This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series that will cover the entire Constitution and many of the principles it was founded on. Click here for last week’s lesson.
I have devoted my last few Constitution Revolutions to discussing why the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in our Constitution are extremely effective methods of limiting the power of government. But in the real world, our federal government is getting bigger and more powerful every day with no end in sight.
That begs the question: If these two ideas are as brilliant as I say they are, then why aren’t they working?
As I discussed last weekend on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, the problem is that we have completely abandoned perhaps the single most important aspect of our system of checks and balances - Federalism:
In order for our system to work, we have to divide up power not only among the three branches of our federal government, but also between the federal government and the state governments. The only way we can effectively limit the federal government is to ensure that the state governments have the tools they need to act as a check on its power.
If you want to see exactly how they can do that, I’ve given a great illustration of that in this video:
For most of us though, I think we have a difficult time picturing how our federal system is supposed to work since it was destroyed long before we were born.
To get a better idea of how the states and the federal government were supposed to interact, think of the athletic conferences in college sports.
With those conferences, what you see is a group of schools coming together to form a group that will help them to achieve some shared goals. When the conference is created, it is given the authority to make decisions about specific issues that affect all of the schools when they come together as a group.
But even though they are a part of the conference, each school is still completely independent when it comes to its own internal affairs. It seems obvious to us that the Southeastern Conference doesn’t have any business telling the University of Florida what majors it needs to offer or even what style of offense its football team should run. It would be ridiculous for a conference to get involved in those decisions.
Just like athletic conferences have a limited role to play in how universities operate, our federal government has a limited role to play in how our country was intended to operate.
[sharequote align="center"]We have to stop looking at the states as the federal government’s little brothers.[/sharequote]
What we saw with the creation of this country was essentially a group of states coming together to form a group that will help them achieve some shared goals. In the Constitution, the states granted our federal government the authority to deal with certain issues that affect all of the states when they come together as a group. And here is the big key - even though the states came together under this federal government, they remained independent when it came to their own internal affairs.
In the same way that it's obvious to us that the Southeastern Conference shouldn't be dictating internal policies to the University of Florida, it should be obvious that our federal government doesn’t have any business telling the states how to run their education system or what their minimum wage should be. It’s simply not the role of the federal government to get involved in the internal affairs of the states.
We have to stop looking at the states as the federal government’s little brothers. If we ever want to put a stop to the elites in Washington, D.C. constantly grabbing more and more power, we need the states to act as a check on the federal government. The only way to do that is to give the states the tools they need to do so by returning to a true federal system.
It’s easy for us to see that athletic conferences have a very limited role to play in how universities operate. Even though it’s not as natural for us, we need to start looking at the federal government in a very similar way. It is supposed to play a very limited role in the way our states and our nation as a whole operate.
The vast majority of the probelems we are facing as a country right now are a result of the fact that the federal government has gotten way outside of it’s intended role. If we want to have any hope at all of preserving our freedom long term, then we have to force our federal government to operate within the limits created in the Constitution.
So here’s the lesson for this week - the separation of powers and system of checks and balances doesn’t just divide power among the three branches of federal government. It also divides power between the federal government and the state governments. That is extraordinarily important because the states were supposed to be the check on the power of the federal government. Without the states acting as that check, there is virtually no realistic way to limit the power of our federal government.
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
Feature Image: Chat Kent
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