The founders of this great country did what they did because of personal experiences. To say they were brilliant is an understatement of enormous proportions. Many people are quick to dismiss the intelligence of previous generations and see themselves as more evolved. Know that 40 years ago car manuals told people how to adjust their car’s timing and points. Today the manuals tell you not to drink the car’s fluids. The point of this is that these men were visionaries based on their experiences with government.
A place where they really showed their brilliance was in the penning of the 10th amendment. A boiled down summary of the 10th amendment is that is sets out the limits of the powers of the federal government. It states that any powers that the Constitution does not give to the federal government are the responsibility of the states themselves. In short, it was designed to make sure we never ended up with a tyrannical federal government. The U.S. is the United States of America. The founders sought to allow states to maintain their general autonomy while still being part of the greater whole. If we step back and look at what we are experiencing right now, you cannot help but wonder what happened to the 10th?
The details of the amendment state that the expressed powers of the federal government are limited to declaring war, printing money, issuing regulations to control foreign trade, the trade carried on between the states, run a postal service and control the granting of patents. There are some listed shared or concurrent powers that include raising taxes, borrowing money, regulating elections, and establishing courts. Finally, there are reserved powers. These are powers explicitly assigned to the states. They include calling and holding elections, organizing police provision, and issuing licenses for a range of things such as hunting, marriage, and driving. The states also have a responsibility to ratify amendments proposed to the US Constitution.
James Madison, the architect of the first 10 amendments, knew that the states needed guarantees on the limitation of a federal government. He knew from experience that a federalized government left unchecked could ultimately become a tyrannical entity that would limit the original idea behind the United States. Justice Steven Markman voiced this idea very clearly, “The 10th Amendment makes clear, the starting point for any constitutional analysis is that the national, i.e., the federal, government can do nothing under the Constitution unless it is affirmatively authorized by some provision of the Constitution. The states, on the other hand, can do anything under the Constitution unless they are prohibited by some provision of the Constitution.”
So how the heck did we get where we are today? While politicians will spin the facts, the truth is that the federal government has become just what the founders railed against. As with any deceptive plot, there is a slight of hand involved. In this case it falls into two categories. First is money plain and simple. The federal government has grants, funding, and every other monetary incentive to push states to do what they want.
If a state goes against the grain, well there may be a problem with their highway funds. Try to push school choice? Looks like there could be a problem with federal education funds. You can see how this works. States have blindly fallen prey to an addiction to federal funds. Most recently are the funds provided for the COVID response. I believe if there was ever a true forensic audit of where all that money went, we would be tarring and feathering politicians.
The second end run on the 10th amendment was the slow but intentional development of countless federal bureaucracies. These little fiefdoms slowly slid their tendrils into state business by the use of “regulations.” A vast majority of these agencies serve no real purpose other than to federalize state-based issues. Number one on that list is the Department of Education. Officially the U.S. Department of Education is the agency of the federal government that establishes policy for, administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education. It assists the president in executing his education policies for the nation and in implementing laws enacted by Congress. Did you notice the key phrase in that statement? “Coordinates most federal assistance to education.” As the phrase goes, follow the money.
It is not my intent to simply rail against the federal government. By design, it is a virtuous and important part of the U.S. government structure. We are now seeing though that the worst characteristics of government are growing. Life-long federal politicians and bureaucrats with an unmistakable disdain for states’ rights and a thirst for power are now the norm. People that came into office and then grew into millionaires. The 10th amendment is especially important now as the Supreme Court takes on several high stake’s cases involving states and individual rights.
The fact that we have gotten to this point is purely because we were asleep. We trusted our political representatives to not only stay true to the word of the 10th amendment, but the spirit of it as well. With all this political and regulation overreach though there seems to have been an awakening. People are fed up with the “business as usual” process. One thing I would suggest is to get actively involved in selecting your elected officials. Be involved in everything from dog catcher to president. I would also encourage you to educate yourself more on the constitution and the principles this county was founded on. While your first stop should be the Constitution, I would highly recommend the Federalist papers as well. There is a reason that these items are not central in public education. A population ignorant of their rights is easy to control.