Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hamilton on Federalism: The Federalist Papers No. 32-34

The Federalist Nos. 32 and 33 concern taxation. The constitution did not aim to consolidate the states into a single whole. Rather, "the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation". State sovereignty would be "alienated" only when the Constitution granted an exclusive authority to the Union; where it gave authority to the Union but prohibited the States from exercising similar authority; and where a power granted expressly to the Union would be contradicted if similar authority were given to the states. The states and the federal government have coequal powers to tax except for exports and imports. Under the constitution the federal government has all powers that are "necessary and proper" for implementing the powers that the Constitution grants it, and "the Constitution and the laws of the United States...shall be the supreme law of the land."

Hamilton asks in No. 33: "Who is to judge of the necessity and propriety of the laws to be passed for executing the powers of the Union?" The national government "must judge in the first instance of the proper exercise of its powers...If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as hte exigency may suggest and prudence justify." Hamilton does not introduce the Supreme Court in this discussion.

"...a law (passed by the Union) for abrogating or preventing the collection of a tax laid by the authority of a State (unless upon exports and imports) would not be the supreme law of the land, but a usurpation of power not granted by the Constitution...It is to be hoped and presumed, however ,that mutual interest would dictate a concert in this respect which would avoid any material inconvenience. The inference from the whole is that the individual States would, under the proposed Constitution, retain an independent and uncontrollable authority to raise revenue to any extent..."

In No. 34 Hamilton reemphasizes that "the particular states under the proposed Constitution, would have coequal authority with the Union in the article of revenue, except for duties on imports." But the states have more limited needs for revenue than does the federal government, in Hamilton's view. Future contingencies respecting the federal government would be unlimited, especially because of the threat of European wars. State budgets would likely be no greater than 200,000 pounds, but the potential exigencies of the union were likely unlimited.

He got the the 200,000 pounds part wrong, but forecasted the federal budget with uncanny accuracy. The point is that there is a partnership between state and federal governments, and in Hamilton's elitist view, the central government was to be more dominant than the states. The states need from one tenth to one twentieth of the resources, the federal government from nine tenths to nineteen twentieths. The ratio isn't as lopsided as Hamilton thought it would be, but he anticipated Progressivism nicely.

Thus, he argues for a concurrent jurisdiction in the article of taxation, a partnership between the States and the Union.

No comments: