Federalism

There is a reason the framers established a federalist system with distinct levels in governance and separated powers. Washington D.C. was given only a few enumerated powers in the Constitution. The rest are, or rather were, left up to the states and the people.

During the days of the colonies, the Englishmen on American soil saw their Virginia or New York as sovereign and ultimate. It was these individual sovereign entities that willingly ceded some power to a national unitary government, not the other way around. This was solely to secure some sort of mutual assurance in common defense and to promote shared privileges, immunities, and unitary laws for weights, measures, monies, travel, etc.

They were the masters of their own domain. For example, many states had a state sanctioned church or denomination. All but Rhode Island required Unitarian beliefs to hold public office. With the passing of the First Amendment, the Congress was restricted from establishing a national church but left the states free to do as they wanted.

Some things have changed since then.

Several things actually, but one stands out. The federal government has continually enticed the states to bid adieu to their sovereignty in exchange for dollars. But this money has strings attached, as state governments are always looking for “free” money and have given away much for that money.

As states have increasingly lost their sovereignty, the federal funds they get in return come with a cost – a national government quashing citizens and states with over regulation and excessive taxation. Increasingly, Americans are beginning to rethink the neo-federalism of today.

Many people know that our government is divided into branches – the legislative, executive, and judicial. This was an attempt to curb the abuse of power and corruption. But the Founders went further. They split responsibilities and power between Washington D.C. and the states. To the “progressive” this self-made roadblock may seem annoying and proof of our outdated and archaic governmental setup. This impediment is instead the brain child of great philosophers and political scientists of yesteryear. Federalism is just another brilliant check on human nature to grow and consolidate power. Most founders would approve of the term “government gridlock”. Madison was worried about an “excess in legislation”.

He had no idea. And look where we are today.

It’s hard to know where we are headed. State governments and courts are turning more and more to 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.”

Those on both sides of the political spectrum can at least realize that the federalist model as envisioned is way off kilter. States are starting to gain their rights back on their own accord. Citizens are meeting in restaurants, homes, community centers, and churches to study their rights. Liberty-minded individuals are winning elected office. State governments are beginning the long turn towards the right direction by taking on powerful unions, cronyism’s interests, etc.

And this is what it will take. Just as our patriot forebearers did in 1776, in their individual fraternal organizations to their dinner table, we too will have to decide if the supposed “comforts” of today are worth the chains of slavery for our children in the future. This, combined with state legislatures taking up the buck and judges using the Constitution to protect the rights and liberties of states, will turn the tide of neo-federalism in this country.