In this episode of Thoughts from Maharrey Head, I explain a legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine that puts a Supreme Court stamp of approval on James Madison’s blueprint to stop federal overreach through state non-cooperation.
Last week, I talked about James Madison’s blueprint to stop federal overreach, involving a refusal to cooperate with federal actions. Simply put, state and local governments can hinder and even stop enforcement of federal laws and implementation of federal programs by prohibiting state assistance. Since state personnel and resources are involved in almost every federal effort, states have the power to obstruct most federal programs.
But critics will immediately declare any attempt to withdraw state cooperation “unconstitutional.” Many Americans believe that because of the supremacy clause, states must do everything the federal government commands.
This isn’t true constitutionally, and even the Supreme Court agrees. In fact, the Court has consistently held since 1842 that the federal government cannot commandeer state personnel or resources to carry out federal purposes.
In this episode of Thoughts from Maharrey Head, I explain the anti-commandeering doctrine and give a brief overview of the four Supreme Court cases that serve as the foundation of this important legal doctrine.
While I don’t normally concern myself with what the Supreme Court says, in this case, it provides a legal basis for state action against federal overreach, and completely disarms federal supremacists who oppose those efforts.
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SHOW NOTES AND LINKS
Episode #57 – Madison’s Blueprint to Stop the Feds
Constitution 101: Federal Supremacy
“The fundamental principle applicable to all cases of this sort, would seem to be, that where the end is required, the means are given; and where the duty is enjoined, the ability to perform it is contemplated to exist on the part of the functionaries to whom it is entrusted. The clause is found in the national Constitution, and not in that of any state. It does not point out any state functionaries, or any state action to carry its provisions into effect. The states cannot, therefore, be compelled to enforce them; and it might well be deemed an unconstitutional exercise of the power of interpretation, to insist that the states are bound to provide means to carry into effect the duties of the national government, nowhere delegated or instrusted to them by the Constitution.” – Joseph Story, Prigg v. Pennsylvania
“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policymaking is involved, and no case-by-case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.” – Printz v. US
“The legitimacy of Congress’s exercise of the spending power “thus rests on whether the State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of the ‘contract.’ ” Pennhurst, supra, at 17. Respecting this limitation is critical to ensuring that Spending Clause legislation does not undermine the status of the States as independent sovereigns in our federal system. That system “rests on what might at first seem a counterintuitive insight, that ‘freedom is enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one.’ ” Bond, 564 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 8) (quoting Alden v. Maine, 527 U. S. 706, 758 (1999) ). For this reason, “the Constitution has never been understood to confer upon Congress the ability to require the States to govern according to Congress’ instructions.” New York, supra, at 162. Otherwise the two-government system established by the Framers would give way to a system that vests power in one central government, and individual liberty would suffer.” – Independent Business v. Sebelius
Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.