In a Supreme Court case from 1942 that most people have never heard of, the government derives power for all sorts of socialist policy.
It’s the fundamental idea behind the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Controlled Substances Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Civil Rights Act, and it’s been cited in rulings for government health care reform and medical marijuana.
The Wickard case was not about criminal rights, free speech or racial equality… it was about wheat and the government’s power to control citizens.
“In 1941, Roscoe Filburn planted 23 acres of wheat, despite regulations at the time that limited farmers to 11.1 acres of the crop. The regulations, established under the Agricultural Adjustment Act, were intended to support crop prices during the Great Depression.
“Congress’s power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to ‘regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes’ justified the Act.”
Filburn did not deny that he had grown more wheat than allowed, but he claimed the regulations shouldn’t apply to him because his wheat was for his and his family’s own consumption.
“Since the wheat would never enter the commercial market and would cross no state lines, Filburn said, Congress had no power to regulate it.”
However, that wasn’t good enough for the FDR-controlled Supreme court. They ruled that it would interfere with “interstate commerce, since they would allow farmers to avoid purchasing wheat, possibly wheat from other states.”
So, “such activities needed to be subject to regulation for Congress to fully exercise its power over interstate commerce.”
Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote, “Even if appellee’s activity be local, and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.”
Basically, the ruling marked the end of the Supreme Court’s opposition to Roosevelt’s socialist New Deal policy and opened a wide range of new controlling federal powers that came with it.
“At the height of the disagreement, Roosevelt attempted to pass a legislative initiative to add more justices to the court so he could appoint some judges more to his liking. The court-packing scheme failed, but with Wickard, the court finally embraced a view of the Constitution more in tune with the president’s.”
So for the last 70 odd years, Wickard has been the basis for a broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause, giving the federal government power to insert itself into all sorts of activities.
Gary Marbut is intentionally courting federal prosecution, involving guns, to force the Supreme Court to review and hopefully overturn the previous ruling.
Marbut worked to have Montana pass a law called the Firearms Freedom Act. It is based on the fact that federal gun regulations do not apply to guns that are produced in the state and clearly stamped “Made in Montana” and “in-state.”
“Since no other states are directly involved, Marbut argued, the only way the federal government could challenge the law would be by relying on Wickard.”
As soon as the law was on the books, Marbut announced plans to manufacture and sell a miniature rifle aimed at children between ages five and ten, specifying that he would sell the gun only in Montana.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took the bait and brought action. Murbut lost in district court, as expected, and his plan is to bring the issue to the Supreme Court.
Since then, seven additional states have passed versions of his Firearms Freedom Act, which could help his chances of getting to SCOTUS.
If Wickard is overturned, boatloads of federal regulations for businesses would be gone, along with many federal laws dealing with controlled substances.
“According to a study by retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker, there are now 4,500 crimes in federal statutes, and many of them are based in some way on the interpretation of the Commerce Clause established by Wickard.
“Those crimes often overlap state statutes, creating a confusing patchwork in which ordinary citizens can be easily ensnared.”