Federalism in the United States.

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Federalism in the United States

By Alex Brodie UVI

1.        What is the “Inter State Commerce” Clause in the Constitution and why has it been so politically significant? Outline a recent Supreme Court case that illustrates this significance.

The Inter State Commerce clause is Article 1, Section 8 of the American constitution.  It gives congress the power to regulate trade and commerce between the states.  However it has caused great disagreement throughout the 20th Century.  The main disagreement surrounds the fact that Federal legislation can govern economic activity connected to interstate commerce but occurring within a state.  It is argued that this is unconstitutional.

Supporters of Federal intervention argue that literally everything is involved with commerce and so the clause should be broadly interpreted.  This is what happened for a long time as the Supreme Court constantly enlarged the Federal Governments power over state’s commerce. For example in 1824 in the  case, Justice Marshall ruled that the power to regulate interstate commerce also included power to regulate interstate navigation.  He argued that “…the power of Congress does not stop at the jurisdictional lines of the several states. It would be a very useless power if it could not pass those lines…” The court went even further in 1905 with  ruling that the clause even covered meatpackers.  They argued that although their business was local it effected the “current of commerce”.  This took the clause’s importance to new heights.  The court had taken action against a local business, but the Supreme Court has also taken similar action against whole administrations.

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Roosevelt’s “New Deal” of 1933 had a substantial amount of policies struck down by the Supreme Court on the basis that they “encroached upon intrastate matters.”  This obviously angered FDR who took the chance to re appoint judges who took his point of view and so the controversy over the matter grew as it became partizan and party politics took over.

Although FDR didn’t get his plans passed, two judges (Justice Roberts and Chief Justice Hughes) swapped sides in what was known as "the switch in time that saved nine".  This gave way to the National Labor Relations Act, which ...

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