Friday, June 11th, 2010
Thank you to Professor Knipprath for your excellent insight into Federalist No. 32. We greatly appreciate your generous gift of time to the 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future Project!
The purpose of Federalist 32 seems to be to reassure citizens that the Federal Government’s power to tax will not preclude states from raising the revenue they need to operate their state governments. While making that point, Publius gives us an excellent tutorial in the balance of power that exists between the federal government and the states, under the Constitution:
“the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States.”
This sounds very much like the language in the 10th Amendment:
Amendment X: 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.
Publius goes on to explain the three types of cases where the Federal government is granted exclusive authority, overriding state sovereignty:
(1) “Where the Constitution in express terms granted an exclusive authority to the Union;
(2) where it granted in one instance an authority to the Union, and in another prohibited the States from exercising the like authority;
(3) and where it granted an authority to the Union, to which a similar authority in the States would be absolutely and totally CONTRADICTORY and REPUGNANT.
Making it clear that states will be allowed to levy taxes on “all other articles,” except imports and exports, Publius does caution that it might not always be prudent for the federal government and states to exercise their concurrent taxation powers and tax the same articles, but that “an inconvenience of the exercise of powers” doesn’t “extinguish a pre-existing right….” Most people would agree that modern day levels of taxation at the state and federal levels have passed the point of prudence!
The balance of power between the federal and state governments Hamilton describes in the beginning of the essay was structured to ensure our freedom. The disturbance in the equilibrium of the balance of power between the federal and state governments has resulted in greater levels of taxation at the state and federal levels, thus limiting our personal financial freedom and damaging the economy.
As unfunded federal mandates on the state governments have grown, the states’ need to raise revenue has increased. IRS.gov lists only nine states without an income tax! As the states’ need to raise revenue has increased, they have become more and more dependent on federal dollars, with mandates attached, thus altering the balance of power even more. As the federal government has ventured in to areas our founders never intended, its need to raise revenue has increased as well.
Once again, we see the damage done by disturbing the delicate balance of power so artfully designed by our founding fathers. The more we learn about the original structure and design of our government, the better equipped we are to work to restore the equilibrium which protects our liberty.
Good night and God Bless,