State’s rights isn’t a dirty word! In fact, State’s rights is the key to restoring liberty in America. So said Brion McClanahan during a recent podcast episode.
This review of The Brion McClanahan Show is going to be a bit meta. I’m reviewing a podcast episode that is reviewing a book.
“He makes the case that states have been far less likely to abuse your liberty than the central government,” McClanahan says. “This particular book does a very nice job of explaining a variety of issues that would be better if we actually let the states handle these problems rather than the central government.”
The first part of the Freedman’s book reviews the history of federalism, which McClanahan believed he did a good job covering. For example, he explains that states have primacy over the central government, and the central government only possess a few enumerated powers, while states handled the rest.
McClanahan takes issue with Freedman on one account, challenging his belief that secession isn’t an extension of state’s rights which only operates in the federal system. McClanahan believes that a state is a creation of the people. Therefore, the political community wants independence or self-determination, this is the fullest power of the state.
He also disagrees with Freedman about the concept that the 14th Amendment ended segregation because Washington, D.C.’s schools were still segregated after the passage of the amendment.
However, McClanahan does believe Freedman handles the segregation argument well. Freedman argues in the book that segregation violated state law, and state courts like Virginia’s started striking them down.
McClanahan also disagrees with Freedman on the Confederate Constitution. Freedman asserts it is fundamentally the same as the U.S. Constitution except for slavery. McClanahan argues that the differences is much more substantial on issues like state/federal courts, tariffs, and eliminate federally funded improvements.
McClanahan challenges the belief that without the Incorporation Doctrine (the legal theory that the 14th Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the state government), the states will just run roughshod over our civil liberties. Freedman supports this claim in his book, as McClanahan points out.
Even with these disagreements, McClanahan really likes this book especially when you get to “the meat of the book.” McClanahan states:
“He (Freedman) outlines where the federal government has gone off the rails and begins to abuse its power. Some of this stuff is really good. It is well written, it’s punchy. It’s funny at times. It is written for a popular audience.”
McClanahan points out the Freedman spends a lot of time pointing out to the left how federalism is actually more important to them than it is to the right. He also quotes from Freedman a passage he found funny:
“Why does Congress create so many redundant laws? Because it is Congress! A body of political entrepreneurs forever on the lookout for cheap ways to take credit for tackling some tough problem or another.”
McClanahan believes a strength of this book is pointing out that most federal laws are already illegal on the state level and thus not necessary. Also, Freedman states that according to the Constitution, Congress can only punish four federal crimes: treason, counterfeiting, piracy and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the laws of nations. Jefferson pointed this out in his Kentucky Resolutions these four sets of crimes and no other whatsoever.
McClanahan believes one of the strongest parts of the book is Freedman’s take on the nationalization of our state militias. This was never a goal of the founding generation. The problem started with the creation of the National Guard. Freedman believes that states should nullify federal orders to deploy the Guard overseas. There are only a few areas where militias were allowed to be used by the feds: defend against invasion, suppress insurrections, or execute federal law. Madison argued that these are the only cases where Congress can interfere with militias. Freedman referred to both President Bush and President Obama as “domestic depots” for their use of the national guard for foreign adventurism.
McClanahan approves of Freedman’s conclusion:
“??State’s Rights is not a matter of ideology. It’s not about whether a government should be big or small, interventionist or laissez-faire, conservative or liberal, peaceful or bellicose, It’s about who decides these issues: a state or local communities or a tiny cadre of Washington elites and their special interest patrons. On that question, the left and right agree. Conservatives say they believe in Tenth Amendment rights and competitive federalism. Liberals say they want diversity and small-scale democracy. When both sides come together and support state’s rights, we will be on the way restoring the perfectly imperfect union that our founding fathers bequeath us.”
There’s one more thing McClanahan stays about the book that has to be quoted:
“Any book that quotes Kirkpatrick Sale and the Tenth Amendment Center or at least mentions the Tenth Amendment Center. This is a mainstream book. A Harper Collins book. This book was not something came out with a small independent press…. Any mainstream book that quotes Kurt Sale and supports the Tenth Amendment Center is alright by me.”
Awww, shucks. Thanks, Brion!
Dr. Brion McClanahan is the author of several books, including The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes and now his most recent book, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her. He’s also a faculty member of Tom Wood’s Liberty Classroom and a Tenth Amendment Center contributor.