Throwing any anachronistic caution to the wind, Congress now assumes the authority to regulate anything and everything it deems worthy of its attention. Over 300 federal regulatory agencies exist, such as the FDA, EPA, USDA, CDC, OSHA, HHS, ATF, FDIC, FAA, FCC, FTC, FETC, FEMA, FERC and many others, each of which is empowered by Congress to effectively legislate through its regulations that are enforceable by law.
As with any institution, these seek greater influence and power—ostensibly to better accomplish their agency’s mission. Capitalizing upon any circumstance that might justify a request for an augmentation of their powers, bureaucratic busy-bodies are constantly clamoring for more legislation to attain that end. At times, they simply produce a new power by fiat.
If and when asked where they derive their authority to micro-manage the economic exchanges of American citizens, congressmen will defer to the judicially-inflated commerce clause. Like a plastic surgery addict, this constitutional provision has become entirely unrecognizable from its original form.
Originally, the constitutional authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce was understood to beused to smooth out trade relations and activity between the states and between America and other countries. This primarily changed during FDR’s administration, when his stacked court rubber-stamped his economic meddling in the lives of individuals. The precedent then established continues to this day, leading the federal government to show no regard for what level and nature of commerce they are (wrongfully) “regulating”.
Despite decades of usurped authority, the constitutional reality is that the federal government was nowhere delegated the power to regulate intrastate commerce. Any economic activity which remains within the borders of a sovereign state should not come under the purview of the federal government, despite what a few lawyers in black robes appointed by FDR shortly thereafter told FDR. The states can and should reclaim this stolen power, and affirm their own authority to manage the economic activity which remain within their borders.
Last year in Utah, a small step in this direction was taken in conjunction with several other states. SB11passed and was signed by the governor, putting into law an exemption from federal regulation for any firearms or firearms accessories both manufactured and sold within the state. This was a great start, but far more needs to be done; there are infinitely more areas of commerce than just guns.
To that end, the Utah Tenth Amendment Center is announcing today the creation of the Utah Intrastate Commerce Project—an initiative which seeks to help promote and support additional legislation that provides similar exemptions for other areas of commerce.
While all Utahns are subjected to the regulatory mandates of a vast cornucopia of federal agencies, not all can withstand the impositions forcibly made. Consider the massive compliance costs, paperwork, and regulatory hurdles required of those in the agricultural industry, for example. While large, multi-national companies can absorb these impacts without missing a beat, small family farms and other local agricultural businesses are significantly impacted, often having either their profit or existence threatened. The recently-passed FDA “food safety” law only aggravates this burden—and they’re only one of 15 agencies regulating the food industry!
Thus, the first bill being supported by the Project is one sponsored by Utah Representative Bill Wright—a dairy farmer by trade—which applies the same concept as last year’s firearms bill to agriculture. Under this bill (which is currently under review by legislative attorneys), those who produce agriculture in the state which is then sold in the state would be exempt from federal regulations. Their commerce would be entirely intrastate, and thus not subject to the purview of the federal government. The only regulations with which they would need to comply would be those coming from either the state or municipal government.
Imagine how very liberating this bill would be for our farmers! Those who sell their products at farmer’s markets, through CSAs, to local restaurants, and in other ways to fellow Utahns would be shielded by state law in disregarding the mandates imposed by the central government which has long exceeded and abused its constitutional authority. Compliance costs would be eliminated, productivity and innovation would surge, and the booming local/natural/fresh food sector would have reduced costs passed on to the consumer.
This is a win on multiple levels: for constitutional government; for the liberty of farmers and their customers; and for local agriculture which has long struggled under the weight of the federal government’s regulatory burdens. We’re very excited about this bill and believe its passage would be a great thing for all Utahns, whether or not they engage in intrastate commerce. Where Utah leads, other states will surely be following.
Be sure to visit the Utah Intrastate Commerce Project website to learn more, subscribe to the email list for important updates, and help spread the word!
Connor Boyack [send him mail] is the state chapter coordinator for the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. He is a web developer, political economist, and budding philanthropist trying to change the world one byte at a time. He lives in Utah with his wife and son. Read his blog.
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