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Things, Left Undone


At last the Supreme Court has handed down a decision in a case involving New Deal legislation. The barrage of comment that followed was to be expected. The significant fact in connection with this comment, however, is its diversity. The words of the Court are interpreted by each writer in accordance with his own political allegiance. In the midst of this confusion it is well to note the importance not of what the Court said, but of what it left unsaid. From this viewpoint one may realize that the decision is not of world-shaking importance, proving either that the Constitution is outmoded or that the recovery program is unconstitutional, but a simple legal settlement of a technical question involving oil.

Chief Justice Hughes, who wrote the decision, explained carefully that its significance was limited and that no judgment had been reached on the fundamental question--the right of Congress to delegate its legislative powers. The basis of the verdict was merely the technical flaw of failing to define adequately the extent of the powers conferred upon the President. Mr. Hughes even made the tacit admission that control of oil production is in itself valuable and even made the tacit admission that control of oil production is in itself valuable and even necessary. Thus it is evident that the long- a waited test case has not yet arisen.

The fact that the decision has little legal significance does not, of course, lessen its popular influence appreciably. Apparently the administration has been defeated in the courts; therefore the existing confusion surrounding the exact definition of its powers is increased. For this reason a final verdict has been rendered more than ever necessary.

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