Here at the Tenth Amendment Center, one principle guides everything we do.

“The Constitution. Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses.”

Some people accuse us of being “too dogmatic” when it comes to the Constitution. Quite frankly, I don’t really understand this accusation.

When I play hockey, I absolutely insist if the puck doesn’t cross all of the way over the goal-line, it doesn’t count as a goal. Three-quarters of the way across the goal-line doesn’t count. Nine-tenths of the way across the goal line doesn’t count. The rule clearly states, “A goal shall be scored when the puck has completely crossed the goal line between the posts and under the cross bar.”

I’m a goalie. I don’t like goals. At least not on my end of the ice. I tend to be a stickler for this particular rule.

Does that make me “too dogmatic?”

Of course not.

The rules makes up part of the very fabric of the game. They are vital to any game. In a sense, the are the game. You can’t play unless everybody sticks to the rules consistently.

The Constitution serves as the rule book for the U.S. federal government. If it doesn’t authorize something, the feds shouldn’t do it.


Sadly, the vast majority of Americans don’t understand this basic concept, or they just don’t care. It seems like for most people, the guiding constitutional principle goes more like this:

“Follow the Constitution, on some issues, some of the time, with generous exceptions for the things I want done.”

I had a Facebook exchange the other day with ‘limited government guy.’ He considers himself a “constitutionalist.” But ‘limited government guy’ wants the federal government to provide airport security.

“I agree that government should be very limited. But do we really want people without proper ID to be allowed to fly on commercial airlines? I don’t. I’m OK with government enforcing that law. I don’t want government telling me what kind of light bulbs I have to use in my house or how many ounces of soda I can drink.”

This short statement sums up many people’s views on “constitutionalism” and “limited government” in a nutshell. It goes like this. If the government tries to do something ‘limited government guy’ disapproves of – regulating light bulbs or soda consumption – he will scream “limited government” and point at the Constitution. But when the federal government does something ‘limited government guy’ deems necessary, he makes excuses for it, and supports it, whether authorized by the Constitution or not.

The federal government lacks the constitutional authority to do any of these things. But ‘limited government guy’ wants the feds to enforce airline security because he finds it “a good idea.” Here’s the thing: a lot of people think telling ‘limited government guy’ how many ounces of soda he can drink is a good idea. A lot of people think telling ‘limited government guy’ what kind of light bulb he can screw into his fixture is a good idea.

So, why exactly should the federal government implement the things ‘limited government guy’ likes (airport security) and not those others things he dislikes? He really doesn’t have any basis to object, other than his conception of “good ideas.” He’s already tacitly admitted the federal government can do pretty much anything. Now it only comes down to whether it should.

When we allow the federal government to exercise one undelegated, unconstitutional action, we admit the power for it to exercise the next one.

And the next one.

And the next one.

Ultimately, we strip away every constitutional restriction on federal power. It evolves into a limitless source of power, checked only by the fickle will of the majority – or the loudest minority.That leaves us with no recourse but to engage in endless, feckless arguments about which “a good ideas” the feds should implement and which ones they shouldn’t.

And ultimately, it will probably implement all of them – – because it can.

Harry Browne made this very point.

“Any time you give power to government, it will be abused, it will be enlarged, and it will be used in ways you never intended.”

On a side-note, I worked in the airline industry for eight years, ironically starting two weeks before 9-11. I can assure you that the TSA in particular, and the federal airport security system in general, does pretty much zero to make you safer.

Of course, this is all pretty much moot in 2015 because Americans don’t really give a crap about what the Constitution says or means any more – unless it relates to abortion, porn, gay marriage or keeping somebody from slapping the 10 Commandments up in a public space.

By the way, I bet ‘limited government guy’ thinks it’s a great idea for the feds to meddle in some of those things too.

Mike Maharrey

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.”



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