The Wall Street Journal has a pretty good news article on Kentucky Senate candidate Ron Paul's constitutional conservatism, focusing less on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than on two FDR-era Supreme Court decisions. The first was in "1937, when the Supreme Court, under heated pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt, upheld a state minimum-wage law on a 5-4 vote, ushering in the legal justification for government intervention in private markets. Until the case, West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Supreme Court had sharply limited government action that impinged on the private sector." The second was "Wickard v. Filburn, in which the Supreme Court rejected the claims of farmer Roscoe Filburn that wheat he grew for his own use was beyond the reach of federal regulation. The 1942 ruling upheld federal laws limiting wheat production, saying Mr. Filburn's crop affected interstate commerce. Even if he fed his wheat to his own livestock, the court reasoned, he was implicitly affecting wheat prices."
The weak point of the Journal article is this sentence: "The federal government puts limits on pollutants from corporations, monitors the safety of toys and other products and ensures a safe food supply—much of which Mr. Paul's philosophy could put in question." The article doesn't consider that these limits, monitors, and assurances, while costly, are far from perfectly effective, as the BP oil spill, the long list of products recalled for their supposed dangers, and the repeated E. coli scares show.
In the New York Times, Sam Tanenhaus writes, "Jim Crow was itself a form of intrusive government, only enacted at the state level....the truth is that legislative battles over civil rights laws were waged within government, and between competing incarnations of it, federal vs. state."
The New York Sun also has an editorial on the topic.
And over at the American Spectator, W. James Antle III writes, "race is the Achilles' heel of constitutionalism. The original Constitution allowed slavery. Its federal structure was at least arguably inadequate for ending slavery and segregation; that structure was definitely used to justify the perpetuation and preservation of both racist institutions." No one, though, is talking about "constitutionalism" without the amendments to the Constitution, and surely one of the most brilliant aspects of the Constitution is the way it provided for the ability to amend it. You can get pretty far on race on the basis of the 14th and 15th Amendments, both of which explicitly give Congress the power to enforce them by enacting "appropriate legislation."
Thanks to Reader D for sending the WSJ article, Reader R for sending the American Spectator piece, and Reader T for sending the New York Times piece. What a smart group of readers we have here at FutureOfCapitalism! The wisdom of crowds at work.