Too much government stirs debate


“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.”

That’s the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and I can’t help but wonder, given the staggering size of our federal government, does this sentence mean anything anymore? The recent wave of scandals that have hit the Obama Administration provide damning evidence that the federal government has grown out of control.

The National Security Agency spying on American citizens and invading our right to privacy, the Internal Revenue Service targeting and auditing political rivals of the president, the killing of American citizens overseas via drones without due process, all suggest a gross abuse of executive power.

I believe the 10th Amendment is one of the most important amendments to the Constitution and I believe that its power has been slowly undermined for years. As power of the federal government grew, the power of the states waned. Some of the most divisive social issues in our country today stem from the diminished power of the 10th Amendment.

In 1973, the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade changed the political framework of the United States by ruling that the right to privacy under the due process clause extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. I am not going to dive into all the aspects of the abortion debate, but I have read the Constitution and I cannot find the words abortion or pregnancy anywhere in the document.

So wasn’t the abortion issue a perfect time for the 10th Amendment to shine? Why not let each state decide the abortion issue with elections? The more liberal states would probably have abortion and more conservative states wouldn’t. The federal government should have never been involved.

Nine years later, in 1984, the 10th Amendment was essentially neutered with the National Minimum Drinking Age Act and the subsequent Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Dole which upheld the act as constitutional.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act withheld 5% of federal highway funding from states that didn’t maintain a minimum legal drinking age of 21. I admit the drinking age isn’t much of an issue for people unless you’re a freshman stumbling down Kiefaber at 2 a.m. on a Saturday.

However, the fact the federal government was able to essentially usurp a power that had always been reserved for the states, using with the power of the purse and the Supreme Court to do so shows it was a major blow to the 10th Amendment. If the federal government can strong arm the drinking age away from the states what else can it take away?

“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.”

The federal government has grown far beyond the scope of the Constitution and it needs to be downsized if the principle of federalism is to continue.

As Thomas Jefferson said “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

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