Is it a question of lives vs. livelihoods at this point in the Coronavirus crisis? What about liberty and law?
I was in a digital class with a Constitutional lawyer and several educators last week.
I’ve been mulling over these questions ever since. Here are some issues to ponder as we try to “flatten the curve and go down the other side.” I offer you these statements made in that meeting for your consideration.
- We have lost freedoms.
- What good are constitutional rights if they are invalidated when We the People are sick (as in a pandemic)?
- If we allow the government to usurp power, we will lose our freedom.
- The General Welfare clause in the U.S. Constitution refers only to the 18 specific, granted, and enumerated powers in Article 1, Section 8.
Let’s dive into these four assertions. Consider these questions from a constitutional perspective.
On freedom: Have you lost freedom in the last month? Freedom to assemble, to work, to buy and sell? Are there checkpoints as you travel? Have you been asked to report fellow citizens? Does social distancing make it easier for governors and mayors to control the population?
On constitutional rights: What good are constitutional rights if they are invalidated when we are sick? Does the U.S. Constitution protect our rights under at all times and under all circumstances? Can you alter the Constitution in a time of crisis?
On usurpation: President George Washington, in his farewell address, said this: “But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” So, is the government usurping power when it deems the cleaners as “essential service” but not shoe repair? Can you think of other examples of usurpation during this crisis that are meant to be the instrument of good but are destroying our freedoms?
On the General Welfare clause in Article 1, Section 8:
Congress has been given power only over the 18 specific powers listed in Article 1, Section 8. They are:
Tax and spend for payment of debts, the common defense, and general (not specific) welfare
Make rules for naturalization and bankruptcy
Coin money, regulate its value and fix weights and measures
Establish post offices and post roads
Establish rules for copyrights and patents
Establish federal courts below the Supreme Court
Define and punish piracy and felonies on high seas
Raise and support armies
Provide and maintain a Navy
Rules of discipline for military forces
Provide for calling the militia into Federal service
Organize, arm, and discipline militias
Control Federal property (specifically post offices, the District of Columbia and military facilities)
Do what is necessary and proper to carry out delegated powers.
James Madison wrote to Henry Lee: “What think you of [Hamilton’s] commentary … on the terms ‘general welfare?’ The federal Govt. has been hitherto limited to the Specified powers… If not only the means, but the objects are unlimited, the parchment had better be thrown into the fire at once.”
Thomas Jefferson said, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but is restricted to those specifically enumerated…”
As the days roll on, I’m wondering if We the People have a watchful eye on liberty and law as our Founders did.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??