Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Regulating Commerce

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner
But he knew it wouldn't last
Jojo left his home in Tuscon, Arizona
For some California grass
--The Beatles

One of the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution is "to regulate Commerce...among the several States." In today's language, granting regulatory power implies restriction. But in the context of the country's founding, regulating implies 'to make regular.'

A big problem facing the early union of states under the Articles of Confederation was that states raised trade barriers against each other making it difficult to conduct interstate commerce. A primary motivator behind convening the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was to write rules that would make trade between the states easy and seamless.

Article 9 of Section 1 captures the spirit well by noting that goods crossing state lines will not be subject to a state tariff or duty.

Stated differently, the duty of Congress is to remove force from interstate markets, not to instill it.

As the new Congress kicks into gear, two areas come to mind where the legislative body can better align with its constitutional regulatory duty. One is to repeal all laws that impair the writing of insurance policies across state lines. Current laws shield insurers in one state from competitors in another state. This is one reason why health insurance premiums are so high.

Eliminating interstate trade barriers related to insurance would drive quality higher and prices lower. Such measures should be seen as 'low hanging fruit' of forthcoming 'repeal and replace Obamacare' efforts.

The other area involves establishing reciprocal arrangements that enable licensed carry of concealed weapons across state lines. States are empowered to grant licenses. For example, they grant marriage and driver's licenses. These licenses are recognized in every state. Similar reciprocity should be in place for concealed carry permits. Currently it is bewilderingly complex, not to mention legally dangerous, for licensees to carry guns across state lines.

Not only does the current arrangement challenge Congress's constitutional duty to make commerce regular, but it also violates each citizen's Second Amendment rights--rights that are not state specific.

Addressing these two areas would be good first steps toward moving Congress in the right direction regarding their regulatory duties.

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