Most school kids learn that the “separation of powers” refers to a “horizontal” balance of power between the three branches of government. This horizontal separation of powers ensures that each branch of the national government checks the other branches. A less known but equally important “vertical” balance of powers was established in the U.S. Constitution by the Founding Fathers to allow states to serve as a check to the national government and to help preserve individual liberty. This is known as federalism.
James Madison described how the vertical separation of powers or Federalism was to operate when he wrote in the Federalist Papers that Washington is responsible “principally [for] external objects” while state government is responsible for “all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people.” Similarly, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution 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.” Unfortunately, states, and the people, have allowed many of their reserved powers to be swallowed by a power-hungry Washington.
The vertical balance of power concept has been seriously eroded in recent years. Power-hungry congressmen have dangled “free” national money in front of cash starved states for decades. Each piece of greenback-bait dangled before a state legislator was accompanied with the promise of financial salvation. When the bait was taken, the national government reeled in the states with mandates on everything from computer programs to motorcycle helmets. The national government has tipped the vertical separation of power in favor of Washington and endangered the individual and personal liberties of all Americans in the process.
States have been abused, but are not blameless. Starting in the 1960s, states freely gave up their self-determination for the cheap fix of free national money and accompanying mandates. States should have been strong and declined the national fix, but they couldn’t resist. Regardless of blame for this situation, the fact remains that individual liberty is threatened by the absence of equilibrium between state and national levels of government.
The time has come to take power back from Washington and return it to the people. Deep, systemic reform of the national government is needed.
I recently joined with other Members of Congress to form a 10th Amendment Task Force to push for this very sort of systemic reform. The goal of the Task Force is to disperse government power from Washington and empower states to try new and innovative programs. We are determined to re-establish the Constitutional vertical separation of powers and restore the proper equilibrium of power.
With national deficits exploding to historic levels and a growing public awareness that Washington is bloated and broken, now is an ideal time to restore the federal-state balance and strike a blow for individual liberty.
Concerned citizens, community leaders, local officials and lawmakers must all partner together if we seek to return to the fundamental principles of a limited and balanced national government. I strongly encourage all SPN members who agree that our nation has strayed from key, liberty-enhancing principles to join me in this effort.
(Original posting found at; http://spn.org/publications/dont-tread-on-states-rights – We appreciate the sharing of information with the State Policy Network)
Gary Wood is the Educational Advisor for the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. Co-founder of the Heritage Training Center, focused on helping end constitutional illiteracy. With 35 years of devoted study of our Constitution his desire is to help others rediscover the inspiring heritage of the United States. Radio show host, training officer, lifetime member of the VFW and most importantly Grandpa.
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