The idea that States of the Union are independent states goes back to colonial times when each colony had a royal governor. When the Union was formed, the states were protective of their prerogatives which gave rise to the idea of states’ rights. Large and small, North and South, old and new, slave and free, states sought to protect their interests. The Articles of Confederation created a union of nominally independent states. The authors of the Constitution, seeking to create a stronger union, gave more power to the Federal Government. Others, fearful that states’ rights might be compromised made the 10th Amendment part of the Bill of Rights.
Are the States of the Union independent states? Of course not. If they were independent, they could defend their borders, regulate their commerce, coin money, have sovereign debt. States of the Union can do none of these. The War between the States settled the question of secession: states aren’t free to leave the Union.
So whats all the fuss about states’ rights? Same as always, striving to protect local interests.
Each state has its own police, department of natural resources, highway department, judicial system. It is expensive duplication, but can be justified. Water starved California may face different challenges than water rich Michigan. Low highway speed limits weren’t accepted in large, sparsely populated Western States. Americans fear a national police force preferring local control. But these aren’t controversial. Here are some that are:
- Tom Reed firmly supports “the Tenth Amendment and will fight to restore local control to our school districts.” One wonders what Tom fears.
- Libertarian Justin Amish (R-MI) says “The federal government should not impose Common Core standards and curriculum on our kids.” Presumably then the Federal Government has no role in ensuring that all Americans receive needed education.
- Tom Reed says he constantly fights federal regulation of firearms, but without national laws and control of state borders, the weakest state laws endanger all. While supporting states’ rights, Tom opposes the SAFE Act.
- The “King Amendment,” named for its author, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), would have taken away the long-established right of states to regulate agricultural production.
- A bill introduced by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee would assert state sovereignty when it comes to defining the word “marriage.” Lee says his bill allows states to define marriage as they wish.
- In Missouri and Indiana state legislatures are considering bills purporting to nullify the Affordable Care Act.
- The House has passed bills overriding EPA regulation of fracking. Tom Reed seems conflicted: he voted for these bills, but decries the current NYS ban on fracking.
One thing is sure about states’ rights — our politicians are for them except when they aren’t.
© William Hungerford – February 2014