Thursday, December 02, 2021

And Just Like That, An Interesting Constitutional Question Comes Up


In this month's Thanks For Asking! AMA, SleepDeprivedBerserker asks:

I seem to recall you self-identifying as an anarchist. If that's the case, why do you sometimes use Jefferson and the Constitution as apparent sources of legitimacy for the sake of arguments?

I answered that question inline ... and mere hours later I heard about something interesting ... and mere hours after that, having slept on what I heard, I woke up with, hey, a constitutional angle on that thing.

Disclosure: I have both ideological and constitutional opinions on what I heard about, and an indirect financial interest in what I heard about.

What I heard about: A University of Florida official has been notified that he is forbidden to sign off on any federal research grants that include mask mandates, presumably pursuant to recent Florida legislation and/or executive orders.

My ideological opinion (as an anarchist) is that whether anyone wears or doesn't wear a mask is none of the government's business. Not the federal government's, not the Florida government's in general, not the University of Florida's in particular.

My constitutional opinion is that government mask mandates, not being backed by science, constitute a state establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment when imposed by any level of government, and also constitute an unconstitutional seizure of non-delegated powers in violation of the Tenth Amendment when imposed by the Federal government.

But here's my constitutional question:

Do federal government research grants from (for example) the National Institutes of Health (which is located in Maryland) to government researchers at (for example) the University of Florida (which is located, obviously, in Florida) constitute interstate commerce?

It seems to me that they do. They are, after all, an exchange of money across state lines for a product/service (research).

If that's so, well, regulating interstate commerce is a federal, not state, prerogative under Article I, Section 8.

I don't see how that prerogative would trump the First or Tenth Amendments, but it's still an interesting question.


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