Sunday, January 8, 2012

Republican Debate a Big Government Stew with Small Government Seasoning

Tonight's Republican debate was a big government stew with small government seasoning. Ron Paul, who remains the only Republican candidate to raise the possibility of shrinking government, was the seasoning.   Stew-meat-and-potato candidates Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Huntsman talked  about the importance of the private sector and job creation, but they had nix to say about how to cut government. Gingrich said he favors less government; nevertheless, he offered ideas about how an ever-bigger government can spend on infrastructure. He, like rest of the beef, potatoes, and onions of the big-government Republican stew, had no specific plans to make government smaller; Gingrich and Romney merely say they like the private sector. Big government Progressives of the past like George W. Bush, George H. Bush, and Richard M. Nixon said the same kinds of things and did nix to shrink government. We can expect the same from tonight's stew meat.

Ron Paul may have been the small government seasoning,  but I found him not seasoning enough.  He made a number of good points, such as his mentioning that none of the other candidates had a any ideas on how to shrink government. But he erred in saying that the Fourth Amendment prohibits states from banning contraceptives. The decision that claimed this, Griswold v. Connecticut was the pivotal case of federal judicial imperialism that led to Roe v. Wade (the significance of this question escaped Mitt Romney, who seemed to not have heard of Griswold).

Paul's position is wrong if he claims to be the constitutionalist candidate. The Tenth Amendment states:

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.

In deciding Griswold, the Supreme Court claimed that there are penumbras to the Constitution. But that claim is a flat contradiction of the Tenth Amendment.  The Tenth Amendment precludes any concept of penumbras. It says that powers need to be delegated. The claim that delegation can be through non-delegation, i.e., through penumbras or shadows, is self-contradictory.    Hence, Paul advocates expansion of federal power.  This is understandable when considering that many libertarians apply a state minimization approach--if something reduces government then they are for it.  Griswold reduced government when defined as the sum of state and federal government, but it sledge hammered states' rights.  In the long run states' rights reduce government because the states can compete.  By instituting federal control, the federal government imposes ever more fascistic control.

Equally unconvincing is Paul's apparent claim that the Commerce Clause permits the federal government to require that states sell contraceptives because banning them would interfere with interstate commerce.  That would imply that the federal government has the power to require that the states do anything it wants, since anything can be imported across states.  A national building code, for instance, could be viewed as a matter of interstate commerce. In fact, that is precisely how the Democrats overturned judicial resistance to the National Labor Relations Act. 

Paul claims to favor the Constitution, and Griswold is very much in the anti-constitutionalist, "living constitution" tradition.  If the Fourth Amendment is extended to "penumbras" and then foisted on the states through another series of illegitimate decisions starting with Gitlow v. New York, then pretty much anything goes as far as reinterpreting states' rights and the Constitution out of existence.

Rather than Paul's government minimization approach, federal government minimization is closer to the Constitution. Take the First Amendment, which says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."  This could not have meant that the states are forbidden from establishing a religion because all of them had established religions at the time the First Amendment was written. States have the right to establish a religion, although I don't favor their doing so.

My chief criticism of Paul, though, is that he should do more to state his case. The Republicans' debates are staged by media lackeys of the same special interests who gain most at public expense from the Federal Reserve Bank: Wall Street, big government, banks and big business.  As a result, the Republican debates are exercises in pointlessness. Paul was right to point this out, and thankfully  there is a Ron Paul to do so. At the point where he brought up monetary policy and the Fed there was a palpable freeze in the audience.  Discussion of the Fed and monetary policy are not permissible ingredients in big government stew.  For that reason,  Paul needs to do more to bring the debate about the Fed to the fore. No institution has been more destructive of the nation's welfare.  It takes guts to say things on national television that the debate planners don't want a candidate to mention. Paul is three quarters of the way there. But he needs to be more aggressive.The seasoning needs to be stronger.