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Why We Should Care About the Tenth 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.

Seemingly so simple, but these twenty-eight words have been constantly misconstrued, circumvented, or flat out ignored.

So what?  It's just a bunch of old-school rhetoric spewed out by some powdered-wig sporting fundamentalists over two hundred years ago.  Move along; nothing to see here.

Or is it something more than that?  Not to hide my bias (not that I could; why else write a treatise on the 10th?), I find it horribly relevant today.

This amendment, last of the Bill of Rights, can be seen as a conclusion to the Constitution as it was originally written; sort of a catch-all for anything not covered in the rest of the document.  To fully understand its significance, one first must understand the intent of the framers for the Constitution.  Here are a couple of quotes that might help out:

"A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate."

-Thomas Jefferson

"A republic is the best of governments."

-John Adams

"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution."

-James Madison

I could go on all day, but a lot of you were probably educated in public school so you have neither the patience nor the ability to read anything written prior to 1995 (for the record, I was also educated in public school; I'm just a snob).  The point is, the founders were pretty united by two ideas:

1.  Rights are innate to man, not granted by the government.

2.  Local politics are the best politics, because the public has more control over them (the basis for a Republic over a Democracy).

The first point, that our rights are innate and not granted by government, is a simple notion with severe ramifications (I'll leave the religious question out of it, for now).  If it is true, then there are things that we, as humans, have a right to; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come to mind.  Any government infringing on these rights (no matter how cool their "Che" pictures look) is violating the very nature of mankind.  If, on the other hand, it is not true; then all rights are arbitrary and may be enforced or repressed at the will of whoever happens to be in power.  I'll take "true" for 304 million, Alec.