The third bill filed this year in the Tennessee general assembly’s upper chamber is full of good intentions. Bill no. 3 is described under the truth-in-labeling rule as “an act to designate a segment of U.S. Highway 27 in Rhea County as ‘Veterans Memorial Highway.’”
It brims with good intentions.
“Whereas,” it intones, “from Valley Forge to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war-torn nations of Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, our armed forces have unselfishly paid the price of freedom for their friends and families and for all of us. **** ”
It takes part in the usual claim Americans are prone to make about their foreign wars, that they were really about the freedoms that remain for us to enjoy. This question aside, the bill highlights the soldiers, sailors and airmen, “intrepid and valiant members” of the military who “have continued to inspire our confidence, loyalty, and support.”
The general assembly is invited to call still-unnamed part of the highway in the Dayton, Tenn., area after “those brave sons and daughters who sacrificed personal concerns and their safety, with many of them giving their lives, so that we might enjoy the many bounties of democracy and the American way of life.”
Well, U.S. is not a democracy
First slipup, the United States is not a democracy. If anything, the United States are a mixed government, with democracy of the people allowing them to choose representatives, who are the aristocracy (Senate), the commons (the House) and monarchy (the executive). Democracy is no government at all, and was strongly opposed by the founders and also by the people who brought us the U.S. constitution.
Second slipup — the one that should pain everyone who believes in American freedoms and who, nobly, wants to thank Tennesseans and others who served to protect that freedom:
Section 4 of the bill, a real barb. “This act shall become operative only if the federal highway administrator advises the commissioner of transportation in writing that the provisions of this act shall not render Tennessee in violation of federal laws and regulations and subject to penalties prescribed therein.”
Rhea highway bill pretends state is chattel property of feds
So, Sen. Ken Yager is bold enough to hold office, but not bold enough to propose a law free and clear of that alien power which in New York vs. United States (a 1992 states’ jurisdiction case) it is clearly stated the federal government has no authority in the state of New York. The bill will not become law unless the people of Tennessee and their representatives go to a very busy official in Washington D.C. and expect him to take time out of his busy schedule to write a letter saying that “advises the commissioner of transportation in writing that the provisions of this act shall not render Tennessee in violation of federal laws and regulations and subject to penalties prescribed therein.”
In other words, the general assembly of the free state of Tennessee cannot pass a law of the most diaphonous and honorific kind without bowing and scraping to a faraway government which has no authority in Tennessee.
For all their activism and attempts to animate the federal constitution with new life and relevancy, federal judges sometimes perceive things aright. In New York vs. United States, the justices make an extended argument about the integrity of the states and the impossibility of Washington simply ordering Nashville or any other state government what to do.
The case settled a dispute over low-level radioactive waste in which New York and two counties rely on the 10th amendment to the constitution to reject a federal commandment through a 1985 law. The 10th amendment says powers not specifically given to the national government are reserved to the people and the states.
“Congress may use the States as implements of regulation; that is, whether Congress may direct or otherwise motivate the States to regulate in a particular field or a particular way principles that guide our resolution of the issue. *** As an initial matter, Congress may not simply ‘commandee[r] the legislative processes of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program[’] *** . We observed that ‘this Court never has sanctioned explicitly a federal command to the States to promulgate and enforce laws and regulations.’ ”
The decision goes on to say, “While Congress has substantial powers to govern the Nation directly, including in areas of intimate concern to the States, the Constitution has never been understood to confer upon Congress the ability to require the States to govern according to Congress’ instructions.”
The U.S. cannot, in other words, tell Tennessee what to do.
Ambition vs. ambition
Our federal system relies on competing power centers to prevent an absolutist or unitary regime. It relies on what James Madison described as a competition among ambitions. Ambition versus ambition. But what happens when those representing the common people in one power center — Nashville, for example — imagine they are helpless and subject at every point to a U.S. executive agency? When they, in other words, lack ambition?
The honorific Rhea County bill says “this act shall become operative only if the federal highway administrator advises the commissioner of transportation in writing” that the acts provisions “shall not render Tennessee in violation of federal laws and regulations” suggests its legislators have been completely cowed by years of voluntary subjection and servitude to Washington.
The ceremonial Rhea County bill says “this act shall become operative only if the federal highway administrator advises the commissioner of transportation in writing” that the acts provisions “shall not render Tennessee in violation of federal laws and regulations” suggests its legislators have been completely cowed by years of voluntary subjection and servitude to Washington.
Let Tennesseans’ representatives omit such language in their proposals, and let them read such opinions as New York v. United States to give them a little courage.
— David Tulis runs Nooganomics.com, a talk show 1-3 p.m. weekdays at 1240 AM Copperhead radio. He covers local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.