Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Post Office in Constitution

Fellow blogger Brandon, gentleman and scholar, put a finger on another aspect of the Post Office in a comment to yesterday’s post: “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” is one of the powers granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution (Section 8). It is refreshing to read that section and to discover there that the Post Office is on a par with powers such as laying and collecting Taxes, borrowing Money, coining Money, declaring War, raising and supporting Armies, providing and maintaining a Navy—among others.

Part of the problem with written constitutions becomes visible here. Market extremists might interpret the phrasing of Section 8 to mean that there is a huge difference between post offices, armies, and navies. In the case of post offices, Congress is empowered to “establish” but not explicitly to “maintain” or to “support.” Therefore, on the face of it, defunding of the Post Office—or failing to raise postal rates high enough to support it (we have one of the lowest rates in the world)—is perfectly legal.

Brandon also mentions the spirit of the law. Yes. There is the written aspect and then there is the spirit. Different people will have different views of the spirit of the law. I think I know what the Founders’ spirit was—but others are free to disagree.

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