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Carl Gardner recently blogged about “Written constitutions, a warning from America” and noted his bemusement that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could be “struck down” by the Judicial Branch as being “unconstitutional” – particularly when Barack Obama had made health care reform a fundamental plank of his election manifesto.

My response to Carl was that the US is not a democracy, it’s a republican form of government, with the Federal Constitution entrenching minority rights and limiting the role of the Federal Government in citizens’ lives. Congress is supposed to exercise only the powers enumerated (granted to it) by the Constitution. Indeed, the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution goes on to state that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. Thus, while the individual States can and do offer health care insurance, the issue is whether such insurance is a matter for the Federal Government.

And while it is arguable whether the provision of universal health care (or an individual, Federal, mandate to purchase health care) in the United States is constitutional – Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution positively grants Congress the power “to establish Post Offices and post Roads“.

The US Post Office’s own history states, “The conveyance of letters and intelligence was essential to the cause of liberty“.

The US Postal Service is wholly run by the Federal Government. The people who deliver the mail are Federal employees – and it’s a Federal crime to tamper with the US mail.

Like its Royal Mail counterpart, The US Postal Service has been teetering on the brink of default – with the Postmaster General mooting the end of Saturday deliveries, some jobs and some post offices. While some supposed constitutionalists may be calling for the privatisation of the US Postal Service, Congress looks set to give it a cash injection rather than selling it off.

Over here, the Coalition Government is set to privatise the Royal Mail by 2013.


The Royal Mail is no longer a service or a right – it’s a commodity to be sold and profited from.

I have the feeling we’ll be fine in Stoke Newington. We won’t be disenfranchised. We won’t be hit by the end of a universal service. It’s the people in the unprofitable rural areas who will either pay more for the privilege of sending a letter – or who will have their post delivered, perhaps by homeworkers as in Holland – or who can come pick up their post at the distribution hub – if they’re able to.

With the advent of the internet, email, Twitter and Facebook, is the secure conveyance of snail-mail essential to the cause of liberty?

I would say yes.

If nothing else, electronic correspondence is not private correspondence.

(While the Lib Dems say they want to stop him, David Cameron wants to monitor your electronic communications without warrant, marking the end, in my view, of Entick v Carrington as a cornerstone of the UK Constitution. And, in case you missed it, this Government has successfully pushed for reform of the European Convention by way of the Brighton Declaration – which will allow signatory States to have an even greater, “margin of appreciation” in interpreting rights granted under the ECHR – including your Article 8 right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence).

Some might call British Parliamentary Supremacy the tyranny of the majority. Some might also wish there was an entrenched document containing fundamental values requiring 2/3rds of Congress and 3/4s of the States to amend – rather than a simple majority in the House of Commons.

Perhaps a written constitution isn’t such a bad idea after all.