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Highland had it right on fed power

By Connor Boyack - | Dec 26, 2011

I write to point out the many inaccuracies in the Herald’s recent editorial (“Highland tilts at D.C. windmill,” Dec. 15) regarding the recently-passed Highland food freedom ordinance.

The Herald explains that this ordinance attempts to exempt local agricultural producers from state and federal licensing and inspection laws. This is blatantly untrue; the ordinance introduced by Councilman Butler and passed by a majority of the council does absolutely nothing in regard to state laws. 

After expressing their sympathy for those who feel crushed under the oppressive weight of federal bureaucracy, the Herald’s editorial board dismisses Highland’s action through a series of false and misleading claims.

First, they claim that “it is simply a fact of law that the federal government has wide-ranging powers of commerce.” In support of this claim, they cite “long practice” and “rulings of the Supreme Court.” The slave trade was likewise defended with such intellectually disingenuous explanations.

City attorney Kasey Wright and the Herald editorial board believe, as do so many others, that the judicial opinions of black-robed lawyers have conferred upon Congress new authorities to micro-manage any and every commercial activity within the country’s borders, including in one’s own home. This misguided and horribly dangerous assertion primarily rests upon an FDR-era court case, Wickard v. Filburn, which radically violated the original intent of what the founders meant by allowing for the power to “regulate” interstate and foreign commerce.

The editorial board also objects to the inclusion of text from the Declaration of Independence in support of an individual’s right to freely produce and consume food. And yet we read in Utah’s own Constitution that “frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government.” For the Herald, though, referencing our God-given rights is, as they write, “irrelevant to the question at hand.”

In another unfortunate manifestation of constitutional apostasy, the Herald flatly decrees that Highland’s attempt to object to the unlawful usurpation of un-delegated power by the federal government is without basis because, as they explain, “federal law is supreme over … local ordinances.” This is misleading at best.

This is a reference to the “supremacy clause,” often argued by many to be the authority by which federal law inherently and automatically trumps any lesser, conflicting law. Thus, under this argument, Highland’s codified attempt to reject federal regulation over local food would immediately be rendered invalid.

However, this clause (in Article VI, Clause 2) states that “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof … shall be the supreme law of the land.” In other words, a federal law can only invalidate a lesser, conflicting law if that federal law was made “in pursuance” of (or, is justified by) the Constitution. 

Herein lies the entire basis for Highland’s objection to federal regulation over local food. The editorial board states as its “bottom line” that “Highland has absolutely no authority to immunize its residents against the authority of the… federal government.” But the true bottom line is this: has the federal government ever been constitutionally delegated the authority to dictate what an individual can grow, sell, and consume within city or state limits?

The answer is no. Supreme Court Justices cannot magically create new congressional authority, and as the people have not delegated such power to their government, they therefore retain that power (as the Tenth Amendment states). Highland’s proactive response to an overbearing, Constitution-violating federal government should be applauded and replicated, for as James Madison once said, “it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”

Connor Boyack is a resident of Lehi.

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