Dao de jing, by Laozi

A lot of it is strange and obscure, but there are some very striking passages. This is the translation by Robert Brookes. Good reading for a reminder of humility.

The physical path cannot be the eternal way, just as the spoken word cannot be the eternal truth.

The good person is the bad person’s teacher, and the bad person is the good person’s lesson.

The wise person lives without effort in his daily life. He practices a wordless doctrine. Good and bad come to him and he refuses neither.

Act without contrivance, and everything will be harmonious.

The greatest leader is unknown to the people, a good leader is known and beloved, an adequate leader is treated with respect, a poor leader is treated with disdain.

Only when intelligence and cleverness appear is there a need for pretense.

Forsake academic knowledge, relinquish propriety and the people will lose their anxieties. Disavow cunning, renounce greed and there will be no theft. These lessons are superficial, and could go on forever. Even then they would still not be sufficient. One need only rely upon this: Manifest simplicity, like an undyed silk.

Be righteous and you will not be distinguished, boast of your abilities and you will not have merit, be conceited and you will not endure. People who act in such ways are likely to be detested, and their path will be burdensome.

The adept traveler leaves no tracks, the adept speaker reveals no opportunity for reproach.

Those who know others have wisdom, but those who know themselves have enlightenment.

Those with excessive desires incur great cost. Those who guard wealth surely suffer great loss. To avoid disappointment, know what is sufficient.

There is no greater misfortune than not knowing what is enough. There is no greater fault than the desire to possess.

Therefore the wise person is sharp and yet does not injure, is pointed but does not penetrate, is true to the path but does not bully, is bright but does not blind.

He who possesses virtue keeps his promises. He who does not possess virtue insists on payment.

Gonzales v. Raich and the commerce clause

Californians are authorized by state law to use marijuana under a doctor’s relief for certain symptoms. Respondent Raich had a brain tumor and was recommended by her doctor to use marijuana for personal use. She and respondent Monson grew it their home for medical use. In 2002, federal agents seized and destroyed their plants to enforce the Controlled Substances Act. So Raich and Monson brought suit. They claimed that the CSA exceeded Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, because their possession was wholly intrastate and did not affect the market for pot.

It made its way to the Supreme Court, to be called Gonzales v. Raich. Randy Barnett argued for the respondents, and Paul Clement argued for the government.

The Court issued a 6-3 ruling by Stevens that held that yes, the Commerce Clause does give Congress the authority to to prohibit possession.

It seems inhumane and absurd. First, a woman with an inoperable brain tumor can’t use the pot that doctors say are keeping her alive. Second, the pot was consumed only in the home and never crossed state lines. How much can Raich’s possession affect interstate commerce?

Here’s how Ilya Somin summed this decision up in a Brookings talk:

“The broadest ever Commerce Clause decision was Gonzales v. Raich, where the Court said that Congress has the power to forbid the possession and growth of medical marijuana even if it was never sold anywhere… because it was economic activity.”

And Somin elaborates a bit differently here:

“The Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Raich ruled that Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce gives it the power to ban possession of medical marijuana that had never crossed state lines or been sold in any market anywhere.”

Radley Balko has a summary:

In that case the high court said the Feds could regulate home-grown marijuana that was grown and consumed entirely in California because that activity might still affect prices in other states (presumably because Californians could have smoked imported weed if they had not grown their own).

We’ll wrap up with with the dissent by Justice Thomas:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.