The 10th Amendment and the Joy of Federalism

(or I don’t care how they do things in Massachusetts). 

Note: This piece serves as a continuation and elaboration of Down with the Nanny State!

Ask someone what is the most important amendment to the constitution.  If he were a liberal, he would likely answer “the right to free speech”, the 1st.   If he were a conservative, he would likely answer “the right to keep and bear arms”, the 2nd.  Although all amendments are important (or at least those found in the Bill of Rights), I have another suggestion.  For those who fear the encroachment of an ever-expanding national government, might I recommend the 10th?  Now I know that no one really talks about the tenth anymore, but here it is:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the State, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Any questions?  I shouldn’t really think so.  It is simple and straightforward. 

But the problem lies in the fact that few these days tend to uphold the amendment.  For example, as written in one of my articles below, consider the Department of Education created in 1979.  Now don’t get me wrong, education is important, but the federal government has absolutely no authority when it comes to education as stated by the United States Constitution.  Now if I’m in error, let me know.  Prove it to me.  If it can be done clearly and without a lot of “promote the general welfare” jargon then I will gladly retract this statement.  

 

How about the arts?  I’m sure you know that we have a National Endowment for the Arts.  Is it constitutional?  Promoting the arts is constitutional, but how so?  In Article One, Section 8, it is written as pertaining to the powers of Congress, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  That is the constitutional limits of the promotion of the arts.  According to the NEA website found at http://www.nea.gov/about/index.html, they write, “The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.”  Well, isn’t that nice…art to one and all?  Agree or disagree with the ideals NEA, which need I remind you has brought us such national treasures as the “Piss Christ” and “The Perfect Moment”, but the simple fact remains that the agency is horribly unconstitutional, plain and simple. 

 

Are there more departments, agencies, and laws out there that exceed the authority of the federal government out there?  I would wager that one could fill a textbook with examples.  If you care to add your own to this article, feel free to comment.

 

Ah, but let us now get to the second part, “The Joy of Federalism or I Don’t Care How They Do Things in Massachusetts.”  Federalism, of course, is the principle of states giving up some portion of their authority to a greater or larger government to achieve specific aims, such as a common defense, creating patents, declaring war, raising armies and so forth.  For all of the specific powers granted to the federal government by the states, I direct you to the Constitution. Although the federal government does not have any power to fund, promote, or mettle in education or the arts, states and, of course, citizens do.   Assuming that it is allowable under their state constitutions and laws, any state can and ought to be involved in these areas should the citizens of the respective states so desire.  Say that the commonwealth of Massachusetts (I select Massachusetts here because I believe many of their traditions, laws, and beliefs are antithetical to our Virginia) wants to offer free education to all of its citizens from grade school to post-graduate.  Believe it or not, I say, let them.  Will the tax burden of the average citizen skyrocket dramatically?  Without a doubt.  But that is the true joy of federalism.  What Massachusetts citizens want, as long as they obey the Constitution and their own laws, they should get.  Another example is mandatory health insurance.  In 2006 the state became the first to require health insurance of its citizens (passed by wacky Gov. “Massachusetts Mitt”).  Is it a horrid idea?  Certainly.  But they have that right to be the “laboratory of Democracy” a phrase used by Robert La Follette.  When other states see Massachusetts’ successes (or, in this case, failures) they will likely either adopt or reject their policies accordingly.  We apply the same principle to other countries, so why not other states.  Now there are caveats to this principle, of course.  If a state seeks to injure, undermine, or destroy, a citizen or another state, or the laws of that state, then certainly the federal government has a constitutional requirement to defend the injured party and ideally preventing the offense in the first place.

 

But let us turn back to liberal Massachusetts.  As stated, with a handful of exceptions, I don’t care how they do things in Massachusetts.  If they succeed, business and citizens will attempt to flock there, but if they fail the opposite will happen.  Heck, I’ll take that idea one further.  I don’t care how they do things in France, or Singapore, or Saudi Arabia.  As we respect the ability of others to govern themselves, so too should they honor our right.  Although many willingly choose to flounder under statism, we must jealously guard our own backyard.  If they, or anyone else, attempt to bring their socialist ideas to Virginia or our national government, we should fight them tooth and nail to defend our state, our country, our values, our culture, and our way of life.  If I wanted to live in a state like Massachusetts, I would move to Massachusetts.  Thanks, but you don’t have to bring it to me.

 

So what is the take home message from this tirade?  Slowly but surely the powers of the federal government have grown at the expense of the states and of ourselves, the citizens.  Whose fault is it?  Without a doubt, it is the unelected and “living Constitution” courts.  It is our weak-kneed or unscrupulous politicians who trade principles for patronage.  But, my friends, it is also ours, for we have remained either ignorant or silent.  I tell you that unless and until we have an informed public who demands that their legislators stand up for a limited and narrow federal government as the Constitution proscribes, the 10th Amendment will lay neglected and the ideal of federalism will wither until the states either become irrelevant or are dissolved.   Let us work to ensure that this dark day never comes.

4 Replies to “The 10th Amendment and the Joy of Federalism”

  1. Excellent post – it’s rare to find such a good understanding of the basics – and the need for – the 10th amendment and states rights.

    Decentralized government is the only way that we’ll find liberty once again. Keep up the great work!

    Would be honored, by the way, if you were to consider allowing us to re-publish this article over at http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com. Send me an email to let me know.

    In liberty….

  2. Do you know if anyone in Virginia has started a campaign to promote a sovereignty bill like has been done in 20 some other states? If you do, do you have any contact information on them? I belong to a group on SodaHead.com which is promoting the idea of the 10th Amendment though these sovereignty bills.

    Thank you for any assistance that you can give.

    Wanda

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t know if such a bill is in the works. Perhaps the American Patriots Committee knows. I was planning to write a letter to my representatives to such an effect, but haven’t finalized such an effort yet. I’d expect that the most receptive General Assembly members would be Senator Obenshain, Senator Cuccinelli, and Delegate Marshall. I did attempt to contact Rep. Charles Key (the legislator who sponsored the bill in Oklahoma) for tips on the process, but as about three months have passed without a reply, I’m guessing I’ll need to look elsewhere.

  3. Thats an interesting issue. Didn’t the oroiginal states give up their rights to soveriegnty, when they ratified the constitution, so that any future state, likewise gives up its right to self rule, sort of like giving up a birth right?

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