Over the past few months I have been thinking about freedom, liberty and how we, as citizens can restore limited, Constitutional government. We have allowed our formerly federal government to transform itself into a national government.
A national government is a government of the people of a single state or nation, united as a community by what is termed the “social compact,’ and possessing complete and perfect supremacy over persons and things, so far as they can be made the lawful objects of civil government. A federal government is distinguished from a national government by its being the government of a community of independent and sovereign states, united by compact. (Source)
The national government involves itself in every aspect of our lives. Even in areas where it was obvious, such as education, that the Founders had no intention of a federal government role, our national government butts in.
Barry Goldwater, in Conscience of a Conservative, wrote:
The Constitution, I repeat, draws a sharp and clear line between federal jurisdiction and state jurisdiction. The federal government’s failure to recognize that line has been a crushing blow to the principle of limited government.
Over the years, Progressive reforms have altered the nature of our government. For instance, the 17th Amendment, allowing for the direct election of Senators, was presented as both a more democratic means to choose Senators, and touted as a way to limit corruption. In fact, the 17th Amendment created a disconnect between the interests of the individual states, as reflected in their state legislatures, and the then federal government. Instead of state legislatures selecting Senators to represent the interests of their state in Washington, D.C., we now directly elect those Senators. This shifts the balance of power away from small rural communities and toward large urban areas. Furthermore, the direct election of Senators has made them less accountable to the people of their states, and more corrupt. Now, special interests need only attempt to buy off one Senator, rather than the somewhat more difficult process of buying a whole (or some part of a) state legislature.
I find it difficult to imagine that Senators would support grants-in-aid, unfunded mandates, and other means to strong arm the states if their political futures were tied directly to their state legislatures. Remember, the House of Representatives was created to represent the will of the people. The Senate was supposed to reflect the will of the states. Our federal government was a careful balancing act between the people, the states, and the federal government. Progressive tinkering unleashed unintended consequences – none of them good in regards to the Senate.
Another Progressive reform was the 16th Amendment – the amendment which created federal income taxes. This power to tax individual incomes was touted, in part, as a more fair and equitable way to raise revenue for the federal government. Few people, it was said, would ever pay the income tax. It was said that the income tax itself was progressive – the more you earned, the more you would pay. The income tax allowed the federal government to begin to accumulate power for itself by taking money from one group of people and giving it to another. It enabled a system of legalized bribery – both the government bribing citizens with all kinds of programs financed by other peoples’ money, and special interest bribery of politicians through political donations in order to receive money from the public trough.
The 16th Amendment and 17th Amendment – taken together – marked the beginning of the end of the federal government.
A number of factors, including the economic crisis, government bailouts, economic stimulus, political corruption, and an administration with views far outside the accepted norms, have created a groundswell of dissatisfaction in the United States. This dissatisfaction, has been part of why the Tea Party movement has gained strength. However, I think there is an even more important factor that has led to so much political dissent. People have woken up to the fact that the balance of power between the people, states and national government has shifted to a national government which looks on the states and people with disdain. Their disdain is palpable. It seems that neither party respects the will of the people. Neither party is offering to restore federalism. Yes, some politicians have mouthed the words, but none has really addressed the problem.
Much of the Tea Party movement has focused on Washington, D.C. That is understandable. Washington, D.C. is a cesspool of corruption. What the politicians in D.C. have done to our country with their corruption, wasteful spending, etc. is an abomination. Having said that, I don’t believe that a strategy that focuses exclusively on Washington, D.C. can hope to restore federalism. Equally, I am not convinced that individual effort, or group effort, will be sufficient to break the grip that national government has on the country. So, what can we do? In my opinion, if we ever hope to break the back of national government, we must Take the State back for the people. We must elect officials to state and local government that pledge to support the Tenth Amendment.
Ever wise, Barry Goldwater in Conscience of a Conservative, wrote:
Nothing could so far advance the cause of freedom as for state officials throughout the land to assert their rightful claims to lost state power; and for the federal government to withdraw promptly and totally from every jurisdiction which the Constitution reserved to the states.
Of course, no one should naively expect that the national government will abandon its power willingly. That’s where the states come in. The states are the chief bulwark of freedom and limited government. Individual citizens, in concert with their state and local governments, can stand up and tell the national government, “Enough!” But, to do that, we must demand that state officials, local officials and candidates for office sign the state pledge. It is no longer enough for elected officials and candidates for office to say they will stand up for our rights. We must have their word, and then hold them accountable. States and local communities can take action to oppose the national government. States can refuse to accept grants-in-aid that intrude upon the rights of the state or individuals. If necessary, states can go to court to fight unconstitutional laws. If nothing else, states can resist by dragging their heels, delaying, and publicly voicing their opposition.
2. The federal government has exceeded its legitimate Constitutional authority and has transformed from a limited to an unlimited government.
3. The states and people must do everything within the limits of the law and our Constitution to restrain the power of the federal government.
4. We must elect leaders for state offices who pledge to support the legitimate rights of the states and people as outlined in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.
5. States must reject federal government mandates and grants-in-aid which are instruments to coerce and blackmail the states to give up their rights.
6. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution allowing for the direct election of Senators must be repealed and the authority to select Senators be returned to state legislatures.
7. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution allowing for the income tax must be repealed in order to shrink the size and scope of the federal government.
8. The Constitution must be amended to reassert the states’ rights over education. The federal government has no legitimate role in education.
9. National Guard units must be restored to their proper role of defending the individual states and the United States rather than being used to augment active duty military units. Furthermore, these units must be under the authority of state governors and not the federal government.
We welcome all who would join with us to protect freedom, individual rights, liberty and the Constitution.
A final quote from Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative:
The Result is that today neither of our two parties maintain a meaningful commitment to the principle of States’ Rights. Thus, the cornerstone of the Republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by Big Government is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism.
It’s not too late to save our Republic. It’s not too late to transform our government back into a federal government rather than a national government. But the sands of absolutism are piling up. Will you join the effort to halt the absolutism of our national government?
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