In today's column about Ron Paul's fiscal plan, which includes eliminating five federal departments, I write, "Aside from carrying out the decennial 'enumeration' mandated by Article I, Section 2, does the Commerce Department do anything that is constitutionally authorized, let alone essential?" An alert reader, Dan Katz, has the answer:
While I have a healthy disdain for much of what goes on at the Commerce Department, I feel I must point out that in addition to the census function you mention, the Commerce Department also executes (by way of the National Institute of Standards and Technology a.k.a. NIST) the constitutionally authorized Congressional power to "fix the Standard of Weights and Measures" (Article I, Section 8) and further executes (by way of the admittedly dysfunctional Patent and Trademark Office a.k.a PTO) the constitutionally authorized Congressional power to provide patents and trademarks "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (also Article I, Section 8).
I assume Paul would move necessary functions, such as the Energy Department's responsibilities vis-à-vis nuclear weapons, to other agencies. But this seems like a fun game: Can you spot the constitutionally authorized functions in the three other departments Paul wants to abolish (HUD, Education, and Interior)? And in case that gets boring, what other departments or agencies should have been included on Paul's list? His plan eliminates the Transporation Security Administration, for instance, but leaves in place its nine-year-old parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.