Jacob Sullum

Aside from the Second Amendment, Gingrich does not seem to have much regard for the Bill of Rights, and that includes the 10th Amendment, which reflects the Framers' intent that the federal government have only those powers expressly granted by the Constitution, the rest being "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." At Saturday's Republican presidential debate, Gingrich said one of his rivals, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, "got me engaged about three years ago on this whole 10th Amendment in a big, serious way."

By his own account, then, Gingrich, who served more than two decades in Congress and brags about his credentials as an historian, did not begin to think seriously about the limits that federalism imposes on the national government until 2008. That may explain why he did not realize until this year that a law requiring people to buy health insurance exceeds Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause.

Gingrich's lack of familiarity with "this whole 10th Amendment" may also explain his detailed policy recommendations for education, an area where the federal government has no constitutional authority. Not to mention his defense of government-funded moon bases and Mars missions as ways to "give young people a reason to study science and math and technology."

Constitutional issues aside, Gingrich's tendency to think government should subsidize whatever strikes his fancy, whether it's extraterrestrial colonies, prescription drugs or alternative energy sources, does not inspire confidence in his alleged fiscal conservatism. On that point the most damning comment I've seen recently came from New York Times columnist David Brooks. Last week, Brooks, a "national greatness" conservative who believes "energetic government is good for its own sake," wrote that Gingrich "has no Hayekian modesty to restrain his faith in statist endeavor" and therefore "loves government more than I do." Yikes.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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