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States Should Celebrate Independence Day by Reclaiming Their Sovereignty

July 5, 2019

The Heartland Institute wishes you all the best this Fourth of July and we urge state lawmakers to use Article V of the Constitution to rein in Washington D.C.

Happy Independence Day from The Heartland Institute! For many, Independence Day includes festivities, fireworks, and happy memories shared among friends, family, and fellow Americans. As a supporter of liberty, Heartland knows Independence Day is a holiday that embodies the epitome of freedom. We gladly welcome celebrations commemorating the colonies’ warranted demand for independence.

With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 13 colonies became (officially) engaged in an epic struggle with the mightiest military force in the world at that time. Providentially, the colonies emerged victorious. The significance of this historic day has been monumental, both for Americans and for citizens in countries around the world.

The break from British tyranny led to a world-changing revolution. A whole new system of government was created based upon personal freedom and federalism. Under this groundbreaking system, the state and federal governments were supposed to share power. Even better, personal liberties were to be protected and the federal government assigned limited, enumerated powers. Remaining powers were granted to the states and the people. A truly remarkable system, indeed.

This concept of states’ rights was imperative to the Declaration of Independence. In their letter to King George, the colonies urged that power must be derived “from the consent of the governed.” One of the many listed grievances by the colonists noted King George used said power, without consent, to bring about “legislative bodies … for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”

Indeed, this notion of state sovereignty is prominent in nearly every part of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution gives explicit directives for the federal branches of government, and the Bill of Rights ends with the 10th Amendment, which states those “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Regrettably, states’ rights have been eroded in recent decades. The federal government, in a manner similar to the wretchedness of King George, has encroached on and highjacked state prerogatives, not to mention a whole host of personal freedoms. From threatening highway funding to establishing “emissions guidelines for states to use,” the federal government has frequently infringed on the autonomy of state governments. The Trump administration has made great strides toward reducing the power of the federal government in many areas, but much work remains.

The national government’s power grab is deeply troubling, especially since the federal government currently holds more than $22 trillion in public debt, nearly $1 trillion more than it held on July 3, 2018. Due to the programs the federal government has forced upon states, there will undoubtedly come a period in which states will be unable to afford the costs brought by Washington, DC. If things don’t change soon, tough times are almost certainly coming our way.

Fortunately, states don’t need to air a list of grievances on Twitter to reinforce the philosophy our Founding Fathers laid out. Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes states to meet in a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. Such a convention could limit the authority of the federal government, should the states choose to agree to an amendment.

Several attempts to enact Article V have taken place, yet none have been successful. Groups supporting a constitutional convention include the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force and Convention of States.

As state lawmakers, it is imperative representatives protect the interests of their constituents. Part of this sacred duty involves shielding Americans from the abusive actions of the federal government. As the colonists understood, it is “the Right of the People to alter or abolish” a destructive government. State legislatures should use their constitutional right to remedy the egregious abuses of power perpetuated by the federal government.

 

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