Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is Ron Paul Too Eccentric on the Importance of State Sovereignty?

This was posted earlier, but has been substantially lengthened.

"It was clear to the framers of our Constitution that the greatest possible liberty of self-government must be given to each State, and that any national administration attempting to make all laws for the whole Nation ... would inevitably result at some future time in a dissolution of the Union itself. Now, to bring about government by oligarchy masquerading as democracy, it is fundamentally essential that practically all authority and control be centralized in our National Government. The individual sovereignty of our States must first be destroyed, except in mere minor matters of legislation. We are safe from the danger of any such departure from the principles on which this country was founded just so long as the individual home rule of the States is scrupulously preserved and fought for whenever it seems in danger."

Those are the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt in a speech delivered March 2, 1930 while governor of NY as printed on the front page of the NY Times on March 3. He obviously didn't go on to govern by those words once elected President, but that's the message he campaigned on because that is what Americans believed and that's what he had to say to get elected.

Ron Paul's opposition to federal amendments regarding marriage and abortion is consistent with the historic understanding of the proper role of the federal government. Simply put, the federal government has no authority in these matters. The 10th Amendment is very clear that the federal congress has no authority except what is explicitly delegated to it by the states in the constitution. Any power not delegated to the federal government is retained by the states and the people. Clearly, one cannot delegate power to those who are higher in the chain of command. Powers can only be delegated to those who are lower in the chain of command. In both the language and intent, the 10the Amendment clearly establishes that the federal government is UNDER the states.

But in the country in which we live today, this has been completely reversed in most people's thinking. The due process clause of the 14th Amendment has been used to dismantle our republic and the 10th Amendment that guaranteed it and to set up a central government. And as FDR so accurately predicted in 1930, it has brought about a government by oligarchy.

How did the federal government justify blocking enforcement of Texas' anti-abortion statute in Roe v. Wade? 14th Amendment  substantive due process. How did it block Texas' anti-sodomy statute in Lawrence? 14th Amendment substantive due process. Why can a child get an abortion without her parents knowledge, but not get her ears pierced without their consent? 14th Amendment substantive due process. Why could they stop all state executions? 14th Amendment substantive due process. Why can't states outlaw pornography? You guessed it - 14th Amendment substantive due process. (See for a much fuller discussion on this point.)

Big government "liberals" have long used the due process of 14th Amendment as a club to force all the states under the tyranny of the federal government. Many conservatives have cried foul, but not because of the abuse of the function of the federal government. They cried foul because they didn't like what they were being forced to do. But when big government "conservatives" have gotten a chance they have used the same club to force states to act according to their wishes. Their actions have had the same disastrous effects on liberty and on the health of our republic as the big government "liberals".  The Bill of Rights was meant to secure our liberty by restricting the federal government from imposing it's desires on the states. Notice, the 1st Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion...". States were completely free to pass laws respecting the establishment of a religion, and several, including Massachusetts did. We have allowed the federal government to dictate to the states because we liked the policy they were imposing - black slaves are people too, don't drink alcohol (remember prohibition!), etc - but as soon as they started dictating policies we didn't like we start crying foul! We want the federal government out of our lives.But we can't have it both ways. Concentrated power corrupts. Like fornication, no man can withstand the temptation of concentrated power. The only answer is to flee from it.

Not only is Ron Paul's position regarding an anti-sodomy marriage amendment or federal legislation on prostitution Biblical, his position is also the historical position enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Passing these types of amendments will lead us yet one more step away from a republic of free people and 1 step closer to totalitarian slavery. Offered to a gullible nation in the name of stopping great evils, anti-abortion and anti-sodomy marriage amendments are a Trojan horse offered to the "Conservative Right" to destroy the fabric of our federal republic. Climate change and environmentalism are two Trojan horses offered to the "Liberal Left." It doesn't matter whether the Conservatives win or the Liberals win. As long as one group wins, the complete eradication of state sovereignty is ensured. Once the sovereignty of states has been undermined, there will be nothing standing in the way of the complete overthrow of our freedom and entire way of life.

Nevertheless, conservatives inevitably recoil in horror when they hear Ron Paul speak, thinking he wants to legalize sodomy, prostitution, drugs, and so on. But that misses the point of his argument and position. The point is that the federal government has no jurisdiction in those matters. The states have jurisdiction in those matters and that is where such laws need to be passed. You might think of it this way. Suppose your next door neighbors let their children eat candy and drink soda all day, watch unlimited TV every day, and stay up to midnight every night. Big government conservatives are like those who would seek to impose their own "good" rules on their neighbor's lives in order to correct such unhealthy behavior. Small government people like Ron Paul recognize that they have no jurisdiction over their neighbor's lives and don't attempt to regulate them. But refusing to regulate one's neighbors, because one has no jurisdiction to do so, is very different than believing that children ought to eat candy and watch TV all day.

It's a fair question to ask why it makes any difference if,  for example, prostitution is legislated at the state or federal level. How does the federal arrangement originally intended in the Constitution preserve freedom in a way that a centralized national government cannot? This was precisely the main issue debated between the federalists and the anti-federalists. (Actually those terms are a bit of a misnomer. The so-called federalist are more accurately described as supporters of a supreme central government over the states while the anti-federalists are more properly called "Federalists" in that they believed in a federal government to whom the states delegated certain limited powers.) This is most clearly seen in the resolution initially laid on the table at the start of the Constitutional Convention. According to Robert Yate's minutes, the first resolutions to be discussed were:
1. Resolved, That a union of the states, merely federal, will not accomplish the objects proposed by the Articles of Confederation, namely, common defence, security of liberty, and general welfare.

2. Resolved, That no treaty or treaties among any of the states, as sovereign, will accomplish or secure their common defence, liberty, or welfare.

3. Resolved, That a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme judicial, legislative, and executive." (Jonathan Elliot's Debates,  Vol 1, 1876. p391)
Thankfully the anti-federalists (who wanted a federal government) carried the day and we got a federal government (mostly), contrary to the wishes of a the Federalists who thought a federal union of sovereign states would not accomplish the objective of peace and security for the country.

The Anti-Federalists' reasoning which, tragically for us, has proven to be correct is:
  1. That a central government was too far removed from the local region over which it was legislating, 
  2. That laws need to be tailored to specific situations in order to be fair,
  3. That representation at a national level was too dilute and thus unable to represent the many contours of the people, and 
  4. Most importantly, that it did not allow for a good division of power. 
If a state passes tyrannical laws, people can easily move to another state. I moved to Texas because I did not want to live under the draconian homeschool laws of Ohio and Pennsylvania. If we had one national law, I would not have been able to do that.

We have a problem today with a tyrannical out-of-control federal government. Giving it more unconstitutional power, regardless of how well intentioned the supporting policy is, will only make our problems worse. This is what the anti-federalists understood, what FDR understood (although he used that knowledge to defeat freedom), and what Ron Paul understands so well. That's why he has so many enthusiastic supporters among common people, why he is bringing so many people back to the ballot box who had given up on politics years ago, and why he is so hated by the big government power brokers - be they "Conservative" or "Liberal."

Discussions of some of Ron Paul's positions from a Biblical perspective are here and here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post and blog. So glad I found it... I love how you explain concepts of liberty through the lense of scripture. This issue of sovereignty is incredibly overlooked if not misunderstood by far too many Americans these days. An appropriate understanding would go a long way toward 1. awareness of how close we are to voluntarily forfeiting our state sovereignty to an everincreasing federal government, and national sovereignty to intranational powers... 2. Recognizing counterproductive and selfdestructive legislation and policy positions within BOTH parties. Enjoying your book too! Very good read...

Peter Allison said...

Thank you for the kind words. There are more detailed essays on Biblical basis for liberty on Nov 2010 and May 2012