« Moreland on Liberalism and Christianity | Main | Saturday Music Post - Bill Bailey »

Friday, May 19, 2023

Validity and Repayment

One argument about Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment that I want to knock down is the idea--advanced by Michael McConnell and Sai Prakash--that Section Four prohibits only the outright repudiation of the national debt. The claim goes something like this: Failing to repay debt is not the same as questioning the validity of that debt. An unpaid debt is still valid.

This reading is incorrect for two reasons. First, the original public meaning of Section Four was that debt must be repaid. This point was emphasized repeatedly by members of Congress, especially with respect to the portion of the debt owed to pensions for wounded soldiers and the survivors of the Union dead. The notion that paying lip service to those obligations without paying them would have satisfied the constitutional principle is unpersuasive. Second, the McConnell/Prakesh reading contradicts what the Supreme Court said about Section Four in Perry v. United States, which is the only Section Four case. I assume that they think Perry was erroneous (or at least contained erroneous dicta), though I'm not sure.

That said, I still agree that the President lacks the unilateral power to ignore the debt ceiling, as I've explained in prior posts. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on May 19, 2023 at 02:15 PM | Permalink


The comments to this entry are closed.