New Evidence of the Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause

55 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2012

Date Written: March 14, 2012


In this paper, the author advances the debate on the original meaning, interpretation, and usage of the word "commerce" in the context of the Commerce Clause. First, he distinguishes between terms that are vague and those that are ambiguous. He contends that realizing the dispute is over the ambiguity rather than the vagueness of "commerce" helps resolve the conflict between interpretations. Second, he presents the results of new empirical research into the original public meaning of "commerce" that extends well beyond the sources immediately surrounding the Constitution. Finally, the author reports the results of a similar survey of the use of the terms "regulate" and "regulation."

Keywords: Commerce Clause, Original meaning, Constitution

JEL Classification: K00, K1, K3

Suggested Citation

Barnett, Randy E., New Evidence of the Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause (March 14, 2012). Arkansas Law Review, Vol. 55, 2003; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-045. Available at SSRN:

Randy E. Barnett (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9936 (Phone)


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