Let’s talk Federalism, Federalists, and Anti-Federalists.
“Federalism is a type of government in which the power is divided between the national government and other governmental units (in our case, states). It contrasts with a unitary government, in which a central authority holds the power, and a confederation, in which states, for example, are clearly dominant (our first attempt at government).” (https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-amendments/the-constitutional-convention/)
Great idea, right? Except it hasn’t worked out like those of our Founders who favored it thought it would… or maybe it did.
The Anti-Federalists, of whom I would count myself as one, were opposed to the scrapping of the Articles of Confederation and the adopting of the new Constitution, especially when they saw what the convention yielded in place of the Articles of Confederation. In fact, the Convention of 1787 was not called to write a new Constitution, it was called to amend the Articles of Confederation to make them more workable. In the end, the Anti-Federalists were opposed to the new Constitution as it was written and only by the promise to return and include a Bill of Rights, at a later date, were any of them appeased.
After the Convention, the newly proposed Constitution was submitted to the individual states for ratification. Thus erupted the brouhaha that gave us the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. These writings represent the arguments for and against ratification of the new Constitution and the move from a Confederation of States to Federalism.
So, today we often hear references to Federalism, which again, is not a bad idea as it was defined in our Constitution, but as the Anti-Federalists predicted, it didn’t work as expected. That’s actually an understatement and I’m prepared to say it has failed miserably; not the idea but the execution of it.
It’s possible that if our Constitution was followed to the letter, we might have been alright. But the Anti-Federalists must have understood the nature of mankind better than the Federalists and, pretty much, called out what would transpire. In fact, it’s entirely possible that things turned out worse than even they imagined.
The two concepts that have been the most abused and brought us to the place where our government’s tentacles reach into every aspect of our lives, and the life of the nation, and have created 30 trillion dollars, and rising, of national debt and over 100 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities, are the Welfare Clause and the Commerce Clause.
The Welfare Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1): “The Congress shall have Power To… provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…”
The lack of specificity of that wording, especially the use of the word “general” has caused the government to use the term “general welfare” as the rationale to authorize myriad powers to do things that it could find rationalization for nowhere else in the Constitution and that, I believe, the Founders never envisioned.
The Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3): “The Congress shall have Power To…regulate Commerce…among the several States…“
“In its original meaning, the clause functioned primarily as a constraint upon state interference in interstate commerce.”
“Over the course of the last decades, the commerce clause has been used as a primary source for the regulatory expansion of the national government. This reading of the clause, (has been used in) granting virtually unlimited regulatory power over the economy to the federal government…”
“No clause in the 1787 Constitution has been more disputed, and it has generated more (court) cases than any other.”
Commerce, Commerce, Everywhere: The Uses and Abuses of the Commerce Clause | The Heritage Foundation
The abuse of this clause has contributed to most of the massive overreach we now see from our federal government.
So, there you have it… what’s so bad about Federalism?
On a final note, in reading some Walter Williams’ essays the other day, I came upon an essay he had written in January, 2014, entitled, “Parting Company.” His conclusion was that we as a nation have become so divided that the only possible solution is a peaceful separation. (My opinion is that much of the division has come about due to the way the Constitution has been ignored and while one faction doubles down on that behavior, the other faction, at least, appears to have the will to live within the guidelines of the Constitution).
My observation on Dr. Williams’ comments: It is instructive to note that the last time separation was tried it ultimately led to violence and over one million Americans, civilians and military, were maimed or killed, accompanied by millions of dollars of destruction, almost all in the Southern states, that impoverished millions for years. Real recovery was long in coming. Additionally, we now see ne’er-do-wells trying to resuscitate the racism that grew out of that conflict, and its aftermath, and has taken us years to recover from, all now being thrown to the wind.
Dr. Williams authored another essay in April, 2009, also titled, “Parting Company.” In that essay he made reference to a remark by, then Texas governor, Rick Perry that Texans might ultimately become so disgusted with Washington’s gross violations of the Constitution that they would want to secede from the Union. Perry’s remarks were branded by know-nothings as being treasonous.
The fact is that almost every state that signed onto ratification of the new Constitution in 1788, did so with the caveat, in writing, along the lines of, “…the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness…”
To the ignorant amongst us, especially our ignorant elected officials, that is claiming the “Right of Secession,” and the retention of the sovereignty that both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution afford the individual states.
God Save the Republic, because nothing else seems possible to avoid where we are heading. Please, by all means, Change My Mind!