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    Something To Think About
    September 18, 2018
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 WalterWilliamsNov2011 Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

walterewilliams.com
          

    It's Our Constitution -- Not Kavanaugh

and

South Africa Question

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Please note: There are two articles this month.

It's Our Constitution -- Not Kavanaugh

     One of the best statements of how the Framers saw the role of the federal government is found in Federalist Paper 45, written by James Madison, who is known as the "Father of the Constitution": "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. . . . The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people." Today's reality is the polar opposite of that vision. The powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite, and those of state governments are few and defined.

     If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will bring to the U.S. Supreme Court a vision closer to that of the Framers than the vision of those who believe that the Constitution is a "living document." Those Americans rallying against Kavanaugh's confirmation are really against the U.S. Constitution rather than the man -- Judge Kavanaugh -- whom I believe would take seriously his oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution.

     Was Madison misinformed or just plain ignorant about the powers delegated to Congress? Before we answer, let's examine statements of other possibly "misinformed" Americans. In 1796, on the floor of the House of Representatives, William Giles of Virginia condemned a relief measure for fire victims, saying the purpose and the right of Congress is to attend to not what generosity and humanity require but instead what their duty requires. In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill intended to help the mentally ill, writing to the Senate, "I can not find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity." He added that to approve such spending would "be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive of the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." President Grover Cleveland out-vetoed his predecessors by vetoing 584 acts of Congress, including many congressional spending bills, during his two terms as president in the late 1800s. His often-given veto message was, "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution." By the way, President Cleveland was a Democrat.

     Were the Founding Fathers, previous congressmen and previous presidents who could not find constitutional authority for today's massive federal government intervention just plain stupid, ignorant, callous and uncaring? Article 1 of the Constitution defines the role of Congress. Its Section 8 lists powers delegated to Congress. I examined our Constitution, looking to see whether an Article 5 amendment had been enacted authorizing Congress to spend money for business bailouts, prescription drugs, education, Social Security and thousands of other spending measures in today's federal budget. I found no such amendment., Contrary to what our Constitution permits, Congress taxes and spends for anything upon which it can muster a majority vote.

     But I found a constitutional loophole that many congressmen use as a blank check, as well as justification to control most aspects of our lives -- namely, the general welfare clause. The Constitution's preamble contains the phrase "promote the general Welfare," and Article 1, Section 8 contains the phrase "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." What did the Framers mean by "general Welfare"? In 1817, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated." Madison wrote: "With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."

     Case closed: It's our Constitution that's the problem for leftist interventionists -- not Brett Kavanaugh.


South Africa Question

     South Africa has been thrown into the news because of President Donald Trump's recent tweet that he instructed his secretary of state to "closely study" alleged land seizures from white farmers in South Africa.

     Earlier this year, a land confiscation motion was brought by radical Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema, and it passed South Africa's Parliament by a 241-83 vote. Malema has had a long-standing commitment to land confiscation without compensation. In 2016, he told his supporters he was "not calling for the slaughter of white people -- at least for now"  (https://tinyurl.com/y7mfmhco). The land-grabbing sentiment is also expressed by Lindsay Maasdorp, national spokesman for Black First Land First, a group that condones land seizures in South Africa. He says, "We are going to take back the land, and we'll do it by any means necessary." The land confiscation policy was a key factor in the platform of the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

     I have visited South Africa several times, in 1979, 1980 and 1992. My three-month 1980 visit included lectures at nearly all South African universities. The 1992 return visit, two years after apartheid ended and two years before democratic elections, included lectures on my book "South Africa's War Against Capitalism." During each visit, my counsel to South Africans, particularly black South Africans, was that the major task before them was not only ridding the nation of apartheid but deciding what was going to replace it.

     That's an important question. William Hutt, the late University of Cape Town economist who was an anti-apartheid voice within the academic community, wrote in his 1964 book, titled "The Economics of the Colour Bar," that one of the supreme tragedies of the human condition is that those who have been the victims of injustices or oppression "can often be observed to be inflicting not dissimilar injustices upon other races." In 2001, Andrew Kenny wrote an article titled "Black People Aren't Animals -- But That's How Liberals Treat Them." Kenny asked whether South Africa is doomed to follow the rest of Africa into oblivion. Kenny gave a "no" answer to his question, but he was not very optimistic because of the pattern seen elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. He argued that ordinary Africans were better off under colonialism. Colonial masters never committed anything near the murder and genocide seen under black rule in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Somalia and other countries, where millions of blacks have been slaughtered in unspeakable ways, including being hacked to death, boiled in oil, set on fire and dismembered. Kenny said that if as many elephants, zebras and lions were as ruthlessly slaughtered, the world's leftists would be in a tizzy (https://tinyurl.com/ybj4u9fj).

     Ghanian economist George Ayittey expressed a similar complaint in his book "Africa Betrayed": "White rulers in South Africa could be condemned, but not black African leaders guilty of the same political crimes." Moeletsi Mbeki, a brother of former South African President Thabo Mbeki's and deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, an independent think tank based at the University of the Witwatersrand, said in 2004 that Africa was in a spiral of decline. "The average African is poorer than during the age of colonialism," he said (https://tinyurl.com/ycs614pb).

     Zimbabwe, South Africa's northern neighbor formerly called Rhodesia, was southern Africa's breadbasket. That was prior to the confiscation of nearly 6,000 large white-owned commercial farms during the 1990s. By the turn of the century, Zimbabwe was threatened with mass starvation and was begging for food. Added to that tragedy, Zimbabwe experienced history's second-highest inflation rate. It reached 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008. (In 1946, Hungary experienced the worlds' highest inflation rate, 41.9 quadrillion percent.)

     South Africa leads in mining, food production and critical infrastructure, such as power production and railroading, in southern Africa. But it's going the same way as Zimbabwe, spelling disaster for the entire southern part of Africa. What's needed most right now is for South Africans to adopt some of the principles enunciated by Nelson Mandela, one of which is, "You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will though acts of retribution."


              

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