What we are witnessing all around the country is a political revolution. As time goes by, the revolution will grow huge, into a massive historical event.
The people are beginning to understand what is going on, and are starting to take the necessary steps to reestablish their correct place and boundaries in our federalist system. After so many years of seeing the power usurped, it does my heart good to see steps finally being taken to correct that wrong.
Many times we hear people say that this country is a democracy. That is not true, we are a republic, and we use democracy as a means to pick our representatives in a federalist form of government. Somehow, people seem to conveniently forget that fact. So, what is federalism?
When our founders created the Constitution and established our federal government they did it on two planes, vertically and horizontally. Everyone gets taught the horizontal plane in school where we have the separation of powers between the various branches of government. Unfortunately, they are never taught the vertical plane which is where the whole federalist structure is set in place with a division of power between the national and state governments.
Thinking vertically is not difficult but when people think vertically about the government they have the whole idea upside down. Everyone thinks the federal government is on top, then the states and last is the people. However, our forefathers did it in the other direction. The governed (we the people) are at the top, followed by the states and lastly the federal government.
In The Federalist Papers (No.45), James Madison explained it quite well when he wrote
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.
We can clearly see that the intent was to have a federal government working on the “outside” of the states, not the “inside”. The Constitution set up the boundary limits of the federal government and delineated the scope of its responsibilities. The entire idea was to set up a two-fold system to protect the people.
Governments have a history of overstepping their boundaries. It was a fundamental cause of our revolution in the first place. Our forefathers knew that if the power was centralized the problems would resurface. Splitting the power the way they did was done to ensure no government would become tyrannical in nature.
As smart as they were when they set up the Constitution, they still worried about the difficulties in the people’s ability to maintain the balance of federalism. Indeed it was one of the main causes of many discussions as they try to decide about approving the Constitution or not.
Opponents of the Constitution feared that the states would ultimately become subservient to the federal government. Madison agreed that such was a possibility but said the states would band together to combat the issue. Those conversations led to the inclusions of the amendments we now know as the Bill of Rights. With the 10th Amendment addressing the powers issue directly. It reads:
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.
Again, we can clearly see by this amendment that the founders LIMITED the powers of the federal government to JUST the ones delegated in the Constitution. Delegated, as in from a superior to a junior on the vertical plane, thereby they reserved all other powers for the superior (the states and the people).
In the federal system that is setup and designed this way, that means when the subordinate junior (federal government) gets out of line and tries to do something it is not supposed to do, the superior boss (state government) is supposed to step in and fix the problem.
Latest posts by jim kearney (see all)
- Understanding The 10th Amendment - April 26, 2013
- Surprise: Law Professor Misinterprets Supremacy Clause - January 26, 2013
- Federalism and the 10th: The State Reclamation Begins - December 14, 2012