One Equals Two?

The Commerce Clause cannot mean that Congress can do anything.

When I was in a high school algebra class our math teacher taught us a neat trick.  He proved, by using the rules of algebra, that 1 = 2.

I thought it was the coolest thing.  From that simple proof, it was trivial to prove that all numbers were equal.  One kid even tried to use the same numerical answer for every problem on a test, arguing that 1=2 or whatever the correct answer happened to be.

As we've discussed earlier, prior to 1937 the Federal government was limited by the rules of the Constitution.  Of course, the government would attempt to break the rules from time to time, but eventually the Court would intervene and things would go back to the way they were supposed to be.

In 1937 the Supreme Court discovered a neat math trick.  It proved, figuratively, that 1=2.  To quote from our previous article:

In essence, Justice Roberts decided to interpret the "commerce clause" far more broadly than in the past.  The broadening of the Federal government's authority is best illustrated by one ruling in favor of the Department of Agriculture.  The Department wanted to favor farmers over consumers by limiting the amounts of grain which farmers were permitted to grow.  This would keep prices high.  A farmer named Filburn grew grain to feed his own animals.  Since his grain was eaten on his farm and did not enter interstate commerce, Filburn argued, the government had no authority to regulate how much of it he could grow.

In Wicard v Filburn, the court pointed out that if Filburn had not grown his own grain he would have had to buy grain.  Since the grain he would have had to buy might have been grown in another state, his not buying grain affected interstate commerce - thus, the federal government had authority to prohibit his growing it.

With this one judicial act, repeatedly reinforced since, we've been told one equals two.  Just about anything Congress does is crammed under the "interstate commerce clause" of the Constitution:

Article I, Section 8 - 3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

Congress has now trivially proved that 1=2=3=4=....  There is nothing that they can't regulate under this reasoning.

Except that the proof that 1=2 is fatally flawed.  A day or two after showing us the proof, our math teacher asked us why it wasn't true.

At first, we were a bit confused:  The math was perfect.  It was by actually applying numbers to the algebra that we saw where it all went wrong.

When inserting real numbers, the math would require a division by zero.  Division by zero is mathematically undefined; it will give you any result you like.  This means that it's not possible.  It can't be done.

Justice Roberts constitutionally divided by zero. He presented the proof, but nobody on the Court or in Congress ever checked to see if it was actually true.

It's been 72 years and neither Congress nor the courts have seen the fundamental error of their reasoning.  Congress has repeatedly divided by zero with the most recent examples being the "stimulus" package, "Cash for Clunkers," ownership of the auto-industry, climate bill, and last but not least the "Obamacare" national health care bill.

Whenever these things are questioned, the proof that 1=2 is waved in our face.  Those who attempt to point out the flaw, the errors, the reason it is not true are shouted down and told they're ignorant.  With the health care bill we're provided with yet more variations on the theme that 1=2.

Senators were urged to zero in on the insured, who need to be convinced that there is something in the bill for them. "The next five weeks is about closing the sale with the insured population," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.

Congress has been using the same number on every test... namely, that it has the power and authority to do whatever they say is constitutionally undefined.  President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are trying to show that 1=1,000,000,000,000.

People clearly understand that this isn't true.  I'm not sure why people fell for the 1=2 argument in the first place, but they did.  Fortunately, it appears that they're not falling for 1=1,000,000,000,000; maybe a trillion dollars is finally large enough to make them see the light.

That kid who tried to use the same number for each answer on his test?  He failed to see the error in the proof.  He failed to see that logic must be coupled with reality.  He knew that 1 does not equal 2, but he tried it anyway.  He failed the test.

Fortunately for him, our teacher was kind enough to give him an opportunity to re-take the test.  America may not be so lucky.

Fennoman is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Fennoman or other articles on Economics.
Reader Comments
hey, look, the libs all dropped out of math class or never took it in the first place. ever seen their tax policies?
August 12, 2009 11:54 AM
Forget their tax policies, ever seen their tax RETURNS? :-) None of them can add...
August 12, 2009 2:22 PM
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