Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

On handy definitions

According to Wikipedia,, a state is defined as follows:

In international law and international relations, a state is a political entity possessing sovereignty, i.e. not being subject to any higher political authority. But, as noted below, the "state" can also be defined in terms of domestic conditions, specifically the role of the monopolization of force within a country. Of course, different political philosophies differ in their interpretation of the actual and ideal roles of the state.

The definition of "state" in the meaning of political subdivisions of some countries, is related as it emphasizes the intention of a confederation where these state governments are seen as possessing some powers independently of the federal government. Often these states existed before their creation of a federal régime.

A nation is defined as:

A nation is a group of people sharing aspects of their language, culture and/or ethnicity.

Shortly after the definition of "state" given above, Wikipedia, has this to say about the differences between a "state" and a "nation":

In casual language, the idea of a "state" and a "country" are usually regarded as synonymous, although some speakers, notably in the United States, make efforts to use "country" or "nation" for the sovereign entities. Others would primarily understand "the State" as a synonym for "the Government", or be careful to distinguish between a territorial "country" and a "nation" of people. Confusingly, the terms "national" and "international" are both used as technical terms applying to states, see country.

Now, using the above (correct) definitions of "state" and "nation", some things about the USA and it's history will make MUCH more sense to the semi-educated observer.

For instance, when we look at what the letters "US" stand for, and then realize that there were quite a few lawyers amongst the Founding Fathers, we may start to look at The United STATES of America a little differently. You see, in the very name of the COUNTRY I call home, is the idea that each and every STATE of the United STATES is a seperate, SOVERIEGN, entity. A casual reading of the US Constitution would only reinforce this observation. What does that mean to us?

What that means to us is our rights are being trampled on by our government. Every American I know has a favorite Amendment to the US Consitution. For many, it is the First, for others, the Second. For some, it should be the Fifth. I actually have two. The Ninth :

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

and the Tenth:

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.

Interesting, no? The US Constitution specifically declares, in no uncertain terms, that the PEOPLE, and to a lesser extent, the STATES of the Union, have all powers not specifically mentioned in the US Consitution. Based upon my (limited) knowledge of what the Founding Father's intended with the Bill of Rights, it would seem to me that these two Amendments were the ONLY reason the Bill of Rights ever was ratified! It seems that the major opposition to the Bill of Rights was not whether or not those rights were entitled to the populace, but rather whether or not they even had to be enumerated. Many of the opponents of the Bill of Rights felt that, as soon as rights were enumerated in the Constitution, that future generations would make the assumption that those were the ONLY rights granted by the Federal Government. So, the Ninth and the Tenth Amendments seem to have been included to assuage the fears of the opponents of the Bill of Rights.

In a nutshell, the Ninth and the Tenth Amendment are the two amendments that lead to the battle-cry of "States rights! States rights!". And that is a good thing. The states of the US are NOT just little subdivisions of governments to make gerrymandering a little easier. The states of the United States are all independent countries, bound together by a treaty obligation called the US Constitution. This is something that is so basic to the understanding of how our government is supposed to work that I am amazed that it is not more common knowledge. I personally grew up thinking of a "state" as a subdivision of a country, because that was the impression I was given by all of my social studies classes. And I know I am not the only one who was left with this impression. It was only after I learned what the ACTUAL definition of a "state" was, combined with trying to define what the United States of America actually meant, that I was struck with what the Constitution actually was saying about how our government is SUPPOSED to work. And the United States is not some sort of political abberation, either. Germany is a collection of states, some with more autonomy than others (Bavaria, Hamburg, and Bremen come to mind), and Great Britian is an ENTIRELY different country than England (call a Scotsman or a Welshman English someday. Do it twice, and win a trip to the Emergency Room!). Switzerland is a collection of "states" so diverse, they need four languages just to make everyone happy. Where the US was, and is, different, is the amount of AUTONOMY that our form of government is suppossed to accord to the states, or signatories to the treaty, if it helps you think of it that way.

States rights was one of the arguements used AGAINST the abolition of slavery, and FOR the rights of the Southern states to secede from the Union. I know this will sound bad, but in the first case, the Southern states had a point. The Founding Fathers never addressed the slavery issue directly in the US Constitution, because, while many of them felt slavery was abhorrent, they didn't want to dissolve the Union over one sticking point. The anti-slavery members of the Constitutional Congress, and even some of the pro-slavery members, decided to leave it up to each individual state to determine whether or not slavery would be legal, with the understanding that states would each abolish slavery on their own. Since the Southern states weren't all that fired up about abolishing slavery on their own, some well-meaning, but ill-advised, politicians decided to try and abolish slavery by Federal fiat, because they were too lazy, frankly, to use the Amendment process to abolish it Constitutionally. Which lead to the US Civil War. Where the arguement FOR the ability of states to secede from the Union was a sore spot for the President, as he was not sure whether or not the Southern states actually had the right to secede. Fortunately for the Union, some nutcases in South Carolina took the matter out of his hands, and fired at Ft. Sumter, turning the arguement away from the rights of states to secece, and to the putting down of an armed rebellion, which the President DID have the right to stop. So, the groundwork of the US Civil War was laid by anti-slavery knuckleheads who didn't want to follow the Amendment process, and started by pro-slavery knuckheads who didn't want the Amendment process to go through. Not following the Constitution lead to the bloodiest war in US history.

Today, because of precedents started during the US Civil War, the US Constitution is routinely ignored, because advocates of Big Government, and even some advocates of Smaller Government, don't want to follow the US Constitution. When the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that there is a "right to privacy" in the US Constitution, which allowed abortion, they trampled all over the US Constitution. The right to privacy can EASILY be interpreted from the US Constitution, by using the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments, but how does that allow a woman to kill her child? Besides, a person forfeits their right to privacy the INSTANT they step out into public, since no one has the right to demand that onlookers avert their eyes to avoid seeing the person who wants their privacy maintained. So, while the right to privacy CAN be found in the US Constitution, it only applies in very narrow circumstances, such as one's home, with the curtains drawn. Once it is available for all to see, it isn't privacy anymore. So, using the right to privacy to defend one's public actions makes no sense.

Another area that is supposed to be in the purview of State's Rights is religion. The US Constitution specifically forbids the Federal Government from endorsing any one religion, or preventing the free expression of religion. It says nothing about whether or not STATES have the right to do so. Actually, it does. Since the First Amendment specifically mentions CONGRESS "shall make no law", using the Ninth and the Tenth Amendments, we find that each STATE may pass such laws. I am not neccessarily an advocate of any state USING that power, but the state has the right to do so, if the state's laws permit it. Because, if I don't like that state's laws, I just don't have to live there. And that, my friends, it the heart and soul of what the name of our country means.

The US Constitution, which created the United States of America from the ashes of the Revolutionary War and the failed government that followed, is based wholly on freedom. A state has the freedom, within certain parameters, to pass any law it sees fit for the governance of it's population, and the population of each state has the right to LEAVE that state if they find the state's laws to be not to their liking. Any other interpretations of the US Constitution are wholly at odds with the Founding Father's intent, and unConstitutional, to boot.

Tommorrow, I will discuss the "nation" part of this thought, unless y'all want me to keep holding forth on state's rights. I doubt y'all do, but if you do, let me know.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country