From time to time, people ask me to share my guiding principles.
I can explain the foundational philosophy of the Tenth Amendment Center in a single sentence:
Follow the Constitution, every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses.
But some even deeper fundamental ideas led me to my involvement in TAC and drive my basic political ideology.
The first is the concept of self-ownership.
I own me.
I should maybe back up and explain that I actually believe God to be the ultimate sovereign. But He gave me free will and granted me sovereignty over myself – self ownership. I choose to submit to His will and place Him back on the throne as a follower, but that isn’t relevant politically speaking, and the concept of self ownership works regardless of your religious belief.
John Locke summed it up nicely:
“To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature; without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”
So from a political standpoint, self ownership serves as the starting point. From there, it logically follows that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. (That should sound familiar. If it doesn’t, read the Declaration of Independence.) People grant government certain authority and power in order to live together in a civil society. So in a political sense, the people reign sovereign. We the people in America first granted governmental power to the States. Later, through those states, we granted limited powers to a federal government, reserving the rest to the states and ourselves.
The second foundational principle I hold to is the concept of decentralization. Simply put, bigger is badder. Centralized power possesses a sort of moral gravity, sucking more and more power into itself, and stripping more and more freedom from the individual. When we look at the history of tyranny throughout world history, it invariably flows from systems of centralized, authoritarian government. Whether it be communism, fascism, monarchism or any other -ism, centralized power enslaves people and leads to nasty things.
The founders understood this concept and created a system that decentralizes power through compartmentalization, and checks and balances. Most of us learned about checks and balances created through the three branches of government in our high school civics classes. What most of us never learned is that the founders also intended the states to provide a check on federal power. It’s pretty self-evident that 50 state governments wield significantly less power over the people as a whole than one centralized power in D.C.
So, I always default to the smallest level of government. Local authorities should do the most. Federal the least.
The framers agreed, delegating only specific, enumerated powers to the general government. At the 10th Amendment Center, we intend to reestablish the Republic that the framers conceived.
Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of '98 - Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He also maintains the blog, Tenther Gleanings.
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