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Federalism Comparison

.. Federal Child Labor Act was deemed unconstitutional because it attempted to impede interstate commerce on grounds that were outside its jurisdiction. The law made it unlawful to transport goods on interstate roads that were made in places that violated the guidelines set by the act. This decision and other dualist aligned decisions clearly evoke the obvious signs that the Justices involved in writing the decisions were strongly influenced by the prospect of an expanding economy. The idea that government control in areas of commerce would impede the economic growth was something that the dualist court could not accept.

As such, the court paid more attention to the political/social atmosphere than it did to the intentions of the Constitution. The court ruled that matters between employers and employees were of local nature in the Carter v Carter Coal Co. 298 U.S. 238. Perhaps the most vigorously anti-national decision among those discussed in this essay, this decision held that national jurisdiction would be based on the type of activity that was in question. Rather than follow the example set by Gibbons v Ogden, the court chose to divide the responsibility of governing different segments of the economic process by separating distribution and production. This division has come to symbolize everything that is political about the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has not always exhibited the ability to exert its jurisprudence in favor of cooperative federalism with an even hand.

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The Supreme Court expanded the meaning of commerce when it ruled in The Lottery Case (Champion v Ames 188 U.S. 321) that commerce included the movement of people, traffic, services and goods that cross state lines. This broadened definition gave the national government so-called police powers because the national government created laws under the scope of the Commerce Clause (e.g. Hipolite Egg Co. v US, Reid v Colorado).

The Shreveport Case (Houston East & West Railway Co. v United States 234 U.S. 342), involved the lowering of intrastate railroad rates aimed at encouraging trade between Texans, at the expense of businesses in Shreveport, Louisiana. The court held that the discriminatory actions of the Texas Railroad Commission could be overruled by standards set by the Interstate Commerce Commission, an agency created by Congress. The decision further exerted the supremacy of the national government. The Supreme Court revisited its pro-cooperative federalism stance with its decision in the Stafford v Wallace 258 U.S.

495 case, involving the monopolizing tactics of five meat packers, advanced the idea that Congress could create laws to prevent companies from taking advantage of consumers. The only issue at hand is whether or not the livestock grown entirely in one state becomes interstate when it is shipped out. The court ruled that it was interstate commerce. Here we see that the Supreme Court has ruled again according to the correct interpretation of the Constitution. The effects of the Great Depression and President Roosevelt’s influence on the Supreme Court, created a new ideology on the court as it related to what areas of commerce were under federal jurisdiction. The National Labor Relations Board v Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, introduced the test that held all commercial activities that had a substantial impact on interstate commerce were under federal jurisdiction. The court ruled that unfair labor practices by the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation could be remedied by the provisions of the NLRB created by Congress.

United States v Darby, 312 U.S. 100, directly contradicted Hammer v Daggenhart and stated that the power of Congress is ,”Complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent and .. that power can neither be enlarged nor diminished by the exercise or non-exercise of state power.”(Ducat,pp.331) This decision also set the minimum wage. Both of these decisions dealt with commercial activity and as such they are both aligned with the correct interpretation of the Constitution. Wickard v Filburn, 317 U.S.

111, is a case involving the limitation of wheat harvest imposed on a family farmer by the Secretary of Agriculture. Filburn refused to pay a tax on wheat he harvested that overran the allotted acreage allowed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Here the court ruled that government had the right to fine Filburn because his production and consumption of the excess wheat had an adverse effect on interstate commerce. The fact that the wheat was never entered into interstate commerce was deemed irrelevant in light of the new test (whether or not it had an effect) offered by the court. Consumers were at issue in the Heart of Atlanta Motel v United State,s 379 U.S. 241, in a case that involved the refusal of a room to transient blacks based on the color of their skin.

The court ruled that the proximity of the motel to interstate highways, the existing courting of transient guests, and the rate of transient guests all made the motels refusal open to national jurisdiction. In keeping with the cooperative federalism theory, the court chose to utilize a broad interpretation of the enumerated powers given to Congress by the Constitution. United States v Lopez ,514 U.S. 549, reinstated some dualist approaches. The case dealt with Gun Free Zones Act that was enacted by Congress under the Commerce Clause powers.

The decision injected a strict reading of the Constitution. The merit of the argument is that in cases that authorized national control in intrastate activities ,”Involved economic activity in a way that possession of a gun in a school zone does not.” (Ducat,pp.339) I believe this interpretation to be indicative of the intention of the Constitution. The decision rejected the expansion of Commerce Clause powers into areas that had nothing to do with economic activity. The Supreme Court has exhibited the ability to act in accordance with the most correct interpretation of the Constitution, which can be described as a cooperative federalist approach. However, there have been times when the court has failed to follow the intentions of the Constitution. Those cases are: (1) U.S.

v E.C. Knight (2) Hammer v Dagenhart (3) Carter v Carter Coal Co. Surprisingly, U.S. v Lopez does not fall under this category. Though the decision limited the scope of congressional power, it remained true to the idea that the national government can exert its powers exclusively when made under its implied and enumerated powers. The statement made in the midterm prompt suggested that the court decisions regarding the Commerce Clause were shaped by two interrelated factors – the scope of congressional power under the Commerce Clause and the power of the state to regulate under the Tenth Amendment. This statement is correct in the sense that the cases are influenced by these factors.

However, it fails to give attention to the fact that, invariably in the three decisions that gave states more rights, a need to curb national government supremacy was a more important factor than the Tenth Amendment. Indeed, the dual federalist approach was not the major factor either because the three aforementioned cases were all decided more as a response to the expansion of national supremacy than a desire to exert states rights. The Supreme Court has not always been capable of following the correct interpretation of the Constitution because of the effects of prior cases and political influences. In order to do so in the future, the Supreme Court need only remember that the constitution was meant to– enhance national government power, the national government is supreme when its laws are made in the pursuance of the Constitution, and the Tenth Amendment gives the states a passive and not aggressive power. History.

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