The Tenth Amendment and Sovereignty

by David Bernstein, Volokh.com

Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center writes: “The Tenth Amendment, like all other Amendments, is a binding part of the Constitution that should be fully respected…. [But w]hen the states ratified the Constitution, they renounced their status as fully-independent sovereigns and endowed the federal government with enumerated but substantial powers.”

Kendall is correct. Anyone, tea partier or not, who claims that the states retain full “sovereignty” after 1789 doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Kendall’s next sentence, however, doesn’t follow at all: “The Tenth Amendment does not give tea partiers, or anyone else, a constitutional basis for rolling back critical laws that protect Americans’ health, safety, and retirement security.”

Through the New Deal period, it was accepted that the states did retain an important element of sovereign power inherited from the British Parliament, the “police power.” The scope of the police power was subject to much debate, but it was typically thought to at least conclude the power to protect and promote state citizen’s health, safety, and morals. Progressive types argued that promoting the public’s “welfare” was also part of the police power.

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Hurricane Irene, the Guard and the Constitution

The Burlington Free Press reports from Vermont,

Eight helicopters on loan from the Illinois National Guard were expected to arrive Tuesday night in Vermont to help the Vermont National Guard deliver food, medicine, water and other supplies to 13 Vermont towns cut off from the rest of the state in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

The outside helicopter support is needed because all six of the Vermont Guard’s Black Hawk helicopters are still in Iraq, where they and 55 Vermont soldiers are wrapping up a yearlong hospital transport mission, said Lt. Lloyd Goodrow, spokesman for the Vermont Guard.

Hurricane Irene reminded the East Coast why Mother Nature can be one of the most dangerous forces on the planet, when she struck hard this past weekend. When all was said and done, dozens of lives were lost and many more left without a home, while billions of dollars in damage was caused. One of the States that felt the wrath of Irene was Vermont, which saw widespread flooding and a few deaths. First responders, volunteer organizations, and neighbors were all on hand to help with the rescue and rebuilding efforts as the hurricane exited the State. Outside help had to be requested however, as all six of the Vermont National Guard’s Black Hawk helicopters were serving in Iraq. Luckily, New Hampshire and Illinois’ National Guards came to the rescue, but this still serves as a reminder of the effect that misuse of the militia has on our country.

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What if Glenn Beck is Right?

cross-posted from the Pennsylvania Tenth Amendment Center

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Glenn Beck fan, but I do listen to his program fairly regularly.  My family and I went to his 8/28 rally last year, and I used to watch his show on the Fox News Channel when I had the opportunity.   Usually, when I’m listening to his program, I am also engaged in other activities, so I don’t really pay attention very well, but I have picked up on some common themes.

One early theme on his Fox News show was his claimed conversion to libertarianism.  Many in the Liberty community remain skeptical.  I agree with that sentiment in that although Beck has moved towards a philosophy of Liberty, he still doesn’t seem to have completely internalized the idea that government is violence.   I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, and I have found many of his topics during the last year much less interesting than in the past, but I still give him credit for raising awareness about Liberty and the ongoing Constitutional overreach from the federal government.  Anyway, as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day, so it’s not unreasonable to think he might be right about some of his ideas.

The idea I want to talk about in this essay is Beck’s idea that the economy is on its way to a “melt down”. 

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