweli's and JWC's position on "States' rights"...

However, I think neither address my 'Doctrine Of Radical Change'. I'm not willing to concede federal or state power. It's beneath human dignity in a multi-ethnic society/democracy as I see it.

But I definitely respect Kweli's well presented opinion. I see the States' right thing, eventhough it can potentially yeild more power (locally) it could empower White communities all the more given they will have more... which still yeilds them controlling power on the state-wide level.

But, admittedly my opinion is limited to things in more philosophical terms...
I'm not willing to concede federal or state power.--- Nmaginate

You don't have a choice. With power, you either take it or succumb to it.

Walter Williams is an academician. He argues academically. He knows there's no intended action. He isn't even recommending an action. Of course, he does say one way is better than another. So?

He isn't talking directly about something to improve the circumstance of African America. That's where my primary interest lies. That says little on the merit of his concern. U related his points to the impact, and practice on African America.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
quote:
I'm not willing to concede federal or state power.--- Nmaginate

You don't have a choice. With power, you either take it or succumb to it.
JWC,

Seriously... what's the purpose of your statement. If I say I won't concede power then that means I will not succumb to it. So, in effect, the "choice" I make is clear. In others words, [my statement means] I refuse to succumb to someone else's power...

Axioms and cliches' are nice. But you should at least know how to apply them and when and where they apply.

What you had to say, as illustrated, was inapplicable to what I said or rather it was merely stating the obvious or more precisely stating what is already understood if not implicit in my very statement. You may have been better off addressing that to Kweli... It's clear that if anyone is making a "choice" of one or the other it's Kweli, not me. So, again, what's your point in addressing me?

Given that your point is valid, I accept as a point well taken but I will still ask you to understand what you are responding first to make sure your statement is as applicable as you seem to suggest.

What's odd is that if anything my point is more in agreement with yours as it relates to States rights... so I'm still trying to figure out your point. Perhaps if you would have said "WE" don't have a "choice" your point would resonate and be applicable...
We clearly do have a choice: the choice to remain marginalized by the Reps and taken for granted by the Dems; or, taking on the Federalist as strange bedfellows. IMO, both parties have taken positions regarding the powers of the federal government that violate the intent of the Constitutation's Framers.

Our not choosing, is in fact choosing the status quo.
kweli4Real:

My point exactly.

The making no choice is essentially saying, "Give me more of the same."

It will be hard, but the only real difference African Americans can make is to either opt out of party affiliation and register Independent, OR in each State, form a party dedicated to the needs of African America.

PEACE

Jim Chester

You are who you say you are. Your children are who you say you are.
quote:
Originally posted by Nmaginate:
It's pretty idiotic to act like the Constitution was suppose to lay out the entire extent of what the government should and shouldn't do.


Given that the Constitution is the law, then what you're basically saying is that "it's pretty idiotic to act like the law was supposed to lay out the entire extent of what government should and shouldn't do."

This allows the coercive powers of government to be unrestrained, opening the door for tyranny. It basically says that the people need to be restrained by law and told what they should or shouldn't do, but the government is somehow above the law.

We restrain governments for a reason. Had governments been restrained in the early colonies, many of the racial tension in this country could've been avoided, as well as other problems.

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