Federal Government vs. States' Rights

I’m concerned about the various underhanded tricks the federal government uses to usurp powers that are supposed to belong to the states. For instance, the federal government can’t directly impose a drinking age on the nation. However, the government can pass a law saying that if your state doesn’t make its drinking age 21, they won’t get any highway funds. Now the apologists will say, “But it’s the government’s money!” But I say it’s just legalized blackmail. Governments do have control over their money, but they shouldn’t be allowed to use it to buy states’ rights. The feds are also trying to suppress California because of their medical marijuana law. What do you think about this, folks?

The only people who care about States’ Rights any more are people who want to use it as an excuse to attack Federal policies they don’t personally like.

When was the last time you pledged allegiance to your state flag, and to the commonwealth for which it stands?

So, you believe the federal government should be allowed to pass whatever laws they want, whenever they want, without regard to the powers granted to them in the Constitution? Then why do we have state governments AT ALL? Why don’t we just replace the state governors with federal agents?

Oh, and by the way, tracer, what’s your opinion on the following statements:

“The only people who care about the right to free speech any more are people who want to use it as an excuse to attack Federal policies they don’t personally like.”

“The only people who care about the right to own guns any more are people who want to use it as an excuse to gun down people in the streets whenever they want.”

“The only people who care about the right to prevent illegal searches and seizures are people who have something to hide.”

Please reply. I’m VERY interested.

States rights is still a big issue, nearly as big as it was at the time of the Civil War. (Folks down here in the South don’t call it the Civil War. They usually refer it to the War of Northern Aggression, or some such verbiage.) Of course that’s a topic for another debate: was the Civil War caused by the issue of states’ rights or by slavery? Again, Southerners insist it was caused by states’ rights. I’m of the opinion it was caused primarily be one state right: the right to own slaves.

Anyway, I agree with you. It’s a form of blackmail, esp. when federal funds’ origin is we, the the taxpayers. They do it all the time. Reduce the maximum speed limit in your state to 55 mph or no highway funds, etc.

So what can we do about it? Damn little.

According to John Locke, a philosopher who influenced Jefferson, government has no rights-only responsibilities.
The War Against Northern Aggression-that title never falls to crack me up…


I also disagree with your post.
There are other reasons to champion states rights. Vested interests have a vested interest in dividing up authority to make the government weaker and thus less likely to enact the kind of meaningful egalitarian reform that could end their cushy existence.
They have no desire to see the playing field leveled.

OTOH- You make a good point about pledging allegiance.
Are we Americans or Californians, Michiganders, North Dakotans, etc?

BTW- I prefer the term “The War of Southern Regression”.

I cannot see why allegiance cannot be to many different things. Before allegiance to any country my allegiance would be to humanity and to what is right and ethical. If I was German in 1940 I would not support my country.

After that I would claim allegiance to many things, family, friends, town, workplace, State, Country… and even maybe several countries… I do not see any incompatibility.

I do think everything has its level so my family might have a say in things where the state has no say and viceversa. Things of the more local level belong to the State level and not the Federal level.

I can see some things could be changed… for example I can see a national driver’s license, it makes sense to me. I can also see matters like abortion might be left to the States.

Regarding the OP, namely that the feds use their power to put pressure on the states to do things that should be decided by the states, yes, it happens and I do not think it is wrong. It can work the other way around too. It can also happen at other levels. The US puts pressure on the UN and on other countries. I see nothing wrong with that.

I grant your point about various allegiances, sailer, but I don’t see how allegiance to states accomplishes anything other than dividing Americans against each other.

Those laws you refer to, like the drinking age/highway funds law, are passed by acts of Congress. And where do those Congressmen come from? They’re elected at the state level.
Do you know how your U.S. senators and Congressman voted on that law?
The sovereignty of the states is what makes the federal Congress go through the highway fund cut-off threat to get many things done, such as the 55 mph speed limit of old and the drinking age, as no state is going to risk the loss of highway funds.
Heck, don’t even get me started on the dormant commerce clause. Congress can use that to regulate virtually anything.
As for California’s medical marijuana law, any state can decriminalize any controlled substance, but it could still be a federal crime to possess the substance. However, I doubt there would be many arrests if the arrests had to be made by federal agents rather than state law enforcement officers (which includes city police).

2nd Law writes:

But, isn’t the Federal jurisdiction limited to certain areas (physical and conceptual)?

I prefer ‘States War’ myself.

As for allegiance. I enjoy being American. It’s a good thing to be what we are.

That said, I’m PROUD to be a Virginian. I dearly love living here and frankly, the state government has done more for me and is more responsive to my needs than the feds have ever even TRIED to be. The same could be said for my county and city governments. (Thought with 100 people in Hillsboro the city government is really just whenever a couple of folks think something should get accomplished.)

Really, what does the federal government provide other than military defense that the states couldn’t do if federal tax dollars were directed at them?

Just a thought. Not sure I buy it. But this is Great Debates after all.

I agree with the OP that it is blackmail. I think that the best arguement for states rights is that local governments are more likely to be responsive to its citizens. Also there is more flexibitlity in lawmaking to allow for regional differences. For example how much sense does it make for a low traffic state such as Montana to have the same speed limit as a high traffic state like New Jersey, or Alaska to have the same gun laws as New York.

And I agree with tracer that the “States’ Rights” crowd is often using that as an excuse to do away with policies they don’t like.

For example, the bill to ban “partial-birth abortion”. Many of the same people who claim to be for states’ rights supported it - despite the fact that as the law currently stands, states can decide for themselves how to regulate late-term abortions.

The marijuana issue is another one. When the federal government decided its anti-drug laws trumped California’s medical marijuana law, where were all of the Congressional conservative Republicans who always whine about states’ rights? Awfully quiet so they were.

That’s true. It’s limited to the boundaries of the United States.

Let me point out that there is no such thing as “states’ rights.” Neither states nor the federal government have rights–peoplehave rights. Governments have authority, which in our system is limited. Yes, the use of highway funds and such to force states to follow federal desires is blackmail, but there doesn’t seem to be anything unconstitutional about it. The remedy is to work to vote politicians who support this out of office.

tracer said:

Essentially true, but it works the other way too–those who prefer federal power are those who want to impose their policies on states where they otherwise couldn’t.

ruadh said:

Conservatives support state power…provided the states are going to follow the conservative agenda. Liberals support federal power…provided the feds are going to follow the liberal agenda. If you’re looking for consistency, you’re looking at the wrong profession.

These states’ rights people they seem to only want their agenda, even bad laws they propose, to be passed with impunity from federal scrutiny. Usually, it has to do with cutting aid to immigrants, lowering standards to pre-natal care, and the like.
What about the bill proposed in Senate and a similar one in the house that would abolish state food laws, some of which are more strigent and consumer-friendly, for a more uniform federal system, which experts say could be much more lenient to foodmakers. State-righters, put up here and rant against these turn of events.

Perhaps ‘state’s rights’ is the wrong wording. Maybe ‘local governance’ is better?

As I said before my county government serves me better than the state government and my state government serves me better than the federal government. With that in mind am I crazy to want more local governance than non-local governance?

I can understand the desire of the federal government (and it’s proponents) to ensure standards across the states but I’ve always held the opinion that it is near impossible to find standards that apply equally across 50 states and some-odd number of territories/colonies/what have you and not have them conflict with what’s best for most regions. Isn’t it likely that we end up with ‘lowest common denominator’ policies rather than policies customized for a region and population?

Also, consider the opportunity cost of restricting state and county attempts to create policy. Instead of 50 (states) or a ka-jillion (counties) different attempts to establish workable solutions to problems (most failing and few working, I grant you) we are left with one approach at a time being attempted. Doesn’t our centralization of ‘problem solving’ (forgive me, I can’t think of a better phrase) lead us to deal with them in series rather than in parallel?

I’m really interested in debating this so let me know what you all think.

Oh? I was under the impression that Article I, Section 8 limited it quite a bit more than that, the Elastic Clause notwithstanding.

A pure technical point, the states have the right to have the authority not specifically delegated to the federal gvt. (10th Amendment)

Actually, the authority of the US gvt is not limited to the physical boundaries of the country. It asserts its authority to at least 3 miles in the sea.