Monday, June 06, 2005

My Two Bits, Unless It Has to Cross State Lines

Everyone is blogging about the Supreme Court ruling that declared federal drug laws superior over the states by way of the Interstate Commerce Clause (aka The Clause That Screamed). A number of people expressing their disappointment with Justice Scalia for siding with the majority on this one.

Ann Althouse writes to defend Scalia on this one, but one of the points she makes struck me as philosophically unsound.
Scalia emphasized Congress's power to regulate what is certainly an interstate market. He notes that the Lopez Court said that private gun possession could be regulated as “an essential part of a larger regulation of economic activity, in which the regulatory scheme could be undercut unless the intrastate activity were regulated.”

As a general rule, I don't put much faith in aggregate concepts. There is less society than a tendency for people to value the same things. There is less a storm than a particular state of air molecules. And here, I say that there is less market than individual transactions.
Scalia's opinion seems to be one that the Interstate Commerce Clause applies in all cases if any instance of a transaction occurs across state lines. Even more than saying that one merchant might want to ship wine to online customers, Scalia's opinion would seem to indicate that if any instance of a sale, with the seller's knowledge or no, results in the good traveling across state lines entitles the federal government to regulate the whole industry. For instance, if a fireworks store deep in the heart of one state were to sell to a customer who ultimately takes the pyrotechnics to another state, then the entire fireworks market is open to federal regulation. Suddenly, Georgia is denied fireworks because California is at too great of a risk from firework-started blazes.

I'm with the majority of the Libertarian bloggers, this is not a good decision on the basis of states-rights and limited government.

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