It is not out of the heat of the moment, given the current actions by our government, that I have penned the title to this series of essays, but rather out of a sad review of how the current acts by Congress and the Obama administration are but the culmination of many years and policies that have brought about the demise of our great republic. The actions that have been promulgated within the past two years have only but accelerated this collapse and delivered the final coup de gras to our system of government and yes, even our “American way of life” as we have known it. As I began last week, our system of government was established upon the concept of being a “constituted federal republic”, and that since these three pillars have been effectively destroyed our nation has indeed “died.” I established last week that we are beyond a shadow of a doubt no longer being governed under the auspices of a constitution, and if you are a first-time visitor to my site I would encourage you to read that post, “The Death of Our Beloved American Republic – I”, before continuing with this essay as this one will build upon the thoughts of that previous post.
Let us now review whether or not we are, and have or have not been for many years, ruled by the principle of “federalism”, the second of the three pillars upon which our national government was established. Recall as I’ve mentioned in previous essays that when our Constitution was ratified the thirteen individual sovereign states transitioned themselves from their separate sovereign status, joined in a loose confederation, into a national government that was to have limited powers while all other powers were to be retained by the states. What is ironic about the beginnings of our Constitution is that those who argued in favor of a stronger central government and the Constitution appropriated the moniker of “Federalists” to themselves, while those who argued against the Constitution and the power of what was to be the new central government were styled as being “Anti-Federalists”, when in fact these names and the positions of those who wore them were exactly reversed. It was the Anti-Federalists who actually argued for and supported the concept of federalism.
So just what is this doctrine of “federalism” and why is it so important? The Encyclopedia Britannica gives this definition of the doctrine:
“Political system that binds a group of states into a larger, non-centralized, superior state while allowing them to maintain their own political identities. Certain characteristics and principles are common to all successful federal systems: a written constitution or basic law stipulating the distribution of powers; diffusion of power among the constituent elements, which are substantially self-sustaining; and territorial divisions to ensure neutrality and equality in the representation of various groups and interests. Changes require the consent of those affected. Successful federal systems also have a sense of common nationality and direct lines of communication between the citizens and all the governments that serve them.”
Note the significant points of what makes, as this definition states, “all successful federal systems”:
- A union of states that allows them “to maintain their own political identities.”
- It (the united government) is guided and controlled by a written constitution (note from my previous essay on this topic that our federal government is no longer being guided by our Constitution).
- Power is diffused among the various “constituent elements” – i.e., exactly what is stated in the tenth amendment, namely that “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 system is to be so designed as “to ensure neutrality and equality in the representation of various groups and interests.”
- Most importantly, perhaps, is the requirement that “changes require the consent of those affected.”
As you read this list I ask you – does this sound like the government you are witnessing in operation today in Washington? Have our states been able to maintain their political identities? Have not those in power arrogantly trampled and discarded the Constitution by which “WE THE PEOPLE” established this government? Have not the states been castigated of their Constitutionally guaranteed authority and power? Have we not seen in just this past week where in order to “buy the votes” of various representatives that deals have been made that favor either individual states over other states or certain groups or businesses over other such entities? And most importantly, are we not witnessing as those in Congress shed our Constitutional directives in how laws are to be enacted that they are changing the very nature of our system of government without the consent of we, the citizens, who will be affected by these actions? These are obviously rhetorical in that you know the answer to all of them to be “No, we are no longer operating under the doctrine of federalism.”
Just why should this be a matter of concern to us? In the fifth edition of their publication Government by the People by Prentice Hall, in the overview of the chapter on Federalism it gives the perfect statement as the answer to this question:
“A federal system checks the growth of tyranny, allows unity without uniformity, encourages experimentation, and keeps government closer to the people.”
This purpose of defending against tyranny was precisely the fear of the Anti-Federalists and provided many of their warnings and arguments against ratification of the new government as proposed in the Constitution. Indeed, the aged Benjamin Franklin proffered this assessment in his speech on the last day of the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787, in which although he had reservations about the adoption of the newly inked Constitution, he urged its acceptance nonetheless. Despite this support, he issued this warning that we have down through the years, especially the past century, ignored to our detriment:
“I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
It is abundantly clear, today, March 21, 2010, that the government established at the urging of Franklin has now run its “course of years”, and that we have now entered into that phase of despotism of which he forewarned, for today our Congress has passed a massive bill that will mandate citizens of all the states in the union to purchase a product (health care coverage) whether they wish to or not and that the coverage they purchase must meet certain federal government standards, else those citizens will be fined and/or cast into prison! All of this is being done without the consent of the states for indeed there are over thirty states threatening to sue over this issue of the federal government forcing their citizens to do something against their will. Maybe, just maybe, we may see a resurgence of states exerting their rights under the tenth amendment – if it is not too late to oppose this medusa into which the federal government has morphed.
Too often we call our government in Washington the “federal” government without a thought as to what that term means. It is a descriptive adjective, indicating what kind of a government that entity is to be, and yet today it is anything but a government constrained by the principles of federalism or a constitution. It was this very fear that the Anti-Federalist writer who wrote under the pen name of “The Federal Farmer” expressed as he viewed the aim of the Constitutional Convention’s work when it came to the joining of the various states into the United States:
“The first interesting question, therefore suggested, is, how far the states can be consolidated into one entire government on free principles….The convention appears to have proposed the partial consolidation evidently with a view to collect all powers ultimately, in the United States into one entire government….”(October 8, 1787).
This same author went on to write the following day
“Thus will stand the state and the general governments, should the constitution be adopted without any alterations in their organization; but as to powers, the general government will possess all essential ones, at least on paper, and those of the states a mere shadow of power….the balance cannot possibly continue long; but the state governments must be annihilated, or continue to exist for no purpose.”
So it must be our hope that the various state governments will awaken from their slumber and throw off the chains by which over the decades the centralized government in Washington has shackled their constitutional powers and avert our further enslavement to those who would dictate all of the threads of the very fabric of our lives. If the states are not able to so reassert their authority as guaranteed in the Constitution, which those in power in Congress and the Obama administration have trampled underfoot, then federalism will indeed be dead, as was prophesied by the Anti-Federalist writer “Centinel” on October 5, 1787 in his letter “To the Freemen of Pennsylvania”:
“By these sections the all-prevailing power of taxation, and such extensive legislative and judicial powers are vested in the general government, as must in their operation, necessarily absorb the state legislatures and judicatories;….”
That we will finally have become a totalitarian state, albeit in its infancy, will be our lot as we are now governed by fascists, for such is what they are – they are following down that same path as fascist totalitarian regimes before them. Some may say this is vitriol and harsh, but to those critics I would recommend the works of F.A Hayek and the book, Liberal Fascism – The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change by Jonah Goldberg to show that indeed those in power today are cut from the same cloth as the fascists of the previous century.
We are left with yet the third pillar upon which our nation was founded, that is the system of a republican form of government. That we are no longer a republic will be the topic of next week’s post. I close with the dire words of Patrick Henry, which he uttered in his speech before the Virginia Convention on June 5, 1788:
“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it, but downright force: Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined” [emphasis mine, Epaminondas].
I pray that it will not come down to force, but my fellow citizens, such a day may indeed come if liberty and freedom are once again to flow unabated in an America united together as a constituted federal republic.