Over last several months I have noticed an increased fire in the 10th amendment debate. Through organizations like the tenth amendment center, the movement is gaining momentum at an astounding pace. Perhaps, this ground swirl provides the motive for the current assault of the tenth amendment by those (neocons) who claim to care for it and those (progressives) who should.
In this article, I will dissect the neocon position, question the progressives, and attempt to explain why it matters. Republicans claim to be the party of limited constitutional government. They are the ones who scream the loudest about violations of the 10th when it suits them, Obamacare for instance. Yet, when a particular state takes a stance the neocons disagree with, they conveniently forget their loyalty to the constitution in general, and the Tenth amendment in particular, or they outright condemn it. In a recent fox news debate, regarding the issue of gay marriage, Rick Santorum chastised Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann for taking the (correct) position that marriage is a state issue:
“This is a very important argument.This is the Tenth Amendment run amuck. You have Michele Bachmann saying she would fight healthcare being imposed by the states but she wouldn’t go in and fight marriage being imposed by states, that would be ok. We have Ron Paul saying oh whatever the states wanna do under the Tenth Amendment that’s fine, so if the states want to impose sterilization that’s fine, if the states want to pass polygamy that’s fine. No, our country is based on moral laws lady’s and gentlemen. There are things the states can’t do. Abraham Lincoln said the states do not have the right to do wrong.”
In the first place the 10th amendment cannot “run amuck,” it either means what it says or it does not. Either the states enumerated certain powers to the Federal Government or they did not. You can’t have it both ways. I find it particularly interesting that he summoned King Lincoln, who was among one of the worst tyrants this world has ever known, but let’s compare his statement with the text of the tenth amendment.
The Tenth amendment says: “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.”
The states did not delegate the authority over marriage (or sterilization) to the Federal government, therefore, constitutionally speaking, they are reserved by the states.
Now let’s dig deeper into Santorum’s absurd hypothetical about state imposed sterilization. What would happen if Alabama decided to impose such a ridiculous thing? The citizens of that state would flee to Mississippi or some other bordering state, those that stayed would revolt, and the state would be left in chaos and the injustice would quickly be remedied.
Now what would happen if the Federal Government did the exact same thing? There would be mass revolt for sure but the citizens would have nowhere to flee. They would be trapped and made to endure forced sterilization.
Of course such a thing would never happen on either level but it provides an excellent point. If the Federal Government is allowed to break the law (the Constitution) for purposes that Mr. Santorum agrees with, it is only one election away from breaking the same law for purposes he disagrees with.
Michele Bachmann’s stance is only slightly better, she favors a constitutional amendment imposing her view of marriage on all 50 states. The reason her position is “slightly better,” is because she at least proposes instituting her brand of tyranny by legal means.
Of course such an amendment violates the spirit of federalism and specifically the tenth amendment. The states were intended to be sovereign entities, like the state of France or the state of Switzerland. They created a Federal government to serve them, not to dominate them.
Of all of the positions in the debate, only Ron Paul’s was consistent:(paraphrased) Yes the states have the right to do wrong, they are sovereign, but if they choose to do wrong people can vote with their feet and cause economic hardship for the State in question. In other words, the free market, liberty, and individual choice would correct the problem.
Bachmann’s stance on a Federal marriage mandate is exactly the reason it boggles my mind that progressives prefer a nationalistic approach as opposed to federalism. Progressives look upon states rights as the most reprehensible, vile, term ever mentioned. They immediately start slobbering about racism and slavery. In the process they severely damage the potential to reach their own stated goals with every naively slanderous word.
Progressives should be the ultimate advocate of state’s rights. Under a true Republic, citizens have a choice. Gays can move to places like California and Massachusetts, that would recognize gay marriage. Under a nationalist system, they have no recourse except to be discriminated against. As more citizens move to places that advocate liberty, those places would become more prosperous. There would be new customers and new businesses creating new revenues, which would force other states to adapt. It should be obvious to anyone that change is more easily instituted at the local level than in Washington D.C.
Through Nullification northeastern states were able to eliminate the fugitive slave laws. States could nullify illegal draft laws and the federal income tax which would immediately cripple the war state. If progressives are right that we should live in a welfare state, they would be given the chance to prove it, by competing against other states that may disagree. Obviously, the states with the most effective system, the one that best negated poverty and produced wealth would be mimicked.
In listening to these debates I am always amused to discover that two supposedly competing sides are arguing for the same thing. The neocons and the progressives are both statist who use talking points and scare tactics in order to convince people to sacrifice liberty. The only real loser in such a debate is the people.
In a free Republic people have the ability to challenge repressive laws and escape tyranny by voting with their feet. In a nationalistic democracy, where the fate of the entire country is determined by nine unelected black robes, we have no choice but to take the abuse or wage a war. It would seem that progressives, who claim to be champions of civil liberty and opponents of needless war, would prefer the former. It makes no difference if you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman or between twelve same sex members, you should support states rights because as I said earlier, a national government that can violate the law for a cause you believe in, can easily violate the same law to impose tyranny.