Legal Scholars Support a Restricted View of the Constitution–When It Suits Them

by | Nov 13, 1998

Four hundred “Legal Scholars” warned of “dangerous precedents” should Congress vote to impeach President Clinton. University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock said, “There’s nothing official about his misconduct.” Fascinating. Since when have we paid attention to “legal scholars” or, for that matter, to any experts? During the height of Clinton’s health care reform plan, […]
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Four hundred “Legal Scholars” warned of “dangerous precedents” should Congress vote to impeach President Clinton. University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock said, “There’s nothing official about his misconduct.”

Fascinating. Since when have we paid attention to “legal scholars” or, for that matter, to any experts?

During the height of Clinton’s health care reform plan, over 560 economists sent an open letter to the White House. “Price controls don’t control the true costs of goods. People pay in other ways,” said University of Pennsylvania economist John Lott. And the letter stated, “Price controls produce shortages, black markets and reduced quality.” Nobody cared.

These economists cut across the ideological spectrum and included John Calfee from the liberal think tank the Brookings Institution. Nobody cared. Unimpressed, White House economic advisor Alan Blinder dismissed the open letter, “Our first line of defense in cost containment is market incentives and competition.”

So when a large number of economic “experts” pressed their case against Clinton’s socialized health care plan, the answer is, well, what do they know? But when 400 “legal scholars” take a position supporting the White House and dismissive of impeachment, sound the trumpets, raise the flag and give a toast to Old Glory and the “legal scholars.”

Well, where were the 400 “legal scholars” when the government, under the guise of the commerce clause in the Constitution, took over all manner of U.S. activity? The state now meddles in medicine, education, housing, transportation and utilities. Where were the “legal scholars” when the government imposed rent control, minimum wages, asset forfeitures to fight the war on drugs, farm subsidies, milk price supports, sugar price supports, tobacco subsidies, special deals for corporations, auto emission standards and nearly $125 billion worth of corporate welfare?

Where were the 400 “legal scholars” when the government — in violation of the 14th Amendment — imposed affirmative action laws, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and laws mandating “equal pay” for women? Where were the 400 “legal scholars” when Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls?

Where are these “legal scholars” as Congress usurps state authority, trashing the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”?

As mentioned, under the guise of the commerce clause of the Constitution, Congress justifies rampant federal regulation. But the commerce clause gives Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States … ” Strictly speaking, this means that states shall not impose tariffs against other states, not that Congress may dictate to individual business people.

Where were these “legal scholars” when government issued mandates on building construction? Or the regulation of HMOs? Or when government requires licenses to practice law and medicine, to cut hair, to operate a beauty parlor or to drive a taxicab?

Where were these “legal scholars” when government mandated family hours for television stations? Or when, under threat of government regulation, the feds forced television and movie studios to create a ratings system, thus “protecting” innocent children and lazy or irresponsible parents from the pernicious effects of movies and sitcoms?

Or when, in violation of the Second Amendment, the government imposes gun-control laws, while making those most vulnerable to crime yet more vulnerable?

Where were these “legal scholars” when, allegedly in furtherance of national defense, the government seized private property, often failing to pay fair market value, to construct interstate highways?

Where were these “legal scholars” when the government went beyond ending forced segregation and imposed forced integration via busing, urban renewal and mandates requiring banks to lend in “impoverished” areas?

In the words of William Boetcker (often erroneously attributed to Abraham Lincoln):

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
“You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
“You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
“You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
“You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
“You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
“You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
“You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s initiative and independence.
“You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

These 400 “legal scholars” wish to impose a tight, restricted view of the Constitution’s impeachment process. But when it comes to ignoring, stomping, trashing and dismissing the written word of the Constitution, the 400 “legal scholars” go curiously AWOL.

But let’s remain optimistic. Maybe, someday, these “legal scholars” will get around to reading the rest of the Constitution. Even the parts they don’t like.

This editorial is made available through Creator's Syndicate. Best-selling author, radio and TV talk show host, Larry Elder has a take-no-prisoners style, using such old-fashioned things as evidence and logic. His books include: The 10 Things You Can’t Say in America, Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America, and What’s Race Got to Do with It? Why it’s Time to Stop the Stupidest Argument in America,.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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