Minority Opinions

Not everyone can be mainstream, after all.

The Good of the Many

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The U.S. Constitution grants its federal government with an odd assortment of powers.  There are many who feel that it should be limited to just the ones specified; however, the focus on which items should be prohibited can vary widely.  Instead, I’m choosing to focus on what the government’s activities have in common.

Consider the expressly enumerated powers, as listed in Section Eight of Article One:

Monetary

  • Define and collect taxes
  • Pay national debts
  • Borrow money
  • Regulate interstate and international commerce
  • Coin money
  • Punish production of counterfeit money

Military

  • Provide for common defense
  • Define and punish piracies
  • Define and enforce international law
  • Declare war
  • Raise and regulate armies and navies
  • Punish treason

Other

  • Provide for general welfare
  • Establish naturalization policies
  • Establish bankruptcy laws
  • Establish standard weights and measures
  • Establish post offices
  • Establish post roads
  • Enforce copyrights and patents
  • Constitute federal courts
  • Regulate the national capitol district
  • Regulate federal buildings

Basically, these are all items that would be burdensome for a single individual or small community to accomplish alone.  Several of them, in fact, involve the fundamental reason for governments: protection.  I’m certainly not prepared to defend my land against a foreign nation; instead, I pay for someone else to do it for me.

As multiple people pool their resources together for a common defense, it gets cheaper for each of them.  It’s basically a form of insurance:  You hope not to need it on an individual level, and couldn’t pay for it yourself when you do need it, but as a group it’s affordable.  The larger the group, the better.

Likewise, mail systems get cheaper when everyone uses the same one.  The more shipments you can combine into a single trip, the less each one has to contribute to the price of that trip.  In fact, the very rise of alternative shipping companies may be contributing to the rising cost of the postage stamp, though even they rely on the federal post:  How hard would it be to operate a shipping company without a uniform system of addresses?

Similarly, monetary systems and standard measurement systems need broad support, or they fail completely.  Without money, we would be bartering and negotiating for everything.  There might certainly be problems with a fiat currency, but it must certainly be contributing to the vast ecosystem of desk jobs currently available.   How many apples should I charge for an hour of programming time?  Is that your hour or mine?

Now consider the “general welfare” items that tend to get cheaper as people pool together.  Education not only (on average) increases an individual’s future contributions to society, but decreases crime; however, those who need it most can afford it least.  There are orphaned, elderly, and disabled people who lack the means or family to take care of themselves.  Health insurance is needed by all, at some point; those who don’t have it end up increasing the costs of those who do.  Why, then, do we rely on a patchwork of employers to provide it?

Granted, I’m not entirely certain the federal government is constitutionally allowed to be involved in those last items, but I’m not entirely opposed.  Otherwise, they are left to the individual states, which haven’t all been holding back.  Unfortunately, my current state is trying to drop the ball on at least one of them, which could very well be a reason to move.

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Written by eswald

24 May 2011 at 10:40 pm

Posted in Politics

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