Without a full practical recognition of the rights and sovereignty of the States, our union and liberty must perish. ~John C. Calhoun
As Independence Day quickly approaches, I cannot but wonder if the founders of our nation would find more cause for lamentation than celebration. It seems to me that we are but a shadow of the Republic they sought to establish.
Without question we are freer than folks in other countries and for this we can and we should be thankful. But are we as free as our forebears? What happened to liberty?
There are many answers to such a query, but soberly contemplate the consequence of our Civil War:
The character of the American state had changed almost overnight, from one established by the founding fathers whose primary responsibility was protecting the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens, to an expansionist, imperialistic power that was more willing than ever to trample on individual rights and abandon the Constitution to achieve these ends. . . . Perhaps the biggest cost of Lincoln’s war was the virtual destruction of states’ rights, but the significance of this seems lost on most Americans. (Thomas DiLorenzo, “The Real Lincoln,” p.p. 223, 264)
The centralizing, coercive genie was and is out of the bottle. The repressive precedents then are the established practices now: the scandal that is Washington DC, the incessant erosion of civil liberties, the unending undeclared wars, the soul-crushing nanny-police state, and on and on.
Who can deny these things?
We often speak of individual liberty but here we are addressing the idea that individual liberty is best preserved or maintained when governance is localized. That is, the concept of states’ rights is crucial to individual freedom.
Thus we ask: Are we truly a union of sovereign states? Not really. Our states are scarcely states—much less sovereign. The states of the United States are more akin to “districts.” That is they are wholly subservient to the Federal government. They do what the Federal government allows or commands and nothing more.
We’ve morphed from the united States to the United states.
This transformation is precisely what Woodrow Wilson praised as progress,
The War between the States established . . . this principle, that the federal government is, through its courts, the final judge of its own powers.
In other words, the only check on the Federal government is the Federal government. For those unsure of this, consider the following.
In 1973 the Supreme Court—Roe v. Wade—unilaterally struck down laws in every state which prohibited murdering preborn babies. Last year the Supremes stuck their thumb in the eyes of 28 states who desired to overturn Obamacare.
This year they denied Arizona the right to require proof of citizenship when registering Arizonans to vote. And now, in regards to gay marriage, the Supreme Court has tipped its hand on eventually imposing its will on every state in the union (by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8).
As Forrest McDonald has noted, one consequence of the war [the Civil War] was that the Supreme Court became "the sole and final arbiter of constitutional controversies." (Thomas DiLorenzo, “The Real Lincoln,” p. 293)
Yes, indeed. “Constitutional controversies” and other controversies it seems!
To be sure, we’re thankful to be Americans. And we’re going to enjoy the 4th of July. But if we’re going to patriotically belt out “o’er the la-and of the freeeeee…” we’ll need to cover more than our hearts. We’d better cover our eyes as well.