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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Part One - Don't Tread on States' Rights - Federalism: A Key to Liberty

Dr. Bill Smith, Editor: Think tanks often have their finger on issues and their noses to the research grindstone. However, thy also often fail to convert their finding into actionable items through citizen involvement. That is why I appreciate the efforts State Policy Network (SPN) which is dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks. SPN’s programs enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges. For over a year and a half, we have linked to SPN under the Editor's Picks on the ARRA News Service. I hope you visit their site during or after reading the series of post identified below.

In SPN's April publication to its members, SPN addressed the relevant issue of States Rights. The article was scholarly, addressed information from multiple sources, and was thus very long. Therefore the original article is divided into a five part series and will be shared over the coming days with you.

Don't Tread on States Rights
Momentum is growing to re-assert the proper boundaries around the federal government vis a vis states rights as put forth in the U.S. Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment. The recent federal takeover of health-care has ignited the movement of 10th Amendment proponents. Addressing this issue below are: Utah Congressman Rob Bishop; Arizona Clint Bolick, director, Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation; Wyoming Benjamin Barr, Counsel for Wyoming Liberty Group; Virginia John Taylor, president, Virginia Institute for Public Policy; and a concluding summary by Merrill Matthews, resident scholar, Institute for Policy Innovation.

Part One - Federalism: A Key to Liberty by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop: Most school kids learn that the "separation of powers" refers to a "horizontal" balance of power between the three branches of government. This horizontal separation of powers ensures that each branch of the national government checks the other branches. A less known but equally important "vertical" balance of powers was established in the U.S. Constitution by the Founding Fathers to allow states to serve as a check to the national government and to help preserve individual liberty. This is known as federalism.

James Madison described how the vertical separation of powers or Federalism was to operate when he wrote in the Federalist Papers that Washington is responsible "principally [for] external objects" while state government is responsible for "all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people." Similarly, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution reads, "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." Unfortunately, states, and the people, have allowed many of their reserved powers to be swallowed by a power-hungry Washington.

The vertical balance of power concept has been seriously eroded in recent years. Power-hungry congressmen have dangled "free" national money in front of cash starved states for decades. Each piece of greenback-bait dangled before a state legislator was accompanied with the promise of financial salvation. When the bait was taken, the national government reeled in the states with mandates on everything from computer programs to motorcycle helmets. The national government has tipped the vertical separation of power in favor of Washington and endangered the individual and personal liberties of all Americans in the process.

States have been abused, but are not blameless. Starting in the 1960s, states freely gave up their self-determination for the cheap fix of free national money and accompanying mandates. States should have been strong and declined the national fix, but they couldn't resist. Regardless of blame for this situation, the fact remains that individual liberty is threatened by the absence of equilibrium between state and national levels of government.

The time has come to take power back from Washington and return it to the people. Deep, systemic reform of the national government is needed.

I recently joined with other Members of Congress to form a 10th Amendment Task Force to push for this very sort of systemic reform. The goal of the Task Force is to disperse government power from Washington and empower states to try new and innovative programs. We are determined to re-establish the Constitutional vertical separation of powers and restore the proper equilibrium of power.

With national deficits exploding to historic levels and a growing public awareness that Washington is bloated and broken, now is an ideal time to restore the federal-state balance and strike a blow for individual liberty. Concerned citizens, community leaders, local officials and lawmakers must all partner together if we seek to return to the fundamental principles of a limited and balanced national government. I strongly encourage all SPN members who agree that our nation has strayed from key, liberty-enhancing principles to join me in this effort.

Tags: 10 Amendment, SPN, State Policy Network, States Rights, Utah, Rob Bishop, Federalism,liberty
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Posted by Bill Smith at 8:53 PM - Post Link


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