by Kody Dickerson
This is the fundamental concept of the role of the federal government:
“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.”
That’s the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. If observed and respected to the same extent that the First Amendment is, for example, it alone would go most of the way to guaranteeing our basic freedoms, including those enumerated in all of the other Amendments.
The Tenth Amendment effectively cast the Constitution as a “Default Deny” policy against a large and oppressive government. Default Deny is a term used in computer networking to describe a set of firewall rules that deny all network communication from anywhere and to anywhere unless it’s specifically allowed by an administrator.
Similarly, the Tenth Amendment clearly disallows the government from exercising or granting itself powers not specifically granted to it by the Constitution itself. Those powers instead lie with the state governments and individuals.
The founders believed in distributed government. They expressed the idea that wherever possible, problems and disputes should be addressed locally. If a family had a dispute, the family should resolve it. If a town had a local issue that needed to be addressed, it should be addressed locally, and so on from the county to the state and finally to the federal level.
Those most familiar with the ideals, values, morals and habits of the locality and people who are affected by the problem should be the ones to fix it. A bureaucrat in Washington, DC is ill-equipped to rule effectively on issues affecting Forks, WA. A problem should only be elevated to the next level if a conflict arises between two or more families, towns or states. This is bottom-up government.
This is a form of government that empowers individuals as much as any form of government ever has. This is the most effective way to manage a geographically and demographically diverse country while maintaining universal freedom and property rights.
Since it was written, all of the branches of government have worked to find ways around Constitutional limitations, to justify its violation, and to extend the power and influence of government in our lives. It’s often done with the blessing of the people.
The problem is that even if an idea is popular, it’s completely illegal if the Constitution disallows it. There are specific methods described in the Constitution itself which would allow for changing it, but these are constantly ignored out of political expediency, ignorance and pure malice.
Those who most favor a “living” interpretation of the Constitution, one in which the Constitution should be ignored or bent or broken are the ones who’ve driven the country to its current state of lawlessness and unsustainability. These people are a class of elites that believe they can truly govern best from the top down, dictating to states, towns and families how best to live their lives. This class of elites were originally known as the Progressives.
Most of the damage done against the 10th amendment was done, unsurprisingly, by New Deal progressives under FDR. At that time, the Roosevelt administration was attempting to centrally manage resources and control prices of commodities.
In one case, the Supreme Court ruled that, “although activities may be intrastate in character when separately considered, if they have such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens and obstructions, Congress cannot be denied the power to exercise that control.”
Basically, they’re saying that even if you, say, operate a mining business in a single state, the stuff you mine may have a substantial impact on commerce in other states, and therefore the Congress can regulate your ass. That might seem like a stretch, since after all, once you sell what you’ve mined, it’s not really any of your concern anymore.
And yet, because of this interpretation, the federal government became dictator to the individual.
But it gets better.
In an attempt to control wheat prices, the New Dealers sought to restrict the amount of land that farmers could devote to wheat production in order to stabilize the price of wheat.
In one case, a farmer named Roscoe Filburn was allotted 11 acres of his own land to use for wheat production. Filburn instead planted about 22 acres, intending to sell the output from the allowed 11 acres, and use the extra he produced on the other acreage for himself. And so it went to court.
In the Supreme Court case, Wickard v. Filburn, the justices ruled that had Filburn not used his own home-produced wheat for himself, he would have had to purchase it on the open market, and therefore he was affecting interstate commerce. Yes, that’s right. Growing your own food is an interstate commerce issue. Thank you, progressivism!
So if something as simple as growing your own wheat on your own farm (or by extension, growing your own tomatoes in your back yard) can be regulated by the federal government under the commerce clause, then the commerce clause can pretty much be used to regulate anything.
The 10th amendment is virtually dead. The federal government controls all. If one amendment can be interpreted beyond it’s intentions in such a way that it becomes meaninglessness, then really any amendment is meaningless. The end result is that the federal government can dictate what an individual can and cannot do with his own personal property.
Whether that power is ultimately used for good or for bad doesn’t matter. It is tyranny.
Progressive statism is a slow, incremental disease. But little moves can have massive consequences. Even letting defenses down temporarily for €œemergency€ purposes invites permanent, unwelcome change. If you believe in conservatism, then always trust conservatism.
When in doubt, always stay true to what the founders tried to leave for us.
Kody Dickerson maintains a blog at Kodewords.com