The U.S. Constitution set up a balance between state and federal power that came to be known as federalism. By maintaining state sovereignty for most domestic issues, constitutional federalism made government more representative–and also more effective.
Unfortunately, the national government has stripped states of much of their proper power. Some of this has been done directly, much has been done indirectly through spending programs. But as federalism has diminished, frustration with government has increased. Bigger, as it turns out, is not always better.
The NAFSL urges states to stand up and reclaim their constitutional authority, thereby reestablishing the proper balance of federalism and revitalizing representative governance.
We are fortunate to have time-honored principles and an historical perspective to guide us in this essential recovery of freedom.
Not long after independence, our nation of states realized that a handful of issues could be better addressed at the national level. As a result, they assembled a convention of delegates from the states in 1787–the Constitutional Convention.
Throughout the debate, the delegates were wary of creating centralized government power that could infringe on the sovereignty of the states. Every state had its own constitution and representative government, as well as its distinct population, economy, and history. The delegates designed the Constitution to protect this diversity, leaving almost all domestic issues where they were–in the states.
During the ratification process for the new Constitution, many doubted that this balance would hold and insisted on even greater protections. This led to the Bill of Rights–the first ten amendments added to the Constitution. The first nine amendments protect individual rights, and the Tenth Amendment restates the clear protections of state sovereignty that are in the original Constitution:
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.
Keeping power in the states means keeping it closer to the people. This makes government more representative and more accountable. It is unsurprising that as power has shifted to the more distant national government, trust has diminished. People feel less represented in our out-of-balance system because they are, in fact, less represented.
The NAFSL assists former state legislators in standing up for the people of their states and reasserting the U.S. Constitution’s system of balanced federalism, which protects both state sovereignty and representative governance.
Federalism is a system of government in which power, by mutual consent, is divided between a central authority and constituent political units.
The Constitution of the United States is clear: all powers not delegated to the national government are left to the states.