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Does the sovereignty movement go far enough?

By Dr. Robert Owens
web posted June 1, 2009

It's hard to be a conservative when there's little left to conserve.  The increasing pace of America's progression from free markets to a command economy has reached such a pace and become so obvious the Russian Prime Minister used his spotlight time at the World Economic Forum to warn America not to follow the socialist path.  Now the Russian newspaper Pravda, once the leading communist voice on earth published an article entitled, "American capitalism gone with a whimper."  People around the world can see the individual decisions of producers and consumers are being replaced by the form letters of a faceless central-planning bureaucracy even if the Obama boosters still haven't swallowed the red pill and watched the matrix dissolve.

Pushed by the breathtaking speed of America's devolution into a command economy some conservatives have entered the ranks of the radicals.  They're beginning to think about how to cure the systemic political problems precipitating the November Revolution.  One solution some are embracing is known as the Sovereignty Movement. This is a movement of citizens and state representatives attempting to right the listing ship-of-state by appealing to the 10th Amendment which says, "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 10th Amendment addressed one of the most hard-fought points in the establishment of a central government. The states even though they surrendered some of their sovereignty didn't want to lose it all.  Specifically they didn't want to lose the power to make internal decisions. They did not want to be powerless before a distant national bureaucracy. So as the cap-stone of the Bill of Rights the 10th Amendment was meant to reassure the states they would remain sovereign within their borders. However, since the 1830s, court rulings have garbled the once universally accepted meaning of the 10th Amendment as the Federal government extended its authority from roads to schools to GM.

Now some are turning to a resurrection of the straightforward meaning of the 10th Amendment as a way to mitigate the ever expanding power of centralized-control and social engineering combined with perpetual re-election and runaway pork-barrel deficit spending.  But, is this enough?

As a historian I always believe even a little history might help push back the darkness swirling around us.   In 1787, at the close of the Constitutional Convention, as Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall a lady asked "Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy."  "A republic" replied Franklin "if you can keep it." 

Many have the mistaken idea that the United States is a democracy.  It's not.  It's a representative republic.  The Framers distrusted unfettered democracy therefore they inserted several mechanisms into the Constitution which added some innovations between direct democracy and the power to rule.

One of the great innovations the Framers built into our system is the federal concept.  Since this is an important component of our political legacy that has been overlooked in our contemporary education system let me define what is meant by federal.  A federal system is a union of states with a central authority wherein the member states retain powers of government.

According to the Constitution the Federal Government cannot mandate policies relating to local issues such as housing, business, transportation, etc. within the states.  However, through expansive interpretations by activist judges this gradually morphed into almost limitless Federal control of the domestic affairs of the States.

Another vital component of our Constitutional heritage is the protection provided by a system of "Checks and Balances" wherein each level or branch of government acts as a barrier to other levels or branches of government from acquiring too much power.  The most important check on the power of the Federal Government in relation to the constituent States was the Senate.  In the Constitution the people directly elected the House of Representatives to represent their interests, the various State legislatures elected the members of the Senate to represent the individual states.

The adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 mandating the popular election of Senators fatally damaged this system.  Since then, the States have been reduced from equal partners with the Federal Government to a group of individual lobbyists.  Before this amendment senators remained in office based upon how they upheld the rights of their state.  The hot-and-cold winds of populist considerations didn't compromise the Senator's ability to serve.  This freedom to vote against populist sentiment allowed the Senators to balance the directly-elected House.  Now we have two houses of Congress trying to spend enough of other people's money to make political profits for themselves.  So what do I propose?  Resurrect the 10th Amendment, repeal the 17th and while we're at it let's drive a stake through the heart of the 16th and all that's still on the conservative side of radicalism.  Restore the balance and save the Republic!  ESR

Dr. Robert Owens teaches History, Political Science, Religion, and Leadership for Southside Virginia Community CollegeContact Dr. Owens. © 2009 Robert R. Owens. Dr. Owens is available for speaking engagements.


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