You might not believe it but the US Constitution has a provision that was designed to avoid the worst outcomes of unintended consequences. The drafters went to great trouble to be as precise as they could delineating the powers of the three branches of Government. Those powers and duties are the very heart of our political system and much thought went into how they wanted matters organized and which branch should have what powers. Article One lays out a rather lengthy list of powers of congress, but it is finite. Naturally some of the language is broad as you would expect. It was fear of too much power in the hands of the central Government you recall that inspired the Bill of Rights. They rushed it through somewhat because it was apparent that the Constituion might not be approved otherwise. One of the most important of those rights is found in Article Nine of the Amendments.
Article Nine reads as follows: “The enumeration in the constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”. There was a concern that congress might try to use some of its powers in the constitution to be bundled or intrepreted in such a manner that a power not specifically set forth would be granted by default to congress. People worried that congress would use very vague and general language to take over areas of their lives that the constitution did not expressly address. They wanted congress to have the powers laid out but no more. They were concerned about unintended consequences from the intrepretation of the constitution by congress or the courts. It is one of our most important rights and one that has sadly been eroded over the years. FDR with his plan to virtually seize control of all the US economy and industry would have taken powers never invisioned or expressed in the constitution. He believed it was best for the country at the time and that only Government could save the day. Fortunately for all of us the Supreme Court did stand the test that time and struck down his National Recovery Act which as a practical matter would have nationalized the entire economy, complete with Five Years plans just like the Commies had been publishing in Russia. FDR was furious at being thwarted and tried to get the Supreme Court increased in size to 12 or more so he could appoint judges friendly to his view and know they would interpret the law his way. Does all that sound pretty familar from today’s headlines? Pakistan ring any bells. Musharraf fought with his court and made sure by firings and new appointments that he had only friendly judges. History shows we managed to come through tough times without the national recovery act and thank God for once for the Court. In many modern instances the Court however has eroded the meaning of the Ninth Amendment with some of its sweeping rulings in the last two generations. You can make your own list of them. Whoever wins the election you should insist that the President only appoint judges who respect and acknowledge the Ninth Amendment and the Tenth also. We will speak of the Tenth another day soon. But for now give some thought to the Ninth and I hope it will inspire you to study more, read more–the Federalist Papers for example. Those were pretty smart fellows and the language of the constitution and Bill of Rights was not casually thrown together. The words mean something. They protect you.
Charity begins at home. I do wish so many do gooders would remember this one. I am religious and do believe in charity and even missionary work. I have never understood or agreed with the notion however that we need to send charity to all corners of the globe when we have unmet needs in our own city, county and State. I support my church and approve whole heartedly of good works for those in need. But why do we send them to S. America, Indonesia or someplace in Africa when we could do the work at home. I personally think it is sometimes more of a “prestige” thing. I could be wrong but it seems that way to me often. It is more romantic and adventurous to say you have gone to Nigeria to help than it is to say you are volunteering at the local public hospital. But those folks a mile away need you as much as someone thousands of miles away. I know some will disagree with my view but that makes it interesting. Maybe I am full of beans and there really is some inherent value I don’t see in travelling miles away to do good. Maybe I have a vision or “vision” problem.
Lastly, “charity” means kindness. We should be charitable to those in our own homes. We all stand accused of not being as kind as we ought to be to the very ones we love the most. When was the last time you denied charity to a loved one because you were too tired, too focused on your own life, too judgmental. Let’s hope we all can improve.