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Letters to the Editor

September 20, 2013

States' rights are little more than an illusion

To expand on my August letter on states’ rights, I’d like to quote the 10th amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” 

But just what powers can the states exercise? Because in my life, I can’t recall the states showing any independence of Washington. Not without getting slapped right back down, anyway. 

It seems the last time any state fully stood up to the government was 1861. Unfortunately, secession was the means chosen to do it. And since then, the concept of states rights’ has been nearly treated like the theory of turning lead to gold — a notion of total crackpots out of touch with reality. Even a dangerous one, as I’ve heard the position that it supposedly contributed significantly to our Civil War. Presumably based on the theory that we are simply incapable, among other things, of knowing how to live with each other without near-total direction from Washington. As if we never mature past 5. 

I think the Civil War was a great benefit to the idea of fully centralized government because it effectively gave the message to the states of, “This is what’s going to happen to you don’t completely grovel before Washington.” While brute force is useful in keeping people in line, don’t ignore the government’s ability to derail any effort of decentralization by means of its cash spigot. And especially don’t underestimate how much people will prostitute their freedom to keep that spigot open.

So what our current condition essentially amounts to is that we have incrementally become a shadow of a republic — simply mouthing the words and going through the motions of being free.

Robert Olejarz


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