Needed: Constitutional, not situational, restraint
Ever since John Adams, America’s second president, tried to force individual states to deport some non-citizens and punish “seditious language” unfriendly to his administration, Washington has encroached upon individual states’ sovereign power.
Granted, Adams was doing his best to help a new nation that, literally, was in survival mode. Had the Pew Research Center existed during his time, it would have offered poll after lopsided poll expressing solid doubt about whether this fledgling experiment in representative republicanism would ever make it even to the 19th century.
Still, in these early days, Adams’s Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 marked the beginning of a continual endorsement of the need for constitutional – not situational – restrictions on the federal government’s power. Nowhere did the Constitution grant the right for such “acts.”
Fortunately, early Americans rebelled and prevented implementation of these crisis-driven, but unconstitutional, policies.
But marginalizing the Constitution was not an activity reserved for occurrence “back in the day.”
Today, we wonder where Washington gets off mandating that individual sovereign states, including the commonwealth of Kentucky, force citizens to adhere to mandates of a federal health-care plan.
It certainly isn’t allowed by the 10th Amendment, which states: “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.”
I see nothing in that about the federal government having the right to implement an individual health-insurance mandate. Do you?
I also don’t find allowance for unelected Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats denying private-property owners the right to mine coal on their own land. In fact, I don’t discover justification even for the EPA’s existence in the first place.
Also missing is the EPA’s right to deny the same kind of permit for mining in eastern Kentucky that it allowed in western Kentucky. What’s up with that?
This agency is so out of control it’s incapable of even being an equal opportunity constitutional offender.
As I read the Constitution again, I also found no justification for Washington’s educational dictates to states.
Even our recent experience should tell us that, as Washington’s No Child Left Behind became “No Missed Opportunity to Leave Constitutional Principles Behind.”
What I did find was the Ninth Amendment that refers to the “enumeration” of the federal government’s rights – which, by very definition, means “limited.”
Apparently there is a problem with how “limited” is interpreted. Politicians who favor big-government solutions to our challenges think “limited” is a luxury afforded only when circumstances allow rather than a necessity for faithful adherence – no matter what current events may be swirling around us.
Viewed through those situational lenses, it’s amazing how rare that luxury exists in the minds of some, and how often crises demand constitutional adultery.
So Washington’s policy pimps justify their unconstitutionally-illicit activity of forcing Americans to surrender their freedoms by exploiting the latest calamity: our kids are falling behind other countries’ students; evil health-insurance companies won’t cover pre-existent conditions; a rare shrimp is in that water.
To justify their “seditious” legislation and not allow a good crisis to waste away, Adams and the federalists in the early Congress pointed to the panic occurring over the French Revolution’s reign of terror as justification to put America’s enemies on a deportation “list.”
If a patriot like Adams, who risked his life to sign America’s founding documents, could be tempted to get off the tracks and encroach upon constitutionally protected state powers, what might happen with a collectivist who seems to be restrained very little by those documents?
What might happen with a president and his bureaucracy whose modus operandi is to never waste a crisis – especially when the restraint of having to campaign for reelection is gone?
Contributor Bio: Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected]. Read previously published columns at www.freedomkentucky.org/bluegrassbeacon.