Q: What are the eight scariest words in the English language?
A: We’re from the government…we’re here to help.
When the Founding Fathers first got together to form a more perfect Union, their first try, the Articles of Confederation, was a dismal failure. After having gone through years of oppression and taxation without representation courtesy of King George III, newly-minted Americans were loathe to repeat the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the first try didn’t exactly hit one out of the park. Call it a bunt, or better yet, a foul tip. The government was too weak, and frankly, completely unworkable. The Founders realized this, scrapped it and tried again. What they ended up with was nothing short of pure gold. The U.S. Constitution is the Gold Standard by which all other governments are judged. But in the years since, Congress after Congress, and more Presidents than I’d care to admit, have drifted away from that cherished concept of “original intent” and warped our Constitution – and our Federal government – into something the Founders would recognize only as the very thing they were fighting against.
I’ve just finished reading The Five Thousand Year Leap, and if you haven’t read it already, buy a copy and read it. If you have read it, go back and read it again. I plan to. It details not only what the Founders meant by every section in the document, but explains why they made the choices they did, and why it’s so vitally important to keep the Federal government from usurping any more power than is explicitly granted them within the Constitution.
This issue of “states rights” versus an all-powerful Federal government lies at the very foundation of how we live our lives – and just what the government can – and cannot – do. By the simple act of interpreting one word in the Constitution – regulate – the Supreme Court allowed the Federal government to run amok over the last 80 or so years. We went from a Federal government that was carefully limited in what it could do, to one that believed there was no limits to its own power.
States rights is something that touches our lives every day. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a news item from a blog I follow that proves my point. Today, I read where Rep. John Dingell wants to enact a measure that would allow the Federal government to oversee and regulate disputes between customers and cell phone companies. On the surface, that might sound logical, I mean, who wouldn’t want one set of rules that apply to everyone in the country, right? But stop for a moment and think that through. The Feds have no Constitution right to regulate this. The states do. If the Feds usurp that power, it will almost certainly result in a bum deal for consumers. Why? What’s good for consumers in Texas may not be a good fit for those in Alaska or Florida. Often times, a regulatory agency in one state will come up with an idea and inspire other states. Alternately, if you’re a cynic like me, you might realize that in the current system, the phone companies have to lobby 50 different regulatory bodies. If the Congress is successful in their latest power grab, that number will decrease by 49. Whichever way you slice it, the less we have the Feds handle, the better off we are as a country. The closer to home a government is, the more responsive it is. The more removed a government is from the people it serves, the less it serves the people, and the more it serves itself.
Capitalism and free-markets ultimately work. If you were to drop virtually all the regulations on telecommunications save for those that prevent monopolies, over time, you’d likely see a lot of competition for features, quality of service, and vastly improved customer service. That won’t happen with more federal regulation. Putting the states in the position of both competitors to and watchdogs of the Federal government is what made our country great. The gradual shift to a Federal-centric power structure is what is killing it.
If you’ve not yet heard, as I write this, three states – Montana, Utah, and Texas (of course) have either signed into law or are in the process of passing a bill that will trigger a huge fight at the Supreme Court level that revolves around the States Rights question. The bill effectively challenges the authority of the Federal Government to enact legislation that usurps the rights of the various States to control issues within their own state boundaries. This particular issue concerns gun rights. Court-watchers expect these laws to be instantly challenged, to force a referendum by the Supreme Court on the question. Should the States Rights side prevail (and it should!) we could wake up to a “reset” scenario with the Federal government, where much of what’s changed in the last 80 years as far as governmental control goes, would go right out the window. I, for one, can’t wait. This is the first thing that has given me hope that our country can do a 180 away from socialism and head back to the path our Founding Fathers laid out for us.
As for now, we have but to sit back, watch, and wait. Our futures hang in the balance.