Federal Authority vs. States’ Rights



The Tenth Amendment lays out the division of authority between federal and state governments:

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

The Federal government consuming more and more of the governing authority of the states and municipalities, and this is evidenced by what Mark Levin in Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto  calls a “fourth branch of government” which is an enormous administrative state.

It is a amorphous bureaucracy that consists of a workforce of nearly 2 million civilian employees.  It administers a budget of over $3 trillion a year.  It churns out a mind-numbing number of rules that regulate energy, the environment, business, labor, employment, transportation, housing, agriculture, food, drugs, education, etc.  Even the slightest human activity apparently requires its intervention: clothing labels on women’s dresses, cosmetics ingredients, and labeling.  It even reaches into the bathroom, mandating shower head flow rates and allowable gallons per flush for toilets.  It sets flammability standards for beds.  There are nearly one thousand federal departments, agencies, and divisions that make laws and enforce them, (pg. 54-55).

Levin makes a great case why we should be in favor of limited federal authority (what the constitution mandates) and the preservation of states’ rights:

States are more likely to better reflect the interests of their citizens than the federal government.  Localities are even more likely to better reflect these interests because the decision makers come from the communities they govern – they are directly affected by their own decisions.  Moreover, the interaction between the people and their representatives at the state and local levels is easier and more direct.  When the federal government acts beyond its constitutional limits, it assaults the purest form of representative government by supplanting representative decision making at the state and local levels.  The federal government cannot possibly comprehend the diversity of interests that are affected by its decision making.  It cannot adequately weigh the costs and benefits of its decisions on communities.  Besides, that is not its purpose.  It seeks to dictate rather than represent, (pg. 50-51).

He notes states and local governments can experiment, and can serve as examples for adoption, modification or rejection of said experiment by other state and municipal governments.  If a person (or company) doesn’t like what is being done, they can move.  You don’t like the corporate tax structure in your state?  You can relocate, as some companies are moving from California to Nevada.  You can either work to change the situation or move to “where the economic, cultural, or social conditions” are more to your liking.  No one can escape the reach of the federal government, (pg. 52). 

Another benefit is diversity and the how federalism diffuses conflict and promotes harmony, “Individuals with widely divergent beliefs are able to coexist in the same country because of the diversity and tolerance federalism promotes,” (pg. 53).  The expansion of the federal government destroys that.

In many respects, the once-powerful states, thirteen of which ratified the Constitution in the first place, have themselves become administrative appendages of the federal government.  It is not enough that the federal government exercises authority reserved to the states, but it also blackmails the states to implement its policies by threatening to deny them “their fair share” of federal tax should they object.  In fact, so complete is the federal government’s authority over the states that it heavily regulates and even monitors them to ensure compliance with federal dictates.  Does anyone believe that the states would have originally ratified the Constitution had they known this would be their fate? (pg. 54)

I’d say no.  Many states, Levin states, have come to accept their now diminished role.  Unfortunately there is a cronyism that exists now with this system.  Levin notes, “states lobby the federal government for advantage or relief… States convince the federal government to fund projects within their own borders by taxing the citizens of other states,” (pg. 56).  Can anyone say California?

What the states ratified, according to James Madison in “Federalist 39” was a federal, not a national constitution.  Unfortunately today, Levin notes, it is more national than federal, (pg. 60).

Now we have a raging deficit, out-of-control spending, over-regulation, diminished representative government, and ultimately a loss of liberty.

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