Give Liberty a Chance!

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Enumerated vs. Reserved Powers

Federalism isn’t something that we here much about these days. That’s too bad, because it is federalism that allows us to govern ourselves at the state level while retaining the protections of a federal government. It ensures that “We the People” have the greatest latitude in determining our own destinies by retaining our state sovereignty while constitutionally sharing power with our federal government in Washington, DC.

The relationship between state governments and the federal government has been evolving since the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately, this evolution has resulted in less Liberty and more centralized government.

The Constitution sets out in Article I, Section 8 a list of enumerated powers that include such powers as the right to levy taxes, declare war, regulate interstate and foreign commerce, coin money which they are doing a lot of these days, and borrow money on the credit of the United States which they are also doing a lot of these days to name a few.

Those powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the people or the states. It is here that states like ours have the ability to govern ourselves in such a fashion that suits our specifics needs. It is also here where conflict occurs.

The Necessary and Proper Clause in Article I, Section 8 gives the federal government an implied power to pass any law “necessary and proper” for the execution of the enumerated powers. While on the surface this appears to restrict Congress from meddling in the affairs of the states, it has been used to usurp the authority of the states time and time again.

Recent usurpations have included everything from the No Child Left Behind Act to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. They manifest themselves as unfunded mandates from the federal government to the state and local governments, especially in welfare, education, and environmental programs.

Other violations occur when state and local governments look to the largesse of the federal coffers to subsidize local initiatives and programs. These federal dollars always come with strings attached which entangle state and federal officials in a Gordian knot of unfunded mandates and unjustifiable subsidies leaving taxpayers with more debt and less Liberty – in other words, beware of the federal dependency package being fast tracked through Congress.

The Missouri House is considering a resolution to be sent to the President and Congress reminding them that Missouri has read the Constitution and affirms our 10th Amendment rights. We wish to serve as Notice and Demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of the constitutionally delegated powers and that all compulsory federal legislation which directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.

In other words, unshackle us.

In a similar move the Missouri House passed a resolution which strongly opposes any enactment of the federal Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). FOCA undermines the right and responsibility of the states and the people to debate, vote on, and determine abortion policy. The protection of women's health through state regulation on abortion is a state interest that should not be abolished by Congress. If this legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law it would overthrow numerous commonsense protective laws properly enacted by Missouri including the ban on partial birth abortions.

Our Founding Fathers understood that state governments possess inherent advantages in the governance of our home concerns whether they are education, health care, transportation, business regulation within our state’s borders, agriculture, corrections, and even the management of our fish and wildlife.

Traditionally, states have been considered laboratories of democracy. The states were able, even expected, to develop policies reflecting the widely varying local conditions of our great land. Today, the federal government is asserting, if not amassing, it’s authority over the full range American life, imposing a "one size fits all" policy. Now is the time to reassert the proper constitutional role of federalism so that future power grabs become more difficult and less likely.

The federal government must be reminded, in Alexander Hamilton’s words that, “Here, sir, the people govern.”

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