« Speaking at Light and Life church | Main | What have we learned from September 11th? »

September 10, 2009


chris corwin

where in the constitution does it authorize the the federal government to pave roads?


Article 1, Section 8 "post roads".


Andy's exactly right there. Maybe I've misinterpreted the intent of your comment, Chris, but the difficulty I find with your line of reasoning is that it seems to start at the wrong point and work its way backwards--e.g. because the government has decided to get involved with (whatever the issue might be), then it's okay. By contrast, our founders set up the country by starting with the Constitution as the plumb line for authority and reining in the government accordingly.

chris corwin

maybe my reading of the constitution is wrong, but i see nothing in there about using pavement.

it seems to me that, perhaps, in order for us to actually live in the real world we need to acknoledge that a self-selecting group of (by and large) racist anti-authoritarian farmers might *not* have forseen exactly everything about how to best run a 113 million person organization in the 21st century.

just saying.


I don't see exactly how the use of pavement really matters. It seems to miss the forest for the trees, as it were. Clearly, those "self-selecting group of (by and large) racist anti-authoritarian farmers" were out of touch with today's enlightened world. :)

The general attitude you articulate here toward our founders (and by association, our Constitution) reminds me of what C.S. Lewis termed "chronological snobbery"--the idea that we tend to have an "uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited." I always find it intriguing how ready folks are to apply a skeptical eye to ideas of a previous age without doing the same to ideas of this modern age. Perhaps Lewis was on to something...but then again, he is a person from a different time and place, so maybe not. :)


Well, I'm not a Constitutional attorney or historian, but I would guess that the "provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States" part of Article I Section 8 has been used to justify a lot of legislation that isn't expressly mentioned in the Constitution. Of course, that sentence is talking about the power to collect taxes to pay debts for defense and welfare, and not saying "Do whatever you have to do for the general Welfare."

It could also be that the historical interpretation has been, if a law isn't expressly prohibited in Section 9, Limits on Congress, then it's ok to do.

As far as the word "Welfare" goes, I don't think it means what it means today. But, it probably had a much broader meaning that encompasses the current meaning of the word, which has more to do with the poor and destitute. "Welfare" in the Constitution would certainly include health care.

As I understand it, "Post Roads" were roads specifically made for transporting mail. I'm pretty sure the federal government has paved a few roads that were not for the specific purpose of delivering the mail.

I think Chris is right. There's clearly room for the federal government to provide health care to citizens in the Constitution, or at least the way it's been interpreted for more than 200 years. And, it is often repeated, by conservatives as much as anyone else, one of the strengths of the Constitution is that it allows for situations that the original authors wouldn't have dreamed of. They did this intentionally. So, yes their particular place in history limited their knowledge and they believed a lot of stuff that we now know to be false. But they were smart enough to know that.

The Constitution may not expressly permit the federal government to provide health care to 21st century Americans, but if it's seriously challenged as unconstitutional then we're talking about a serious breech of precedent. I'd say a majority of our laws would be unconstitutional. Certainly Medicare and Medicaid would be. And conservatives are smart enough not to mess with Medicare. Senior citizens tend to vote. At any rate, we should amend the darn thing if we have to. What kind of country lets people go bankrupt and die prematurely because they don't have insurance? How much allegiance can you feel towards a Constitution that would prohibit this kind of health care reform?

Chris Corwin


my (admittedly very general) assessment of the group of men who founded the US is not at all based upon snobbery, chronological or otherwise.

it is based upon the historical record, as we have it.

they were a group of people who were, by and large:

* self-selecting
* racist
* anti-authoritarian
* farmers

on the other hand, we could quite handily, turn that tables and apply to your opinion on this group of men as succumbing to the "wisdom of the ancients" fallacy.

the truth of the matter is that we who tend to discuss these matters on this blog simply *are* better informed about a great many matters than the founding fathers were, just as they were better informed on many things than those living in the 5th century.

it is no snobbery to look back and claim that they simply didn't *get* it on many subjects because, clearly, they didn't.

the founders were wrong when they thought it was okay to own black people.

i do not say this because slavery is out of style.

i do not discredit the idea of owning slaves because the idea is discredited as being from a previous era.

in fact there are ideas from this era that i do not discredit.

and ones from 1399.

and ones from 32 AD.

you said, "I always find it intriguing how ready folks are to apply a skeptical eye to ideas of a previous age without doing the same to ideas of this modern age."

this leads us readers to associate your comment with me personally, and i believe you did this on purpose.

i also believe, however, that you know and fully understand that this is simply not the case for me, and that your association of such with me is disingenuous. :-(

you are quite aware, i am sure, that i apply a skeptical eye to this age just as much as any previous one.

i do not, perhaps more than most people even, simply accept the thinking of my culture without thought.

in fact, as you know, i am very intentional about seeking wisdom and understanding, and it was just this bent in me that lead to to reject the veracity of the gospel accounts.

if anyone ought not be accused of blindly accepting the common wisdom of his day it is one raised in an evangelical household in the midwest who becomes a post-christian in their thirties.

The comments to this entry are closed.