The Little-Known Clause in the Constitution that Led to America’s Success

FreedomFest founder Mark Skousen asks, “Are We Rome?” at a Liberty United gathering on 9/11/21 in Grove Park, Utah.

Today is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the day members of the Continental Congress signed the US Constitution on September 17, 1787.

There are several extremely important clauses in the Constitution that very few scholars recognize but which destined America to become the superpower that it is today.

Here is my short column on this breakthrough principle that was published in a recent Skousen CAFE:

Canada Closes Its Borders for No Good Reason

Shortly before FreedomFest 2021 was set to begin, we received a call from a Canadian couple saying they had to cancel their registration. They wanted to attend “the greatest libertarian show on earth,” but the Canadian authorities had decided to close the border to all “non-essential” travel. We could talk about what deems travel “essential” and “non-essential,” but we’ll save that discussion for another column.

It does raise an interesting question, however: Why were the Canadian and Mexican borders closed to travelers in 2020 and 2021, while the borders between the states remained open? (Hawaii imposed severe quarantine restrictions and testing mandates, but as you will see, they were actually violating the Constitution in doing so!)

Even now, Americans can travel or move freely between states from coast to coast, but they cannot travel to and from Canada and Mexico without restrictions.

Did the pandemic suddenly stop at the borders?

The reason is simple to explain, but involves a principle often taken for granted by American citizens: The United States Constitution does not allow state governors to close their borders to adjacent states. Countries can do it, but not states.

None of the 50 states can keep you from visiting, moving to, or working in another state. They cannot keep you from transferring money, capital or goods to another state. They cannot require a passport for you to enter their state. They cannot impose any import or export duties between states.

The only exception is the inspection of fruits and vegetables to prevent the accidental tranportation of insects and other pests, as California does.

It’s All in The Constitution

Section 9 and 10 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution is clear:

“No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

“No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

“No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection Laws.”

And Article 4, section 2, states:

“The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

Finally, the 14th Amendment states:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Creating a Gigantic Free-Trade Zone from Coast to Coast

That’s why we are called the United States of America. The uniting of the 50 states economically is a major reason why America leads the world as an economic powerhouse. It has created a gigantic free-trade zone from coast to coast.

Ancient Rome had a similar arrangement. There were no trade restrictions inside the Roman empire, and this was one reason the Roman empire lasted so long.

Recently, European nations have attempted to imitate our success with the creation of the European Union, sometimes called the “United States of Europe,” along with a single currency, the euro. This allowed them to create a large free-trade zone of money, labor and capital.

Does the Constitution Limit or Expand State Powers?

On the other hand, Article I, Section 8, grants extremely broad powers to Congress — the power to print money, expand credit, level taxes and import duties, and declare war. You can drive a truck through section 8 of the Constitution.

As George Washington allegedly said, “Government is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

At this year’s FreedomFest, we had a big debate on “The Constitution: Conceived in Liberty or Conspiratorial Coup?”  We debate libertarian Murray Rothbard’s controversial contention that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was a power grab to dramatically increase the state’s control of the new nation.

Professor Patrick Newman, a fellow of the Mises Institute, supported Rothbard’s thesis, arguing that James Madison called the Convention to secretly expand the power of the state. He was followed with commentary by legal authorities John Norton Moore (University of Virginia) and Anastasia Boden, senior attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, who defended the Constitution. It was an electrifying debate.

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Happy Constitution Day!

In liberty, AEIOU,


Mark Skousen