WHEW! IT'S A MOUTHFUL, but wait there's more: This is also a review of our Constitution's enumerated powers and federalism. This speech was presented recently to the Ad Fundum Women's Group of Minneapolis at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina, MN. It's long but worth every bit of time to read and review it:
Tuesday's presidential election is ultimately about the U.S. economy. There are numerous issues that matter to the voters at present, but front and center is the limping economy, and the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama over who has the best plan to boost growth.
But before I get to the economics of the election, I think it's important to note what a shame it is that the upcoming election matters at all. Indeed, it's too often forgotten what's in fact very true, that when the Founders wrote the Constitution for the great libertarian - small l - experiment that was once the United States, they were very clear about the size and scope federal government. The federal government was first authorized by the Framers, then those same Framers proceeded to greatly limit the federal government's powers. As James Madison put it, the powers of the federal government were "few and defined."
To read the Constitution isn't to read a document limiting our rights as individuals, rather it's something meant to greatly limit the role of the federal government in our lives. Despite the obvious intent of the Founders, they were still skeptical that their brilliant document would be understood, so with that in mind they wrote the 9th and 10th amendments. The 9th says: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Basically the 9th says that as humans our rights are natural, in a sense infinite, and that there's no way to list all the rights we have which extend right up to infringing on the rights of others. In short, the 9th made plain that we could and can do what we want so long as our actions don't cost others or bring harm to others. "Live and let live" as they say.
And then the 10th is something libertarians like to refer to as "Constitution for Dummies." It was inserted so that if there were any doubts among future legislators about the role of the federal government, the 10th amendment would settle those questions: "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." The 10th amendment exists to clarify things. To put it very simply, the 10th was inserted to let presidents, senators and congressmen know that if the power is not enumerated to the federal government in the Constitution, then it doesn't exist.
Of course this is why federal elections shouldn't matter to us. Indeed, so limiting is the document as to the powers we grant the federal government that we needn't really care too much whom we elect given the simple truth that the President and Congress have very limited ability to do much of anything. Instead, the President and Congress exist to simply protect us from foreign intruders, and to protect our right to live as we want so long as our choices don't limit the rights of others. At least that's what we thought. Founding father Thomas Jefferson noted long ago that the natural direction is for liberty to yield to power-seeking politicians - I paraphrase - and his utterance proved rather prescient with regard to the U.S. A nation founded by individuals possessing a great deal of skepticism about government - something which was highly unique - and who wrote a founding document that greatly limited the powers of the political class they were skeptical about, ultimately fell asleep and gradually yielded a great deal of liberty.
And that's why it's a shame that my speech perhaps matters, but more to the point, that the upcoming elections matter. They do because be they Democrats or Republicans, neither Party abides by the strict constitutional limits set by the founders, and the result is that we must care very much about federal elections.