The Forgotten Tenth Amendment

If you read the Articles of Confederation, it is clear that the men who wrote wanted to make sure that the power of the individual states was preserved.  Our Founding fathers were afraid of a powerful central government that could impose its will on any or all of the Thirteen Colonies.  For example, under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress could request money from the states and it was up to the state legislature to determine how much, if any, money it would send to the central government.  The result was that the American Revolution was funded by loans from France, The Netherlands and Spain and the wallets of its wealthiest citizens.

The Articles of Confederation quickly proved to be unworkable and our Founding Fathers determined that we needed a better governing document.  On May 27th, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was called to order and by September 17th, 1787, they had a document that they could take to the 13 states for ratification.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts balked at ratifying the original document and insisted that before it would agree to ratifications, 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights must be added.

The First and Second Amendment get all the publicity, but the Tenth (and last Amendment in the Bill of Rights) should get more attention.  In one simple sentence – The powers not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people – it clearly was intended to limit the power of the Federal government.

The intent of this amendment is quite clear, i.e. any power not specifically given to the Federal government resides with the states.  Clearly, this is a hangover from the Articles of Confederation.  The writers of this amendment were afraid that a strong Federal government would ride roughshod over the individual states and their rights to govern themselves.

State’s rights have, over our history have led conflicts between the states and the Federal government.  Slavery, already a staple of the economy of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia was just one and probably the easiest to point out.  It took a civil war and the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery.

Laws about firearms is another.  We face a byzantine and often conflicting mix of state, county, city and Federal laws governing the ownership of a firearm.

But let’s come back to the Tenth.  Reading it, one wonders where is the constitutional justification for several large Federal agencies, e.g. the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Education (DoEd)?  Unlike the Departments of Commerce, Defense and State which have their justification in sentences in the Constitution, neither Energy nor Education can trace their raison d’ être to the Constitution.

The issue is simply this.  DoED’s 4,000 employees spend $61B+ taxpayer dollars every year and DoE’s 14,000+ employees consume $21.1B+ taxpayer dollars.  Their existence may not be constitutional because of the Tenth Amendment which says, if it is not specifically given to the Federal government, it is a right of the state.  Or, maybe they shouldn’t exist.

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