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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting Federalism backwards

Chris Edwards in his webpage claims:

"Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government was assigned specific, limited powers and most government functions were left to the states. To ensure that people understood the limits on federal power, the nation’s founders added the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment: “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.” - See more at:http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/fiscal-federalism

However, looking at the Constitution that might be how Chris E. and most of our cons, interpret it. But I'm not sure that it's intent was t obe "specific" or "limited" or to limit functions to the states. On the contrary in Federalist One Hamilton warns against this view:

"Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government."

Which seems to have been the plan of cons from Aaron Burr, the man who killed Hamilton to Jefferson Davis who led the Confederacy in it's rebellion against the Nation. And it certainly seems to be the attitude of modern cons who resist the will of the people as a whole by appealing to this notion that somehow he "Federal Government" should not be a General Government with the General roles of a general government. Hamilton as an ex Staff Officer of George Washington saw this as a threat. And there is nothing in the constitution about "specific" powers, but instead the preamble says:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The General Welfare is not advanced by sectarian violence, sectional rebellion, or the misuse of the courts and misinterpretations of the constitution for the "private, separate advantage" [Locke's definity of Tyranny] of contentious oligarchs. The founders, not even Jefferson or Madison envisioned a government that would be ineffectual with only "specific" powers. They would not have created a General Executive with monarchal powers like the President if they had had such a vision. Hamilton wrote his opinion in what gets rendered as All Caps in present day type. He thought it was that important.

"THE UTILITY OF THE UNION TO YOUR POLITICAL PROSPERITY THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE PRESENT CONFEDERATION TO PRESERVE THAT UNION THE NECESSITY OF A GOVERNMENT AT LEAST EQUALLY ENERGETIC WITH THE ONE PROPOSED, TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS OBJECT THE CONFORMITY OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION TO THE TRUE PRINCIPLES OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT ITS ANALOGY TO YOUR OWN STATE CONSTITUTION and lastly, THE ADDITIONAL SECURITY WHICH ITS ADOPTION WILL AFFORD TO THE PRESERVATION OF THAT SPECIES OF GOVERNMENT, TO LIBERTY, AND TO PROPERTY."

Now there was a dialogue between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists with the Anti-Federalists later joined to Republicans such as Jefferson and Madison to limit the Federal Government from becoming a tyranny. But that is not the same as intending to emasculate it's role as a general government. Limited Government is achieved best when, contrary to my other Chris, the Federal role is "General" with the specifics left to local government. Which in many case should be much more local than the "partial confederacies" of often tyrannical states.

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed01.asp

The Tenth Amendment states:

"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."[10th Amendment US Constitution]

I believe that Hamilton, Franklin and to a lesser extent even Jefferson and Madison, envisioned a Collaborative Federation. A place where States and the Federal Government worked together, with neither ruling over the people but all exerting their power under the watchful eyes and with the consent of ALL the people. The right forgets that "the people" are as important in the 10th Amendment as the States and that that is why it was not anymore a successful avenue of appeal for State Tyranny than it should be for Federal Tyranny.

The Right wing savants like to make appeals to their own authority wrapping that authority in the Constitution or "Founders" or some other source like it was so much "Fresh Fish."

Disenfranchising people is unconstitutional. State or Federal. And the Constitution is meant to protect people at all levels of government from doing so.

Oh and his article is chock full of misrepresentations. Yes in 1817 President "James Madison vetoed a bill that would have provided federal aid to construct roads and canals" (See more at: http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/fiscal-federalism#sthash.KzUyjah8.dpuf)

"Having considered the bill this day presented to me entitled 'An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements,' and which sets apart and pledges funds 'for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,' I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated."

Madison vetoed the bill not because he objected to it's object or functionality but because he objected to the fact that the constitution didn't provide specifically for roads and canals. It appears that he intended that the United States would pass a constitutional amendment instead. Something that never happened. As Steve Lackner of the Free Republic notes: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2767135/posts

"Madison continued in his veto message, "and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest [i.e., the Amendment process of Article V]."

It was his last act and it through a monkey wrench into the countries modernization programs only for his term. Because the constitution did include the power "To establish Post Offices and Post Roads", that would be the justification for road building for the next 200 years it didn't impede development but the purpose of that veto has been misconstrued ever since. It did make it impossible to create a national canal and railroad system as those systems were privateered instead. The author notes:

"What then could the nation do if it felt it was prudent as a matter of public policy to allow for internal improvements? To Madison, the answer was provided only in Article V of the Constitution. The Constitution would have to be amended to allow for a measure that Madison himself as a matter of public policy actually supported. This may seem perplexing to some, because as Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black famously said, "The layman's constitutional view is that what he likes is constitutional and that which he doesn't like is unconstitutional." I would add that Supreme Court Justices all too often fall prey to this constitutional view as well. But matters of public policy, and matters of Constitutionality are not one and the same and cannot be confounded. Regardless of whether a policy is considered needed or unnecessary, we must always independently ask whether the Constitution permits it. Madison even stated, "I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity."

Many of our problems are due to the fact that our constitution is an imperfect instrument and instead of improving the constitution of our government we've used tricks and cludges to get around it's weaknesses.

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