As a member of the Tenth Amendment Center, many might assume that the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is my favorite from the Bill of Rights. However, my favorite is the Ninth:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This affirmation of individual rights secures the concept of natural rights being beyond governmental infringement. That is also the basis of the Declaration of Independence. Stating that we have the rights to Life and Liberty, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [our government], and to institute new Government …” in the case of abuse of those rights.
Such statements put the right of self government in the hands of individuals. Our form of government, a republic, binds people over a small geographic area, our state, but that government must protect the rights of all inhabitants. The power of the state to pass law comes from those who live in the state. So when states band together into a pact, the Constitution of the UNITED STATES, there can be no implied sacrifice of the power of states, because that power is derived from state citizens. The only limits on powers that can be imposed upon the states by the national government are those specifically listed in the Constitution.
This concept of power by consent of the governed is universally taught in school, but not well understood. The governed are the citizens, you and me. Our agreement is to band together to form a more perfect union to protect our Liberty. That does not mean to give unlimited power to elected officials whose jurisdiction covers the biggest geographical area. The interest of each individual is lost when power is derived top down. That negates the purpose for banding together.
The national government exists because, as the representative of the citizen, the state agrees through the Constitution to work with other states for mutual advantage. How can the power of states be limited by a national government when the state’s source of power is its citizens? It cannot.
So when we talk about the power government, we must recognize the context. Power wrested from people by the threat of force is not legitimate. The true and limited power of government comes from consent of citizens who choose to endow such power for the protection of rights. No power derived from people should deny rights to people. That is a conflict of terms. Likewise, no rightful power of the national government can take away from the sovereignty of the state.
The Tenth Amendment establishes the national government as subservient to states except as explicitly stated in the Constitution. Likewise, the Ninth Amendment establishes the people as the source of all government power. No government, state or national, should disparage any of the rights retained by each one of us, the people.