Op-ed: Federalism Works
May 19, 2010
In The News
Op-ed by Rep. Rob Bishop
click here to view the original column
The federal government dominates every aspect of our lives. It has become immense in its size, reach and expense. Since 1995 alone, the federal government has issued nearly 60,000 new rules governing everything from the size of the holes in Swiss cheese to what colors are allowed for surgical stitches. Centralized power and one-size-fits-all solutions from distant bureaucrats leave Americans with a government that is out of reach and out of touch.
The widespread belief that the federal government can and should solve every problem facing society has proven disastrous. Most politicians in Washington only add to the mess by promising to solve every problem with further expansion of the federal government.
Americans throughout the country are rising up and saying enough is enough. They are tired of top-down mandates from federal bureaucrats in Washington. It's time Washington listened.
A few of us in Congress have heard the cries and have formed the 10th Amendment Task Force. The mission of the task force is to disperse power from Washington and restore the constitutional balance of power through liberty-enhancing federalism. We aim to do this primarily by developing and promoting proposals that will disperse power, decision-making, and money from Washington back to states, local governments, and individuals. Bringing decisions and participation closer to local communities is vital to restoring American's faith and confidence in their government and the political process.
The 10th Amendment reads: "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." This amendment enshrined in our Constitution is the core principle of federalism.
Federalism is the idea that the Constitution granted certain powers to the federal government, while reserving the rest to the states, or the people. One of the many brilliant insights of the Founding Fathers is that they recognized the limits of a national government and did not attempt to box the nation into a single standard or code of living. This nation is simply too great, too broad, and too diverse for one set of ideas to rule from sea to sea. California is not Kansas. Alabama is not Alaska, and Massachusetts is not Utah. Federalism is the mechanism by which the various interest, preferences, and policy desires of the many states can be achieved.
Federalism works for many reasons. It keeps government within the reach of the individual, and keeps government in its place. Federalism works because it brings government closer to the people, it nurtures civic virtue, it protects liberty, it takes advantage of local information, and it stimulates policy innovation while reducing political tensions. In other words, federalism was the Founder's original formula for freedom and good government.
The fight over federalism is not between Republicans versus Democrats or between conservatives and liberals. To the contrary, this is a battle between centralists and devolutionaries. Centralists want to concentrate money, power, and decision-making in the hands of a small group of individuals located between 16th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Devolutionaries want to send money, power, and decision-making to regions, states, local governments and individuals throughout this vast country. Today's real revolutionaries are devolutionaries.
Leaders in Washington need to show the American people that we have a comprehensive plan that doesn't impose a certain ideology or party platform on them. Instead, we need to tell them that decisions should be made locally, by individuals living in our communities, not by politicians in Washington.
Policymakers need a concrete, achievable agenda if they are to reinvigorate American federalism. That agenda is precisely what the 10th Amendment Task Force will provide.
Mr. Bishop, a Republican, represents Utah's 1st Congressional District.