“Necessary” Is Not a Constitutional Argument

I hear a lot of bad constitutional arguments justifying this or that federal action. One common justification for expanding federal power is: “This thing is necessary! It needs to be done.”

But it doesn’t follow that the federal government has to do the thing. In fact, the founding generation expected that the states and the people would do most of the “necessary things” – not the federal government.

Tench Coxe was a prominent and influential advocate for ratification of the Constitution and a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress in 1788-1789. He later served as Secretary of the Treasury. He wrote three essays published in the Pennsylvania Gazette in early 1788 under the pen-name “A Freeman.”

In these essays, Coxe offered some of the most forceful arguments asserting the limited nature of the federal government under the proposed Constitution. He insisted that many, if not most, of the “necessary” things for society would be taken on by state and local governments, not the federal government.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself.

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