An unassuming string of 16 words tucked into the Constitution grants Congress extensive power to make laws that impact the entire nation. The Commerce Clause has allowed Congress to intervene in all kinds of situations — from penalizing one man for growing too much wheat on his farm, to enforcing the end of racial segregation nationwide. That is, if the federal government can make an economic case for it. This seemingly all-powerful tool has the potential to unite the 50 states into one nation and protect the civil liberties of all. But it also challenges us to consider: when we make everything about money, what does it cost us?
The key voices:
The key cases:
Additional production for this episode by Derek John and Louis Mitchell.
Special thanks to Jess Mador, Andrew Yeager, and Rachel Iacovone.
Leadership support for More Perfect is provided by The Joyce Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.
Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.
Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.