I recently watched Sheldon Richman’s lecture, “Articles of Confederation versus the Constitution,” (http://youtu.be/rrC5lRY4Kr8) and he makes a variety of claims about which I would like to get your opinion.
The first is that one of the major impetuses for creating the Constitution was that those who were privileged under British rule wanted to regain that status by centralizing power. I’m only familiar with the standard explanation that the Articles came up short in terms of being unable to deal with trade barriers between the States at the federal level and in a lack of power to tax.
Secondly, he argues that the federal income tax was always constitutional, according to its language (though it seems strange that if that is the case that Congress would go through the trouble of amending the Constitution).
Thirdly, there was a provision in the Articles (Article II, I believe) that was similar in language to the 10th Amendment, but the changing of some key words (“reserved” instead of “retained”, and the lack of the modifier, “expressly”) was an attempt to water down the amendment, so much so that it doesn’t substantively change the Constitution.
Lastly, he argues that the language of the commerce clause (“among the several States”) doesn’t necessarily mean only interstate commerce but could include commerce between residents of the same state. As well, he criticizes the view that when it was written, “regulate” meant to “keep regular” rather than the modern definition of completely dictating all possible aspects remotely relating to commerce.
Clearly, if what Richman says is true, it is very difficult to celebrate the US Constitution as an attempt to limit government.