Thursday, November 10, 2011

Echoes of the past

On this day in 1798, the Kentucky legislature ratified a new piece of writing by Thomas Jefferson.  It still amazes me how many Americans have no idea that the same man who authored the words of the Declaration of Independence found it necessary only two decades later to note the new U.S. Federal Government was already in danger of becoming "destructive of these ends," exceeding the scope of its mandate from the States...
Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.
As bleak as I perceive our nation's outlook to be, there are still warm embers of this burning for freedom still present:
On the eve of the 213th anniversary of the passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, laying the intellectual groundwork of nullification, the people of Ohio exercised their power and nullified the insurance mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.Ohioans passed Issue Three, a constitutional amendment to preserve their right to choose their own health care and health care coverage. Preliminary returns indicated a wide margin of victory, with more than 60 percent approving the amendment. The amendment makes it illegal for any local, state or federal law to require Ohio residents to purchase health insurance, effectively nullifying a key component of the PPACA.
Uncle Sam first smashed the States in the 1860s, then began buying them off a century later.  But as the negative impact of the cancer known as D.C. becomes more and more apparent, the States may finally reconsider their subservience... at which point it'll be 50 to 1.  I'm reminded of a Pixar movie...


Anonymous said...

Can we be sure that the same Republicans who criticize the current administration for abuse of power will not follow in the same path? Jefferson himself, despite all his dire warnings against the federal powers, ended up by greatly expanding them without being too careful of the constitution (e.g., Louisiana Purchase or embargo laws).

As Mirabeau noted, “Jacobins who become ministers are no longer Jacobin ministers.”

Jemison Thorsby said...

No, we can't be sure the Republicans won't follow the same path, but with regard to a different subject. Too much power is concentrated in D.C., regardless of which faction of the ruling elite is currently in favor. Reducing that power and sending it back out to the States and cities is critical.

As for the Louisiana Purchase, I still don't fully understand why so many consider it controversial from from a Constitutional viewpoint. Granted, the French government surprised American negotiators by offering the whole territory, vice just New Orleans and West Florida (which was the original aim of the Jefferson administration). But the Constitution gives the President the power to make treaties, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. This is exactly what happened. So while the negotiations may have expanded beyond the original scope, the fact the Senate approved the treaty of purchase (and the House agreed to the funding) seems to comply with the Constitution's separation of powers.

Anonymous said...

Somehow opinions about constitutionality almost always split along the party lines. Would Jefferson have held the same opinion on the issue had he been sitting in opposition in 1803? I’m not sure. However, even if his actions were perfectly legal, the fact remains the instead of curtailing powers of the central government, he ended up by expanding them.

>Reducing that power and sending it back out to the States and cities is critical.

Agreed. But how can that be done?

Jemison Thorsby said...

It will only happen when the States, municipalities and citizens refuse to permit D.C. to maintain it. Federal funding has been a strong drug to keep other government units in line. As noted earlier, though, the damage D.C. is doing is finally extensive enough to be noted even through the fiscal narcotic.

In the movie "Labyrinth," the protagonist finally realizes the moment of truth comes when she looks the enemy in the eye and says "you have no power over me." A similar moment could happen with regard to D.C. It will take concerted action -- the Feds will pick off lone standouts one by one -- but with D.C.'s powers already strained to breaking, they'd be hard pressed to enforce their will across an entire country that's decided they're way, way, way out of line.

Ohio's nullification of Obamacare is but one example of what needs to become an avalanche of States responding to Federal overreach by saying "uh... no. Not so fast."

Anonymous said...

I must be a very cynical person, but my impressions from that movie were altogether different. In fact, I disliked it so much that I stopped watching before the end. In part, that was due to the movie painting the “reds” as some sort of knights sans peur et sans reproche.

Also, I tend to be highly suspicious of any idealist slogans. In the real life, the idealists glorified by the movie caused total havoc in Spain.

> It will take concerted action

I do not see how that concerted action will be brought about. History shows that in times of crisis (e.g., the Great Depression) people look up to the government for protection, which results in further increases of central powers.

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