Veritas News Service and CAJI Exclusive
by Johnathan Masullo
FEDERALISM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.1 James Madison (1751 – 1836)
The concept of federalism envisioned by the founding fathers has been perverted. The author shall attempt to clarify the original picture of the founding fathers. There are two types of federalism; they are, past (2) and present (3). The author will explain federalism of the past. After the War of Independence, the people of the colonies experimented with self-government. The first attempt at self-government was the Articles of Confederation. The Articles did not work as projected, thus a convention was held to amend the problems under the current government. After months of deliberation, the Constitution for the United States of America was born. This new government took effect on the 21st of June, 1788.
Mr. Madison tells us that the Federal Government is limited and small; whereas, the several States are boundless and big. The United States of America is a federated republic, that is, the several States are individual, sovereign republics unified in compact. Federalism, according to our founding fathers, was a bottom-up system. The Federal Government possesses delegated powers. Whatever is not delegated to the Federal Government remains with the State Governments. The State Governments possess delegated powers. Whatever is not delegated to the State Governments remain with the Local Governments. One may call this idea “decentralization” of power, which is the foundation of federalism. Each level of government is limited by its constitution or charter. Each constitution explicitly states what the government may or may not do on behalf of the people of the respective jurisdiction. As a result, each level of government has its own responsibilities.
So, what is this “bottom-up” system? Local Governments possess all power; State Governments possess most power; and the Federal Government possesses some power. Why are Local Governments more powerful than State and Federal? According to the founding fathers, everything occurs at the Local Government. What occurs in one locality may not occur in another locality. Each locality has its own issues and those issues ought to be solved by that locality alone. Why should the people of City A, who are doing well, be plundered by the State Government to provide for the people of City B, who are failing? Who is responsible for the failure of City B? The people of City A? Or the people of City B? Or the people of the State? Or the people of these United States? The answer ought to be obvious to the reader. Local Governments have all power to handle their own situations.
Likewise, why should the people of State A, who are doing well, be plundered by the Federal Government to provide for the people of State B, who are failing? Each level of government faces its own challenges and those challenges ought to be solved by that government alone, of course, within the bounds of its constitution. Let us take the issue of health care. Health care is important to us all and the author assumes the reader would agree. We ought to ask ourselves this question. Should health care be in the hands of the people or in the hands of the government? What is the government’s role in health care? The author would like to note that the health care problems the people face today are no different from what the people experienced yesterday. So, why did the founding fathers not delegate the power to the Federal Government? The founding fathers believed that health care ought to be resolved by the State or Local Governments, if wished by the people of the respective jurisdiction.
We already know that the Federal Government has no delegated power in the question of health care. Let us imagine that State A’s constitution also has no delegation in the question of health care. It is up to the people of the several Local Governments to decide on the health care matter. The people of City A wish not to have a government operated health care system, thus the people of City A do not delegate such power. The people of City A wish to solve their health care problems by themselves. The people of City B wish to have a government operated health care system, thus the people of City B delegate such power. This health care system is, of course, universal and mandatory to all inhabitants of City B and City B only. What is desired in one Local Government may not be desired in another Local Government.
Likewise, what is desired in one State may not be desired in another State. It is established that State A’s constitution forbids a State Government operated health care system; therefore, the Local Governments thereof may wish to solve health care issues. State B’s constitution has delegation to settle the matter on health care. Since State B’s constitution permits the State Government to handle health care, it is not necessary for Local Governments to be in the affair. This was the concept of federalism envisioned by the founding fathers. All problems ought to be determined locally as much as possible; hence, Local Governments having all powers. The people are mostly affected locally than State or Federal. What the people experience or want in one locality may not be experienced or wanted in another locality. This idea of federalism leads to choice and to liberty.
If the people of City A wish to have high taxation, vast regulation, and government subsidies, then the people of City A are permitted. If the people of City B wish to have low taxation, no regulation, and no government subsidies, then the people of City B are permitted. If, for example, the people of City A wish to have a high property tax, outlaw firearm ownership, business regulations, and public housing, then the people of City A are allowed to decide what is in their best interest. If the people of City B wish to have no property tax, authorize firearm ownership, no business regulations, and no public housing, then the people of City B are allowed to decide what is in their best interest. Primarily, we all are individuals and we all desire different things. Local Governments are viewed in the same light because they accommodate the diverse requests of the people. Local Governments are individuals and desire different things. What holds true for one Local Government may not hold true for another Local Government. If a man does not like his Local Government, then he has thousands of Local Governments to choose that best accommodate him. That is liberty, choice, and republicanism.
Sadly, the federalism envisioned by our founding fathers turned on its head. The Federal Government possesses all power; State Governments possess most power; and Local Governments possess limited power. We may call this a “top-down” system. Everything emanates from the Federal Government, precisely, “centralization” of power, which is opposite of decentralized power. This is present day federalism. Yes, indeed, it is true that the delegated powers of the Federal Government are few and defined. However, the reader must bear in mind that his servants and trustees, i.e., all officers of government, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, are ignoring their oath or affirmation to support, to preserve, and to defend the Constitution for the United States of America. There is no doubt that much of the legislation passed by the Federal Government over the decades is unconstitutional. If the reader does not believe the author, then the author challenges the reader to examine the Constitution and compare it to the enacted laws. Do the ratified laws coincide with the Constitution? The servants and trustees to the people of these United States are exceeding their constitutional limits to pursue whatever agenda. The same may equally be said of State and Local Governments.
What is the solution to our ever-growing perverted federalism? The answer is to revert to the original intent. Regress to the federalism visualized by the founding fathers. All matters ought to be resolved locally, not State or Federal. What affairs may be suitable to one locality may not be suitable to another locality. The best form of government that has ever been devised for protecting the rights of the people has been found to be the republican form of government. While not perfect, and no form of government is perfect, republican forms of government, nevertheless, give a voice to the people and allows them to correct the course of government when they find it moving in a wrong direction. Mr. Jefferson accurately noted, “A democracy [is] the only pure republic, but impracticable beyond the limits of a town.”(4) The founding fathers agreed; for this reason, they devised a “bottom-up” federal system. All power originates from the bottom to the top, not top to bottom.
1. Federalist No. 45
2. See page 4
3. See page 5
4. Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1816. ME 15:65