Mt. McKinley, Mt. Denali — What Difference Does It Make?

McKinley, Denali . . . whatever.

The Mt. McKinley, Mt. Denali — what difference does it make? Unless you live in Alaska or McKinley’s (president 1897–1901) home state of Ohio and are a politician, you probably don’t care. I mean, how many mountains in the US do you know the names of? And, no, I’m not talking about ski area names. So, why should it be of more than passing interest that Obama changed the name? The reason is because he doesn’t have the power to change the name, that is, what he did was outside the law.

Those of you who know me may wonder why I would be in favor of Obama issuing an executive order to legalize not only marijuana but also to legalize all recreational drugs, but am deeply opposed to him renaming a mountain that most people, including myself, don’t care about. The reason is that the statutes outlawing recreational drugs are unconstitutional. Just as with the prohibition of alcohol, to make recreational drugs illegal requires an amendment to the constitution. That, and the fact that it’s nobody’s business what a person puts in their body. It’s a victimless “crime,” and, in a free country, everyone should be free to choose their own poison.

Some may argue that drugs are bad for you, and that may or may not be true, depending on the drug and how it is used. But is the way to save someone from themselves to give them a criminal record and throw them in jail? And should the government be in the business of saving people’s souls in the first place? If you believe so, then you must be a stern disciplinarian, but I’ll bet you reserve such sternness for others and wouldn’t dream of applying it to yourself. The outlawing of drugs was done outside the law as is the case with the president going about willy-nilly, renaming mountains as he sees fit.

From the Tenth Amendment Center:

Does the President Have the Constitutional Power to Rename a Mountain?

It’s reported that President Obama will change the name of Alaska’s highest peak from Mount McKinley to Denali.  But wait, does the President have constitutional power to rename mountains?

Almost certainly not.  (And, even worse for him, the name McKinley appears to be incorporated into a statute.  And, even worse than that, apparently there have been legislative efforts to change the name, sponsored by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, that have failed).  So the President’s authority must come from Congress.  And indeed there is something called the U.S. Board on Geographic Names that (according to its website) was “established in its present form by Public Law in 1947 to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government.”  So I assume the Board has delegated authority to decide on the name, and the President has directed the Board to make this decision.

But wait, does Congress have constitutional power to rename a mountain?  In the general case, I’d say no.  Obviously it’s not an expressly enumerated power, and I don’t see how mountain names are sufficiently related to any enumerated power (even interstate commerce) to make their renaming “necessary and proper” to carry such power into execution.  That being the case, shouldn’t place name be reserved powers of the states?

In this case, though, the mountain is on federal land.  Perhaps, then, Congress’ power comes from Article IV, Section 3’s power to “make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the territory and other Property belonging to the United States.”   In the alternative, the Board on Geographic Names might argue . . .”

Read the whole article.

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