The Virtues Of A Limited Federal Government And Why America Must Return To The Limited Federal Republic Laid Out In The Constitution

by J. Wesley Fox - Date: 2010-07-12 - Word Count: 1114 Share This!

I consider the foundation of the Constitution . . . that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn . . . is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.

Thomas Jefferson, 1791.

The U.S. Constitution had at its very core, the principle that power must never be concentrated in a single person, body, or branch of government. The temptation to extend and abuse those powers is irresistible. It was not just the fear of a tyrannical King or dictator, but of a powerful centralized government in general. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, a central/federal government of the United States was perceived by many as a potential threat to the freedom and authority of the States and of the people. Therefore, the Framers of the Constitution designed a federal government limited to a set of enumerated powers from which they could not deviate.

The Constitution has two powerful mechanisms to ensure a limited federal government: (1) the federal government's is divided among three branches (Executive, Legislative, Judicial); and (2) all powers not given to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people.

There are several virtues of limited government. First and foremost, it protects the people from the oppression of government at the federal or state level. Second, the system divides up the enumerated powers among various entities, which prevents tyranny of one branch or entity over all others. We know this as "checks and balances".

Unfortunately in recent years the branches of the federal government have cooperated in extending their power over the States and the people. Today, Washington makes decisions about education, healthcare, housing, student loans, nutrition standards, airline prices, and smoking laws. These powers were not granted to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution and are infringing on the rights of the States and of the people.

Some have argued that the people need the federal government to have greater authority in these areas due to the changing times and that the Framers simply could not foresee the dramatic changes in the country over the past two hundred years. However, this argument fails to stand up to scrutiny. Not only is it not necessary for the federal government to have such powers, they have failed to accomplish what these extra-Constitutional authorities were intended to do.

It is simply unrealistic to expect a central government to accomplish these tasks with competence. The United States is a country of over 300 million people governed by about 550 individuals (President, Congress, and Supreme Court) located in a city on the East Coast. Placing so much decision-making authority in one place has major drawbacks. For example, Thomas Jefferson wrote "I wish...never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market." Today we see this unfold in the backdoor deals done for healthcare reform, the massive 2000 page bill that Americans can neither read (before passage) nor understand, and the delegation of authority to dozens of federal agencies and administrative "boards" that make decisions out of view from the public.

Another principle of limited government that has eroded greatly in the United States is the separation of powers between the federal government and the States. The concept of dividing authorities between the two is known as "federalism". The United States was established as a federal republic, whereby the federal government exists only because the States consented to its creation. Today this has changed. The federal government dominates in almost every area of power and the States have become marginalized and dependent.

The question is: why is a group of states preferable over one central government? Don't they essentially work the same way? The Framers favored a federalist system because it brought government closer to the people, enhancing democratic rule. A government closest to the people governs best, meaning the smaller a jurisdiction, the more familiar a representative is with his constituency and their preferences. A Congressmen typically represents roughly 700,000 people. In state government, a legislator typically represents a much smaller constituency. For example, an Illinois General Assembly member represents roughly 100,000 people. An Illinois Assemblyman is likely to know the name of every town in his district perhaps even each school. An Assemblyman has also met and interacted with a higher percentage of his constituents in comparison to a Congressman. A representative of a small constituency is more accessible and can better serve their interests, than the representative of a large constituency.

Another advantage of the federalist system is that it allows States to be "laboratories" for public policy allowing policy-makers to see various examples of what works and what doesn't work. Rather than a single centralized government implementing "one size fits all" solutions with no knowledge of the consequences, a federalist system allows for as many as 50 different policy approaches, allowing for much more trial and error among them. The consequences of a failing policy are also easier to rectify in a small jurisdiction and the negative impact affects one State rather than the entire country. Allowing a diversity of policy also allows States to better accommodate the great diversity of demographics, geography, economic conditions, social beliefs, and political ideologies among the American people. What works in Vermont does not necessarily work in Texas. A policy that is popular in Alabama may be considered ridiculous in California. Forcing all States to adopt the same policy is misguided and undemocratic.

In the last two years, there has been a dramatic increase in the concentration of power in Washington. Under President Obama, the federal government now has greater control of healthcare, banking, student loans, housing, and has expanded its control of the economy through greater direct ownership over American corporations. These actions are unconstitutional and have been historically shown to fail.

Restore America's Legacy PAC believes strongly in the virtues of limited government and seeks to promote candidates that will restore the limited, federalist system that was established by the Constitution. The power of the federal government must be drawn back and restored back to its enumerated powers. Restore America's Legacy PAC also promotes policies that will end the States' dependence on the federal government and restore to them the authority and independence the Constitution granted to them. These efforts will help reduce the size and cost of the federal government, allow for more efficient and effective governance from the state and local level, and end the trend that is leading us toward the "federal tyranny" the Framers tried to guard against.

J. Wesley Fox is the Chairman of Restore America's Legacy PAC. He is a recent graduate of DePaul University College of Law and has been active in local and national politics for several years. He currently lives in New Jersey after growing up in the Chicago suburbs.www.restoreamericaslegacy.comn
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