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.
—excerpt from the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution
The complete text of the U.S. Constitution including the Bill of Rights is available here. Have you read it? Has your Congressional Representative?
The text of the amendment quoted above is probably the most appropriate starting point for this blog and its initial post. Yes, freedom of speech is more important, for without it, I could not post this nor future snippets of opinion. So, though more important, not equally as appropriate given the prevailing winds of change in our country. Don’t worry — I’m certain, that if I am at this long enough, Amendment I will get more than a fair share of attention as well.
I am not a Constitutional lawyer, although, probably forty years too late, I now think that would have been an extremely satisfying career. I think it would have been a privilege to argue the finer points of Constitutional law.
The 10th Amendment, however, is not one of those finer points. It is more akin to a massive blunt instrument wielded with great force against a solid object. Its words are clear, concise and require no interpretation. It is a clear command to the Federal Government to keep its hands off what does not belong to it, to keep its nose out of where it has not been granted access and to subsist within rigid and legal boundaries.
It explicitly states that the Federal Government has absolutely no authority in matters not directly given to it by the states or the Constitution. It gives no leeway for any politician or lawyer to speculate on how large a role the Federal Government may be able to play in the lives of the American people.
It means the President of the United States does not have the authority to fire a janitor at a public or private company, let alone the CEO, no matter how much power the President may have in the world. It means Congress does not have the authority to enforce its edict that baseball “clean up its act.”
In fact, after the protection of the borders, the raising and collecting of taxes, and controlling immigration, the Federal Government doesn’t have legal leeway to do much else according to the Constitution. The cynic in me at this point says, “one outta three ain’t bad.”
In the U.S., however, over the last century, it has become socially acceptable to protect people from their own foibles and failures, much less mistakes, and expect the government, as some neutral third party to provide the protection.
As Mr. Browne indicates, the government should never be allowed this level of infringement into the affairs and everyday happenstance of the American people. Government of any kind, by its very nature is voracious, insatiable.
The more we ask government to do, the more money—taxes—they require to do it. The more we expect them to be responsible for, the less efficient those services become. The more we allow the government to control, the fewer our options for dissent.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
—Wendell Phillips (1852)