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Overturn Wickard v. Filburn

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Overturn Wickard v. Filburn

We have to have the ability to grow wheat, chop trees, and raise chickens without congressional oversight.

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(Library of Congress/Public Domain)

After Roe v. Wade, the constitutional case that bothered me most my first year of law school was probably Wickard v. Filburn. The case is disturbing both because of its blatant distortion of the Commerce Clause and for the precedent of federal overreach it created. Given that Roe has fallen and we’ve a U.S. Supreme Court clearly ready to overrule bad precedent, worthwhile conservative should hope, pray, and work to see Wickard v. Filburn overruled.

Filburn was the dog owner and operator of a little farm in Ohio. Beneath the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, the government attemptedto control the cost of wheat by allotting just how many acres of wheat a farmer could grow for the reason that particular year. Filburn grew and threshed more wheat than was allotted, and refused to cover the federal penalty.

The intended reason for this law was to regulate the quantity [of wheat] relocating interstate and foreign commerce to avoid surpluses and shortages and the consequent abnormally low or high wheat prices and obstructions to commerce. That is clearly a fine intention. However the authorities has limited enumerated powers; Congress can only just legislate beneath the powers expressly directed at it by the Constitution, and the Tenth Amendment makes clear that any powers not delegated to america by the Constitution, nor prohibited because of it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or even to individuals. Therefore, any moment Congress acts, despite having the very best of intentions, it requires to depend on a specific power enumerated in the Constitution.

In Wickard v. Filburn, the energy supposedly originated from the Commerce Clause, gives Congress the energy to modify Commerce… on the list of several States. The plain language of the Commerce Clause requires that two circumstances be there for the government to wield this enumerated power: the problem must involve commerce, and that commerce should be on the list of several States,” meaning the commercial act must cross state lines. As Randy Barnett explained within an excellent article, the initial meaning of the Commerce Clause is rather straightforward:

Congress has capacity to specify rules to govern the way in which where people may exchange or trade goods in one state to some other, to eliminate obstructions to domestic trade erected by state; also to both regulate and restrict the flow of goods to and from other nations (and the Indian tribes) for the intended purpose of promoting the domestic economy and foreign trade.

Consider for an instant what the Court did in Wickard v. Filburn. Filburn grew grain more than that which was allowed by federal law. The reality aren’t entirely clear, nonetheless it seems that not merely did he not sell the surplus grain in interstate commerce, but he didnt sell the surplus grain at all. Filburn operated that which was primarily a little dairy and poultry farm. Every year, he grew handful of wheat, which he sold some, and kept the others for seed, home consumption, and animal feed. The Court astonishingly ruled that

wheat grown for home consumption could have a considerable influence on price conditions on the wheat market, both because such wheat, with rising prices, may flow in to the market and check price increases and, because, though never marketed, it supplies the necessity of the grower which may otherwise be satisfied by his purchases on view market.

This part of the Courts holding may be the central problem. In case a crop is grown for home consumption, it may have an influence available price of this crop. If the farmer satisfies their own dependence on a crop he would otherwise purchase on the open market by growing it himself, that may indirectly affect interstate commerce.

That could be true, nonetheless it will not change the glaring reality: The Commerce Clause is really a limited enumerated power which allows Congress to modify commerce on the list of several states. The holding in Wickard v. Filburn extended that capacity to the growing of a crop for personal consumption, that is neither commerce nor interstate activity.

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Wickard v. Filburn can be an offensive activist decision, bending the Commerce Clause far beyond its plain meaning. That’s cause enough to overrule it. But this holding extends beyond government overreach in to the lives of small wheat farmers. Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan realized the reach of the precedent developed by Wickard v. Filburn: Since Wickard, any moment Congress has wished to exercise power not authorized by the Constitution, lawmakers have simply had to create a disagreement that links whatever they would like to accomplish to interstate commerce. And when the reality of Wickard are sufficient for Congress to invoke the Commerce Clause, the options are endless.

If Congress doesn’t need to show an activity actually involves interstate commerceor even commerce at allbut only that the experience includes a substantial influence on interstate commerce, Congress can regulate anything. EASILY chop down a tree on my property and burn it in a wood stove, that activity, if performed by enough people, could affect the price tag on energy in interstate commerce. EASILY raise enough chickens that I dont have to buy eggs and my neighbors follow suit, this may affect the price tag on eggs in interstate commerce. The Wickard Court switches into great detail concerning the unique need for the American wheat market at that time it wrote its opinion, however the opinion will not limit itself to an emergency in the wheat market.

This case set an awful precedent, giving Congress power far beyond what’s enumerated in the Constitution. It allows the government to interfere in probably the most local and basic areas of our lives. The Court should overrule Wickard v. Filburn. It will leave me to cultivate my wheat, chop my trees, and raise my chickens without congressional oversight. Also it should tell Congress very clearly that regulating commerce “on the list of several states” means exactly that: Congress only gets the constitutional authority to modify the sale or trade of goods that cross state lines. If we have been not coping with actual interstate commercial transactions, overrule Wickard v. Filburn and leave the government from it.

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