The unconstitutionality of the nationalization of industries

In honor of Constitution Day, I will now explain why government ownership of companies and industries is actually illegal.

THE CONSTITUTION, Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have power . . . To establish post offices and post roads[.]

Here, the Constitution explicitly grants Congress the power to own a post office. This section of the Constitution also authorizes the establishment of courts, an army, and a navy. All of these items are explicitly authorized, even though such items as courts and an army would seem to be authorized by common sense. The implication here is that Congress is not allowed to do other actions not authorized. Unlike the army and navy, however, postal delivery is a service that might otherwise be feasibly provided by private enterprise, by businesses similar to UPS or FedEx. The clear implication of explicitly authorizing a government-owned postal business is that Congress may not own other businesses.

This implication is further solidified later in the Constitution:

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Congress does not have the legal power to run any businesses other than the Post Office. Hence, most of the bail-outs are illegal, as would be any government-owned health industry or numerous other fascistic or socialistic schemes.

One potential objection might come as follows:  What about the Property Clause in Article IV, Section 3? Does this clause not authorize Congress to acquire great amounts of property and then oversee it directly?

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States[.]

This section allows Congress to regulate property that it already owns, but it does not itself authorize Congress to acquire property at all. It certainly does not authorize the acquisition of property for any purpose whatsoever. Rather, Congress may only constitutionally acquire property in accordance with its other powers.

Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have power . . . To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States[.]

Thus, Congress has the power to acquire property for the purpose of, say, coining money. That is the situation to which the Property Clause is referring. But Congress does not have the power to buy up the local Kroger, just because it feels like it.


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