Congress Shall Make no Law Respecting an Establishment of Commerce

Modern society consists of three major components: culture, government, and the economy. The founders of the United States specified the relationship between culture and government in the first amendment, which forbids the establishment of religion, but they did not make a similar declaration with respect to the relationship between government and the economy. In their day, the economy did not exist in separate concentrations of power since it was mostly based on family-run businesses and farms.

However, human freedom requires freedom in the economic sphere as well as the religious and political spheres. Following industrialization in the nineteenth century, corporations were given more power by the courts, amassed greater capital, and eventually used that power to displace the political and economic power of ordinary citizens. A socialist backlash attempted to use the force of government to plan industrial output. In Europe, these two trends led to different forms of totalitarianism. On the right we had National Socialism and Fascism and on the left we had Communism.

Today the lack of clear relationship between political and economic power is one of the most serious problems facing the United States. Economic planning by the government and businesses procuring government favors lead to the establishment of commerce and the prevention of free exercise in the market. Massive government inefficiency, loss of economic competitiveness, overpriced oil and healthcare, and loss of personal freedom are all unwanted results. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution relating to the economy that is similar to the establishment clause related to religion could be a first step in solving this problem.
This article was published in World&I Online April, 2008. Full content is available there and will not be posted here until their embargo has elapsed.
The end result of the problems created by a Congress that “establishes commerce” and places the interests of lobbies above refereeing a fair playing field is shown in this You Tube clip in which lamps made in China with hazardous waste are made the legal lamps for U.S. consumers to buy.

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