Federal Centralization: A Study and Criticism of the Expanding Scope of Congressional Legislation

By Walter Thompson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
REGULATION OF PUBLIC MORALS

IN a sense all legislation is social. In a more restricted sense this term is applied to legislation intended for the relief and elevation of the less favored classes of the community. Liberty has been taken here to apply the term to those subjects which are of sociological interest as distinguished from such subjects as corporations and labor organizations which are usually catalogued in the field of economics. Such an arbitrary classification can of course be justified mainly for methodological reasons. However, legislation in the states dealing with gambling, vice, the liquor traffic, food and drugs, child labor, and compulsory school attendance has as its direct object the preservation of public health and morals. Laws aimed at combinations in restraint of trade are more in the nature of economic regulations and affect health and morals only indirectly. Congress is not empowered by the Constitution to legislate for the welfare of the citizens of the several states, but by a liberal exercise of its constitutionally granted powers it has accomplished this indirectly. In the field of social legislation, as defined here, the main subjects that Congress has attempted to regulate are lotteries, vice, food and drugs, child labor, education, and intoxicating liquor.

A classification of regulatory measures under such headings as public morals and public health is also arbitrary. Regulations of vice may be necessary to insure

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