When considering the 10th Amendment, it’s essential to understand its purpose. In reading it, one sees quite clearly that its effect is to limit the powers of the federal government to those specifically listed in the Constitution – and give the rest to “the States, respectively, or to the People.”
But why is this a good thing?
A recent post at The Federal Recluse blog gives us some good insight:
It has to do with Locke’s second principle of good government. A good government is a limited government. Thousands of years of history had shown Locke that unlimited government always violates the rights of its subjects. The Tenth Amendment states,
“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.”
A great deal more will be said about this in a subsequent blog. But in short, it refers to the delegated, enumerated or expressed powers of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution, which lists those specific powers in which the United States government may engage. The Tenth Amendment, in effect, builds a wall around the delegated powers which shall not be breached. In a way, it says to us, “Hey dummies! Just in case you didn’t get it, we want the United States government to do seventeen things and seventeen things only! All other powers belong to the states or to the people themselves!” Article One, Section Eight, along with the Bill of Rights and its Tenth Amendment as well as Jefferson’s criticisms of unlimited government in the Declaration of Independence, are the means by which the Founders of this country attempted to insure that we would always have a limited government, as John Locke advocated.
A government without limits is an arbitrary one, and an arbitrary government is nothing less than a despotic ones.
Without limits on power, government will always abuse rights. Power is always liable to abuse. Thus, the reason for the 10th Amendment.
And if enough people want those 17 powers to be different – like 14 or 21 (or any other number), following the 10th Amendment would dictate that this can be changed, through the Amendment process written in the Constitution.
If this process were to be followed, the tendency for tyranny would be greatly reduced.