Walter Williams and James Buchanan – The Constitution’s Erosion
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Walter Williams and James Buchanan – The Constitution’s Erosion

September 11, 2019


Willimas: Jim, I you know with the growth
of government in our society and people demanding more government I think it’s a kind of interesting
idea to think about what is the legitimate role of government in a free society. Have
you ever given that nay thought? Buchanan: Oh, I’ve given that a lot of thought
and I agree fundamentally with you that we don’t think nearly enough about it, especially
the general public doesn’t think enough about it. I’m not one of those, as you know,
I’m not one of those anarcho capitalists who sort of thinks there’s no role for government.
In one sense I’m a philosophical anarchist, but on the other hand I think government is
absolutely necessary, but it’s necessary in a limited way. I go along very much I think
with the sort of James Madison view that the role of government, and particularly the central
government is to sort of provide the parameters in which we play the economic, political game,
that is that’s the reason that I of course stress this emphasis on the Constitutional
Rule, we need to have fairly fixed stable structure of law and property and contract,
plus a few other governmental functions but all those are kind of parametric functions
within which we play and the real problem of this century or earlier has been the idea
that somehow government can go beyond that and manipulate and control and manage not
only the economy but all other aspects of our lives. Willimas: Or whatever suits the will of a
majority, a political majority, which is really, stands in the face of what the founding fathers
thought when they said well we’re going to limit the government to do certain things,
that’s expressed in the articles of the Constitution. And I’m at a loss to try to
understand how did congress escape these limitations that were originally imposed on them? Buchanan: No, I think that’s a fascinating
question, and I don’t know that we have any answers, it more or less as you know people
have tried to explain why this happened. There were some water shed, there were some water
shed events, of course we fought a bloody civil war and that removed the threat of secession.
As long as states could threaten secession as a potential possibility that automatically
sort of put a check on the central government. Once that was gone then the sort of general
philosophy in the last part of the last century and the early years of this century was for
limited government. You remember Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill to provide seed corn to the
Midwest farmers because the federal government couldn’t do that, it wasn’t constitutional. And.. Williams: And by the way, these questions
never come up in congress today. They never ask, we’re never asked the question, well
is this constitutional? They just say, well can we get a vote on it? Buchanan: Exactly, exactly. Willimas: And we find, as you’re suggesting
the 10th Amendment is virtually meaningless now a days. I try to think of one thing, I would
imagine that a lawyer might be dis-barred for bringing up the 9th or 10th amendment. Buchanan: Absolutely, absolutely. And you know you don’t find amongst the legal scholars
anybody except Rich Epstein that even talks about those kinds of problems
anymore. But then we got this sort of progressive movement around the turn of the century, and
then that was finally put in play in the debacle that we went through in the new deal, where
they were just searching around for everything and as Jonathan Hughes, an economic historian
once said the main thing the new deal did was to invent new ways to spend money. We got this whole threshold
leap and we’ve been living with that ever sense.

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  1. RIP Buchanan. His contributions were great with development of the Public choice theory among others. Williams is just awesome as always.

  2. This video represents ideas and wisdom that most Americans have never been exposed to. Our educational institutions have been granted a monopoly on the political/economic narrative which ensures that students will not only NOT HEAR the above perspectives but will be actively opposed to their principles, even though they are articulated eloquently in our Constitution.

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