Our Constitution creates a federal government that can be very effective for governing this country if we want it to be.
Before it can work properly though, we need to understand what it does well and what it doesn’t do well. After all, a fork is a great eating utensil but you need to understand what it was designed to do. If you keep trying to use your fork to eat soup you’re never going to get much out of it.
Our federal government is no different. We need to understand what it was designed to do or we're never going to get much out of it.
As I explained last weekend on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, there is a good reason why the federal government and the state governments were intended to play very different roles in this country:
Several of our Founders studied governments throughout history and they found that large countries with one central government were great at defending themselves and having an influence on world affairs.
The problem was, those countries were a mess internally. What the Founders realized was that it is impossible for one central government to effectively handle the internal government of a huge area of land. It’s easy to see why that’s true. In a large country, there are way too many different issues facing way too many different communities for all of that to be managed by one centralized group of people.
Just think about how massive the United States is. Think of all of the different climates and all the different cultures in all of the little towns and all of the unique problems that are facing each of them. There’s no way that the people in Washington, D.C. can take into account the circumstances being faced by all those communities and come up with solutions that will be effective for all of them. It’s not humanly possible.
On the other hand, the Founders knew that small republics were often very well governed internally. When it came to governing the day-to-day affairs of their citizens they were very effective. The problem was that small republics weren’t able to defend themselves properly. Eventually one of those large nations would come along and take them over.
In short, large nations with one central government were great at protecting themselves but terrible at internal governing. Small republics were great at internal governing but couldn’t defend themselves.
The Capital is mirrored in the Capital Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill in Washington early Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
That’s why our government is structured the way it is. The Founders were trying to get the best of both worlds by creating a mixture of those two types of government. Allowing the states to remain in tact and as independent as possible gives us all the advantages of being a small republic. We can be well governed internally if we choose to be. But by having all the states join together under the umbrella of the federal government, that gives this country the strength it needs to defend itself as well.
As Edmund Pendleton taught us when the Constitution was being ratified, the states and the federal government were intended to play distinct, entirely different roles in this country:
The true distinction is, that the two governments are established for different purposes, and act on different objects; so that, notwithstanding what the worthy gentleman said, I believe I am still correct, and insist that, if each power is confined within its proper bounds, and to its proper objects, an interference can never happen. Being for two different purposes, as long as they are limited to the different objects, they can no more clash than two parallel lines can meet.
For this design to work properly, both the states and the federal government need to stick to what they do well. Whenever the federal government tries to do the job of the states, it is trying to do the impossible.
Once we understand the benefits of the federal structure of our government, that tells us an incredible amount about how to interpret the Constitution. Since we know that the federal government isn’t well-suited to handle the internal government of this country, we should be skeptical of any interpretation of the Constitution that would give the politicians in Washington, D.C. huge amounts of power over domestic issues.
[sharequote align="center"]It’s no secret that our federal government is incredibly inefficient and poorly run at this point. [/sharequote]
It’s no secret that our federal government is incredibly inefficient and poorly run at this point. That shouldn’t surprise us. It’s impossible for one centralized government to effectively govern the internal affairs of a country as huge as the United States.
That’s why the Constitution designs a federal government that is intended to stick to those areas that a large central government is best at: national defense, foreign diplomacy, and other general concerns that affect the country as a whole.
When we limit the federal government to only performing those Constitutional roles, it can be a fantastic tool for protecting the freedom and prosperity of the American people. But we have to take the time learn exactly how this system was intended to work if we expect to continue to enjoy the benefits.
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.
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