by Dr. Ron Gleason

There are few people today who pound the drum about the Tenth Amendment and still fewer who have any idea what is says. In fact, in general few Americans get exercised about our Constitution at all. Precious few have read it and politicians increasingly avoid it like the plague. With all the excitement that TV offers these days, who has the time or inclination to read the Constitution or The Federalist Papers. We are an uninformed nation and most of that is our fault.

Quite a while back the late Francis Schaeffer made the point that Americans need two things to keep them placated: personal peace and affluence. Schaeffer hit a home run (back, back, back, back, and gone!) with that observation. In our individualism we believe that as long as things are relatively peaceful we’re good to go, especially if we have the requisite affluence to carry us along.

Of course, lately Americans have learned that they are bearing the burdens of bad ideas. We haven’t built an oil refinery on U.S. soil in thirty years. The politically correct social engineers bullied us into keeping our mouths shut (after all, who wants to destroy the planet?) about drilling in ANWR, Utah/Colorado, and offshore on the East and Left coasts and we let them. Neither “we the people” nor our elected representatives had the requisite manhood to stand up to the iron fist in the velvet glove.

But now Americans are disturbed about the affluence part of the equation. Some on radio and TV broadcasts are preaching doom and gloom, which just shows that they don’t know the first thing about economics and capitalism. There are a number of sure fire ways to mess up a personal, state, and federal budget. All you have to do is raise taxes (which never produces higher revenues, and even if it did, the liberals would spend it on junk), blame the rich, promise universal health care, and promise that you’re from the government and you’ve arrived on the scene to help those who are incapable of helping themselves.

Just as an aside, did you ever turn off Oprah, Dr. Phil, The Gilmore Girls, and the WWF long enough to ask yourself how people survived before the government became the “womb to tomb” Santa Claus? All kinds of weird things happened like families pitching in to help those in need, churches coming to the aid of those in trouble, and charitable organizations also helping because none of these entities were taxed to the bicuspids. All told, the government (at all levels) is currently hitting up the American taxpayer for approximately 40% of his or her hard earned income every year. This is absurd, but we cave on this one too.

By the way, for those goody-goody emerging social gospel advocates (Gushee, McLaren, Wallis, and all their devotees) here’s a news flash for you: When you give government a place in the welfare process you need to inform the American public that 70% of what is allocated in the federal welfare budget goes to “administrative costs.” From an economic viewpoint that is highly effective, isn’t it? There is a 70% waste factor. Private enterprise could do it much better with substantially lower admin costs. The 70% is the poster child for government efficiency.

If you ask the garden variety man or woman on the street if we’re in a recession, they’ll answer “Yes, of course!” If that is your answer, put on the dunce cap. Our economy is not in a recession. What is the textbook description of a recession? It is two successive quarters of negative growth in the economy. We are not there; it has not happened. Might it happen? Sure, but if you understand anything about the free market and capitalism, then you’ll understand that a recession is an occurrence that brings us back to reality. We like the affluence thing and when the economy is good we like to think that it is great. The Bible warns us about greed and how it affects others as well as us (cf. Ezek. 16:27; Hab. 2:5; Matt. 23:25; Luke 11:39; 1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Pet. 2:3, 14). Ironically, greed and affluence can make us very sloppy, lulling us into the belief that our house of cards will never come crashing down. Can you say “sub-prime”? How many of the houses that are in foreclosure today were really out of the financial reach of the consumer, who threw caution and prudence to the wind?

Now what do those people want? They want government to bail them out. In other words, they want to act foolishly and irresponsibly and then to ask the American taxpayer to rescue them from their frivolity. This is analogous to people out here in Southern California who buy million dollar houses in either Laguna Beach or Malibu in very high risk areas where fires and mud slides are a common occurrence and when the inevitable happens they want us to fork over our money because their dream house was destroyed. Wherever we turn, we claim to be free, but want government to come to our aid. It’s just now coming to light how many billions of dollars have been wasted or is unaccounted for in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

This was not what the Founding Fathers envisioned folks. James Madison, the fourth president of the United States wrote this in The Federalist (no. 45): “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace negotiation, and foreign commerce…. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state.” (Emphasis added.)

Does this sound like the America you live in or does it rather sound like the exact opposite of what this country is like now? In 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall (Marbury v. Madison) wrote, “The powers of the (national) legislature are defined, and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the constitution is written.” The Founders were wary of centralized government and as I mentioned last time, included numerous verbal negatives about the government and its power. The Federalist No. 33 explains that a congressional act beyond its enumerated powers is “merely an act of usurpation” that “deserves to be treated as such.” That should get the government’s attention, but the Constitution has been so long forgotten and almost never read that our elected officials need not fear of Americans bringing this to their attention.

But why shouldn’t we? As Walter Williams recently wrote, ‘Both parties and all branches of the federal government have made a mockery of the checks and balances, separation of powers and the republican form of government envisioned by the founders.”[1] Indeed, but we have sat by and done nothing. Personal peace and affluence trumps almost everything. Oklahoma State Representative Charles Key (Rep.) has introduced House Joint Resolution 1089 into Oklahoma’s state assembly. It fell like a bomb in the playground of elected officials. The good news is that Key’s resolution passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives 92-3. This is encouraging news, even though the Oklahoma Senate sat on it until adjournment. Keys was neither dissuaded nor discouraged and plans to reintroduce the bill when our politicians manage to roll back to their jobs in their black limousines.

The crux of Key’s bill is the resolution “by the Houses of Representatives and the Senate of the 2nd session of the 51st Oklahoma Legislature: that the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States. That this 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 these constitutionally delegated powers.”[2]

Have you heard about this on the news? Has either candidate made mention of how this is such a good resolution because it points us in the right direction regarding getting the government out of our lives? No and no. Other than Ron Paul, Grover Norquist,[3] and Walter Williams, few seem concerned at all. Even Newt Gingrich, who called Norquist’s book a brilliant introduction to the coming revolution in American government, makes scant mention of the Constitution in a book that purports to bring about Real Change in America.[4]

How Low Can You Go?

I hear that President Bush’s approval ratings are in the toilet; under 30% of Americans think he’s doing and excellent job. There is certainly justification for those ratings. His spending policies are comparable—if not worse—to those of the Democrats. He made a debacle of No Child Left Behind, costing the taxpayers inordinate amounts of money and his overtures to the likes of Ted Kennedy ended in disaster. When it comes to securing our border to Mexico, the President seems totally clueless and unwilling to listen to the will of the American people. It was only when it was painfully and evidently plain that immigration reform was going to cause a revolution, he backed off pushing through ridiculous legislation. For once in a long while, the President and Congress actually listened to “We the people…” The American people got angry, said enough was enough, and were mobilized to get something accomplished. That is a rare commodity these days.

I mention the anger and Bush’s approval ratings to make another point, however. The latest Rasmussen Report states that just 9% of Americans say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. 9%! If Bush’s ratings are bad—and they are—what should be said about Congress? Ever since the Rasmussen boys have been doing their reports and polls, this is the first single-digit approval rating on record. How can Pelosi, Reid, and the rest of that crowd that promised us so much throw stones at Bush’s house when they’re 21 percentage points below him? Scott Rasmussen and his merry band go on to say that just 12% of voters think Congress has passed any legislation to improve life in this country over the past six months. The highest percentile for Congress in this category for all of 2008—up to and including now—is 13%.

So what are they doing with our tax dollars? Can you name one thing that Pelosi and the Democrat majority Congress has done? Are you pleased with the gasoline prices? Have you taken the time to write or call your Senators and Representatives to tell them you want them to stop the ban on offshore drilling and in ANWR? If you’re dissatisfied, why do we keep electing the same people every time? Are you aware that the Constitution says that every state only really needs one representative, two Senators, and representation in the Electoral College. In fact, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North and South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming has precisely that arrangement.

Here’s the point: It is “We the People” that are granted rights and we delegate power to the government. The government, however, acts as if the truth is precisely the other way around. Our Founding Fathers would be appalled at what’s going on with our government today and they would be disappointed at men and women like you and me for being so apathetic that we did and said nothing. Take some time today and read the Tenth Amendment and do a gut check on whether you are an active, participating citizen in the process or whether you’re satisfied with personal peace and affluence. If it is the latter, don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue and make things right. If you don’t care about your individual rights, why should someone else care about them for you?

[1] Walter Williams, “Oklahoma Rebellion) (, Wed., July 16, 2008), p. 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See his book: Leave Us Alone, Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives, (NY: William Morrow, 2008).

[4] Newt Gingrich, Real Change, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2008).

The 10th Amendment

“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.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


maharrey minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.