by Robert Romano, Americans for Limited Government

Often, talk of the nation’s founding principles is discarded as an irrelevancy in public discourse. But in truth they are more salient than ever as power in Washington grows to untold heights. And those who still value liberty must take note of this unprecedented rise and take action if this nation is to ever take steps back toward constitutionally limited government.

In an effort to cast off the shackles of never-ending federal mandates from Washington, Michigan State Representative Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt) has offered “House Concurrent Resolution No. 4” to “affirm Michigan’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and to urge the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States.”

It is an example to be emulated by states across the Union, and one on which a new emphasis by states upon their sovereignty ought to be built. The first step, of course, proceeds from the statement of a single principle: The states are sovereign entities.

They derive said sovereignty from the consent of the governed. That’s the only source of political and legal legitimacy through which any claim to sovereignty may be justified as being representative of the wills of those governed, and by which it may be carried forth in accordance with the natural rights of the people.

Only if those governed accept the political arrangement may the government legitimately exercise its powers. And in the immediate case of the United States, those powers are explicitly enumerated in the Federal Constitution. Very specifically, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This inherent limit upon the authority allows the federal government only to exercise those powers contained in the Constitution. But it also provides that the states may be limited in their powers by the Constitution. Thus is America’s unique federal system.

However, constitutionally limited government is in grave jeopardy today. The House Concurrent Resolution in Michigan states that “Today, in 2009, the states are demonstrably treated as agents of the federal government, and… [m]any federal mandates from previous administrations and some now pending from the present administration and from Congress may further violate the Constitution of the United States…”

These include, but are hardly limited to, federal education standards, fuel standards, health care standards, and environmental standards, as well as Supreme Court rulings vacating states’ rightful powers including the power to enact term limits as in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, etc. Regardless of the motivation for each mandate, the impact is always the same: the states and the people lose their respective powers and liberty to govern their own affairs, and the federal Leviathan increases in its own unenumerated powers.

Eventually, the government will—if liberty and limited government is not defended—turn on the people it is sworn to protect and defend. This is the greatest danger, and history suggests is the inevitable outcome of the progressive growth of the powers of central authority. Already, provisions of the Constitution—the only true limits on the powers of the government—are largely ignored or reinterpreted to suit the interests of the federal government.

The danger is that this central authority will give rise to tyranny. And it is incumbent upon the states and the people to use the constitutional system to defend against this. Michigan and her people, should it enact House Concurrent Resolution No. 4, are acting well within their rights to remind the federal government that Michigan is indeed a sovereign entity that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.

It’s a small step, but through many small steps, the states and the people will take back their respective powers and rights, and the government once again will be limited by its own Constitution.

Robert Romano is the Editor of ALG News Bureau.

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.