Federalism

The New State Sovereignty Movement

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Jack Hunter at Taki's Magazine surveys some recent moves on the state level to assert their sovereignty against the Feds on 10th Amendment grounds. The very interested should follow all of Hunter's links as well. He reports that at least 15 state legislatures have lately introduced and in some cases passed largely symbolic resolutions asserting their prerogatives over all government powers not explicitly granted to the federal government in the Constitution.

Hunter quotes some state legislators behind the moves, sadly notes the mainstream media and mainstream right-wing are ignoring all this (with only such pre-marginalized voices as George Noury and Alex Jones trumpeting it) and concludes:

For now, states' rights legislation promises to remain symbolic, unless actions by the Obama administration pushes state legislatures toward more radical methods of circumventing federal power—or high profile, mainstream conservatives finally rally the troops by promoting what could potentially be the most serious right-wing resistance against the state in recent memory. Given Conservatism Inc.'s current track record, we're likely to see much worse from Obama before we ever get anything useful out of them. And states' rights-minded legislators, with no support from their national party or allegedly sympathetic "conservative" media, will be left to defend themselves and their constituents as little more than hyperbolic Confederate retreads, two steps from "shooting at the Park Service guys out at Fort Sumter" and one-step from the loony bin—for even daring to question the legitimacy of the omnipotent modern state. 

These things generally don't add up to much, of course, but it's always interesting, and encouraging, to watch them. As I noted in an article last week on governors looking a federal stimulus in the mouth, sometimes fruitless gestures hearkening to the spirit of limited and divided government power are the best we can manage in face of the federal juggernaut.

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  1. In the defense of those state legislators, shooting at the Park Service guys at Fort Sumter is pretty entertaining.

  2. Walter Williams laments the lack of teeth here.

  3. Once state governments became dependent on federal money they just became another federal bureauracy. The government should change it’s name to The United State of America.

    1. Technically, the USA has been a singular state since 1861, claiming it to be a single nation which cannot refuse the central government.
      That’s a bureaucratic hierarchy by definition.

  4. I remember when the GOP used to be for states rights.

    That was before California and others wanted their own medicinal marijuana and food labeling laws.

  5. Vines and Cattle,

    Williams doesn’t note that the New Hampshire sovereignty resolution is taken from the Kentucky Resolutions.

    He doesn’t really explain how Colorado would be able to protect its people against the federal tax-gatherer, which would be necessary if one of the unsuccessful Colo. bills would have required.

    Before the Seventeenth Amendment, legislatures could choose who the U.S. Senators would be, and could pass resolutions indicating how they thought the federal Senators should vote. Some have even referred to such resolutions as ‘instructions.’

    What methods do the states have now to resist the feds?

    First, turning down federal funds, but (a) that might amount to unilateral disarmament as other states grab the funds which would otherwise have gone to the defiant state, and (b) Congress could probe for weak points in the state government structure by allowing other of the state or local officials to accept the money. So there would at least have to be a state-law change forbidding any government institution from accepting the federal cash.

    Armed resistance would probably not work – who could be relied on to rally to the state’s side? If the resistance wasn’t crushed at once, it could lead to a prolonged Civil War-style bloodletting.

    I’m open to suggestions, of course, but something concrete.

  6. shrike,

    I think it has more to do with being shut out of power at the federal level. Even the Dems were murmuring about state rights from 2001-06.

  7. Interesting.

    I brought the case of New Hampshire to the attention of David Wiegel, a couple of weeks ago, and he answered with two words: “Idle talk”.

  8. Yo, fuck the mainstream media.

    I’m tired of this lame-ass, dumbed-down CNN/MSNBC/Fox triumvirate of talking head stupidity.

    At what point do we libertarians start building our own major media outlets? There are like a zillion of us on the Interwebs, 50% of whom are web developers.

    What does it take for someone to build one massive news site which unites the cosmotarians, Ron Paul Revolutionaries, Austrian economists, LPers, BTPers, CATO people, et al, under one umbrella? Someone with a vision and 20K in capital?

    For that matter, what does it take to get some videos on Youtube which explain what “libertarian” means?

    Call me impatient but I’m tired of sitting around begging for scraps of attention from the MSM. Let’s route around them and build our own media powerhouses.

  9. I think it’s gonna cost more than 20 grand, Flex. I’m in for being on-air talent, but you at least have to match my current salary. It’s not much, but it’s more than 20k. And that’s just me.

    Apply for some stimulust money, but tell them its for something else all liberal-progressive friendly.

  10. First, turning down federal funds, but (a) that might amount to unilateral disarmament as other states grab the funds which would otherwise have gone to the defiant state,

    Congress is fond of blackmail, as when they threatened to withhold federal highway funds for any state not bowing to the 55MPH speed limit. It would be interesting to have a team of accountants run a balance sheet on such. As in if a state rejected federal highway funds, how many laws could be rescinded, and how much tax money do those laws cost. It might even pay some states to tell Congress to take a hike.

    At what point do we libertarians start building our own major media outlets? There are like a zillion of us on the Interwebs, 50% of whom are web developers.

    Ever try to herd cats?

    A Texas Tenth Amendment contribution is posted here.

  11. Note: Test link in preview.
    The Texas contribution is posted here.

  12. California really could use the tax revenue from legalized marijuana. And I think that bill is more likely to pass the legislature and governor’s desk than the shall-issue concealed carry bill.

    Then, either the Feds have to go back to the original Harrison Act – which was taxation, or they have to assert a federal police power that doesn’t exist in the Constitution.

  13. BTW, anyone hoping that the Obama Administration would stop the move away from an open border with Canada can forget about it.

    Janet Napolitano is all for “chang[ing] the culture of no-border to border.” Also apparently to treat Canada any different from Mexico would hurt Mexican feelings.

  14. Brian, you ought to give credit to the Campaign for Liberty blog, where you got the link to that Takimag article.

  15. Not to nitpick too much, but regarding this quote:

    “….sadly notes the mainstream media and mainstream right-wing are ignoring all this (with only such pre-marginalized voices as George Noury and Alex Jones trumpeting it)”

    Alex Jones might not have the approval of Bill O’Reilly and the ADL, but the simple truth is that his primary website alone (and he has a host of popular ones), draws far, far more hits than this site – which I like a lot – does. If he’s “marginalized”….then what does that say about Reason? Doesn’t Reason believe in the power of the marketplace?

    Below is a screencap of Alex Jones’s primary site (Infowars.com) compared w/ Reason.com:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v703/DBrennan3333/InfoWarsVSReason.jpg

  16. largely symbolic resolutions

    Let me know when they start minting their own coinage.
    By the way, it’s official: D.C. is the 51st state. I got a quarter in my change today to prove it.
    State motto: “Justice For All.” Har-dee-har-har.

  17. Why would a libertarian prefer to be ruled by a large powerful state with smaller geographical borders than a large powerful state larger ones? I’ve never seen how the whole states-rights-libertarian wedding is supposed to be made. You have aboout nil chance of affecting an election in either case, and at least sometimes with a centralized government their power gets spread out and diluted across the entire nation (ask the folks in the USSR who lived quite a distance from Moscow if their life was as controlled as those in Moscow).

    The only thing you get with states rights is that the irrational regional prejudices that will influence the states exercise of power over you might be the ones you were born under (if you’re the “don’t change much during life type), but of course if you happen to live in a region that you were not born into or never quite fit into then your lot will be worse…

  18. I meant a centralized national government above

  19. I’ve never seen how the whole states-rights-libertarian wedding is supposed to be made.

    For one thing, competition amongst various states plus free movement of people among them. Even different libertarians find different impositions on liberty differently irksome. And some things regulated on the state level, it might be sufficient to have the ability to travel to another state temporarily to enjoy them.

  20. For one, MNG, dispersion of power is better than the centralization of it.

    Two, it’s easier to escape oppression if you only have to travel a few hours, rather than get a passport and pack all of your worldly belongings into whatever the airline will let you carry onboard on your way to say, Switzerland.

    Three, it is easier to affect local politics than it is national ones. It isn’t just votes, it’s influence. The smaller the pond, the bigger the fish you can be.

    Four, smaller government means solutions that are tailored for the situation as it affects people on the local-and-state level, rather than top-down mandates that just don’t “stretch” or “fit” the way they need to.

  21. I hate the term “states rights”. States, at any level, dont have rights, only individuals have rights. States have powers that have been granted to them by said individuals.

  22. MNG,

    See my previous posts on this issue. I know where my mayor lives. I can shoot him any time I need to.

    Point two, if there are 5000 separate entities operating relatively independently, I can EASILY move to a governance more to my liking without radically changing my lifestyle.

    If the city of Middletown* fucks me over, I can move to Jeffersontown* or St Matthews* without changing jobs or friends or church or etc. If the USA fucks me over, I can still move, but its not as easy.

    *Note that all of these cities would still have me living in two cities, because in all 3 cases I would still be living in Louisville too. Stupid idiotic double city fucktarded situation I live in.

  23. There won’t be any serious talk of States Rights (or secession) until I need a bailout from you yokels in the other 49

  24. In related news, NORML reports that Illinois, Minnesota, and New Hampshire just legalized medical marijuana.

  25. Good point, California. The 10th ammendment supports will be hampered by the push to go to DC hat in hand.

  26. “The only thing you get with states rights is that the irrational regional prejudices that will influence the states exercise of power over you might be the ones you were born under (if you’re the “don’t change much during life type), but of course if you happen to live in a region that you were not born into or never quite fit into then your lot will be worse…”

    Here’s one: Decentralized states have a lot harder time pointlessly basing troops around the world and arbitrarily going to war. For instance, one day Oklahoma might wake up and say “WTF do we have our citizens in Iraq killing Iraqis? What does that have to do with our self-preservation?”

    I know, I dream…

  27. If 38 or more states pass this sort of legislation, then they have, potentially, the magic number for ratifying constitutional amendments to really rein in federal power. That many states could probably exert sufficient influence on their senators and representatives to get amendments initiated in Congress, but if they couldn’t do that, they could also call for a constitutional convention (2/3rds of the states needed to start the convention process, 3/4ths needed to ratify any amendment).

  28. …(with only such pre-marginalized voices as George Noury and Alex Jones trumpeting it)…

    I hate to say it, but it’s “Noory” (with two “o’s”).

  29. We really, really, really, really, really need to repeal the 1913 amendments.

    As much as it pains me to say, the 17th needs to be repealed even more than the 16th.

  30. There won’t be any serious talk of States Rights (or secession) until I need a bailout from you yokels in the other 49

    Don’t be so modest, Sister Golden State. You’re already providing an excellent demonstration of the value divvying up power across multiple units of government, what with the droves of people who are leaving you for Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, etc. You’ve had so much success leading your residents to vote with their feet that you’re projected to lose a House seat in the 2010 census. This despite the millions of Mexicans you’ve so graciously welcomed.

    Seriously, California reasonoids: How do you tolerate it?

  31. Brandon,

    CA is still growing, they wont be losing a seat. But, they can think immigration for this:

    Census estimates (4/1/2000 to 7/1/2008):
    Total: + 2.8M
    Natural (Births – Deaths): +2.5M
    Net Migration(Intl + Internal): +0.4M

    International is +1.8M
    Internal is -1.4M

    So, on net, 1.4M more Califorians have left the state than other Americans have moved to the state. Not a good trend. But, they have enough foreign immigration to offset it.

  32. My state (KY) has the following:

    Total +227k
    Natural: +131k
    Net Mig: +105k (+31 and +74)

    Total doesnt add up, for KY or CA, due to “residuals” that the census bureau cant explain.

    So, while Californians are leaving, people are moving to KY.

    Interestingly, to me, my county (which contains Louisville) has -11k in internal migration, but 3 other counties in the metro area are +20k combined. The Louisville MSA has positive internal migration while my county doesnt. People are still moving from the city to the surrounding counties. Will be interesting to see if that changes over the next few years as some predict.

  33. s/think/thank/

  34. CA is still growing, they wont be losing a seat.

    Certain models predict it could. And even models that predict it won’t show its 53rd seat is among the last 5 awarded. But it doesn’t appear as likely as I thought.

  35. ‘If 38 or more states pass this sort of legislation, then they have, potentially, the magic number for ratifying constitutional amendments to really rein in federal power.’

    What kind of amendment would that be (not to be cynical or anything)? “This time we mean it?”

    Perhaps a repeal of the 17th Amendment might help, but the reason the state legislatures ratified that amendment was that they were tired of the political hassle and occasional deadlock, and general spending lots of time, that it took to elect Senators. That’s valuable time that could have gone into passing new state laws! So there may not be a lot of zeal for repeal on the part of the putatative beneficiaries (state legs).

  36. Liberty-minded folks should move to one state (preferably one that has some nuclear weapons), take it over (preferably through elections), form a significant trained militia, then start telling the Feds to go fuck themselves.

  37. PA is one of the states trying to pass a state sovereignty resolution. my local representative has signed on as a co-sponsor. didn’t the NH resolution fail to pass?

  38. The Free State Project has the problem of trying to move to a state (NH) for what it has (low taxes) rather than moving to a state for what it doesn’t have (lots of people). Wyoming!

    The other problem with NH is that the rate at which libertarians move there can always be outpaced by Massholes flowing over the border to get away from taxes.

    Although, Wyoming isn’t known for being socially liberal, so…Vermont? Too socialist leaning? Alaska’s extended light/dark periods could be a non-starter for a lot of people.

  39. While Wyoming may not be “socially liberal”, it does seem to have a “leave me the fuck alone” attitude, what with the minimum 150 miles between any two homes.

    Anyway, Im just calling bullshit on the whole libertarians are economically conservative and socially liberal meme. Libertarians are economically libertarian and socially libertarian. And there is a difference.

    1. Libertarians are mostly deluded into embracing good intentions and benevolent dictatorship, thinking that electing the “right” leaders will fix everything. They don’t recognize the real world of cut-throat politics and propoganda, and porkbarrel pandering by promising to rob Peter to buy Paul’s vote, which makes up the 2-party oligopoly known as American national party-politics.
      State sovereignty was the only thing that can save us from this, and it’s naive and dishonest to think that the can do better with it by simply adhering to the principles of Lockean politics and Austrian economics.

  40. I am in favor of a single world government a la Star Trek.

  41. Tony,

    Like the Klingon’s government?

  42. Make that Klingons’ government. Sorry.

  43. Could not an angry state withhold federal tax revenue, such as the gasoline tax? A state could simply refuse to pass the cash on to Washington, D.C. Is that an option that could “add some teeth” to a sovereignty resolution? (Frankly, I’d just as soon see a few states secede.)

    http://www.colony14.net

    1. They’d have federa marshals coming to collect it. States haven’t had any teeth since the Civil War.

  44. State sovereignty is not the same as States’s Rights under the 10th amendment, but rather is about a state’s ABSOLUTE power as a sovereign nation like England or France.
    People who dote on the 10th amendment as “limiting” the federal government, need to remember that a legal opinion without sovereign power to enforce it, is JUST an opinion; and so without absoute national sovereignty, a state is ultimately at the mercy of the federal government, which ALWAYS claims to respect the Constitution; indeed, this was Lincoln’s first claim in his First Inaugural Address. So left to its own devices, the federal government is the judge of its own powers, and only state SOVEREIGNTY– not state’s RIGHTS– can limit the federal government.

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