I believe," said Texas Governor Rick Perry, "that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state. That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states' rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union."

The Oklahoma Legislature has been thinking along these lines as well. From House Joint Resolution 1003, 2009:


THAT the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

THAT this serve as Notice and Demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.

THAT all compulsory federal legislation which directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.

This resolution passed the House in February, and the Senate on the 15th of April in the midst of Tea Parties. I have no reason to believe Governor Henry will actually sign the damned thing, though. And even if you could get many more states on the bandwagon, Washington isn't going to pay attention.

Which means that tougher measures are called for. Put me down in favor of Randy Barnett's Federalism Amendment, which reads like this:

Section 1: Congress shall have power to regulate or prohibit any activity between one state and another, or with foreign nations, provided that no regulation or prohibition shall infringe any enumerated or unenumerated right, privilege or immunity recognized by this Constitution.

Section 2: Nothing in this article, or the eighth section of article I, shall be construed to authorize Congress to regulate or prohibit any activity that takes place wholly within a single state, regardless of its effects outside the state or whether it employs instrumentalities therefrom; but Congress may define and punish offenses constituting acts of war or violent insurrection against the United States.

Section 3: The power of Congress to appropriate any funds shall be limited to carrying into execution the powers enumerated by this Constitution and vested in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof; or to satisfy any current obligation of the United States to any person living at the time of the ratification of this article.

Section 4: The 16th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed, effective five years from the date of the ratification of this article.

Section 5: The judicial power of the United States to enforce this article includes but is not limited to the power to nullify any prohibition or unreasonable regulation of a rightful exercise of liberty. The words of this article, and any other provision of this Constitution, shall be interpreted according to their public meaning at the time of their enactment.

This covers a lot of ground. I find myself thinking about Justice Clarence Thomas' dissent to the Supreme Court's ruling in Gonzales v. Raich, in which he said: "If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison's assurance to the people of New York that the 'powers delegated' to the Federal Government are 'few and defined', while those of the States are 'numerous and indefinite'." It's hard not to believe that recent Administrations, in either cooperation or conspiracy (take your pick) with the Congress and the courts, have done their damnedest to mock Madison.

The trick, of course, will be in persuading three-fourths of the states to propose this in convention, because there isn't a chance in hell that the government we have has the slightest bit of interest in curbing its own powers.

The Vent

  23 April

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 Copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Hill