Tyranny is alive in our nation today. The Founders fought and feared this monster and established Constitutional boundaries to cage this beast, but it has broken free. By enumerating the powers of Congress, the Founders attempted to limit its power, distinguishing the authority that the federal government exercises from that which the states enjoy. However, modern legal experts interpret the Constitution as a “living document” that must be interpreted to modernity. This has led to an erosion of the citizen’s control over government. As James Madison explained in Federalist #41, the federal government is limited to certain “objects” or purposes. These specific “several powers” were “conferred on the government of the Union” by the people. By limiting the “objects” of government, the power of government was Constitutionally limited.
However, the Federal government has breached these limits expanding government from certain objects to broad subjects, transforming into a behemoth of waste and despotism to the corruption of our civil liberties. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Today, even our rights of private property are jeopardized. The EPA’s new “Clean Water Rule” harshly regulates public and private streams that are “intermittent, seasonal and rain-dependent.” Most impacted by the new regulation are small businesses who now must dance around hundreds of new rules, regulations, and red tape. In a show of statist overreach, the EPA fined a Wyoming man $16 million for building a pond on his private property for his cattle. Is this what the Founders envisioned for our country where “intermittent” streams and ponds on private property are regulated by an unelected, colossal bureaucracy?
It is not.
The Founders enumerated the powers of the Constitution, solely to limit them. Proponents of environmental protection point to the Property Clause which grants Congress the authority to “make all needful Rules and Regulations” for “Property belonging to the United States.” However, this only grants Congress the power to regulate federal land not state lands—and especially not private property. Even the Elastic Clause, granting Congress all authority necessary to execute its enumerated powers and functions, does not legitimize Congressional environmental protection because it is not an object of federal authority. According to the Tenth Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution… are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” As James Madison stated, the powers given the government through the Constitution are “few and defined” while the powers of the State are “numerous and indefinite” (Federalist #45). States alone could be granted authority by the people to regulate environmental impact of private property.
Congress has the authority to stop the EPA. If they fail, as James Madison stated, “a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.” The enumeration of powers limit Congressional authority, denying it and the EPA authority for environmental regulation of private or state property.