Wednesday, February 09, 2005

History Book Club review

another disappointing tome. Of the 4 books I purchased as part of the intro, have now read 3½ & have been disappointed to some degree in all of them. Best has been Punic Wars, but that review will wait for another night.

The problem with this LA Purchase book (& the 6 day war book) is too much background. This book is 16 chapters long, but the first 11 are background or backfill or setting the scene. Only 5 deal with the actual Louisiana Purchase and the aftermath. Most interesting discussion was on the "necessary and proper" and "general welfare" clauses of the Constitution - basic interpretation by Jefferson's progeny has been that anything that they believe provides for the general welfare that is necessary and proper is allowed by the Constitution. Jefferson wanted the discussion of the approval of the Louisiana Purchase to be "sub-silencio" so that the constitution would not be considered a "blank piece of paper". Guess he set the model for others to follow.

Another problem with the book seems to be the jumping back and forth in time amongst the chapters as the authour discusses the Spanish, French, and Americans. Since the book isn't divided into sections, it's disconcerting to be set back in time - hey I thought we already covered that section.

Gives me that much greater appreciation of the Oxford History of the United States - downside is how such fine history spoils me to lessor writers. Can only hope that the 8th volume is truly being released soon.

Still a bit fagged from trip & work, so will have to reread tomorrow to make sure this isn't too incoherent a posting.

From a guy who ought to know about the meaning of "general welfare":

Money cannot be applied to the General Welfare, otherwise than by an application of it to some particular measure conducive to the General Welfare. Whenever, therefore, money has been raised by the General Authority, and is to be applied to a particular measure, a question arises whether the particular measure be within the enumerated authorities vested in Congress. If it be, the money requisite for it may be applied to it; if it be not, no such application can be made. - James Madison

Translation: The federal government is allowed to spend money only on those things that have been enumerated in the Constitution. Nothing else applies - even for things politicians think are good for us.

Not that any of this matters, for the fatal mistake our founders made was in allowing the government itself to oversee its own powers and to interpret them as they will.

The writing is on the wall. The only unknown is what will replace the current form of government when we've bankrupted ourselves.
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