Source of government powers and authority in the US

By Al Kuchinka

February 5, 2014

Local governments are formed when the people of a community gather together and agree (usually in writing) to “give up” a limited amount of their God-given rights to a local government. The people then elect members of their community to serve in the positions thus created (mayor, sheriff, city council) for limited time intervals.

County governments are formed by local communities that “give up” a portion of the local government’s rights to the county. State governments follow a similar process — with one additional restriction. The form of government must be a Republic — as required in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution.

Please note an important aspect of the above process. Each “higher” level of government receives only a portion of the powers and rights of the lower level of government. Government at any level, therefore, cannot force an individual to contribute to charity or purchase something because you and I (the people) did not have that authority to grant to the lowest level of government. Thus, no level of government may take goods or money from one person to give to another.

All government welfare is therefore illegal by definition. This important concept was explained by Frederic Bastiat, in his short book, “The Law,” published in 1850 (available from www.JBS.org.). He referred to government welfare as “lawful plunder,” and explained why socialism, unless aborted, would lead to financial collapse or bankruptcy of any democratic nation.

Also note that “giving up” rights to government does not mean the people relinquish those rights — they share them with government. You share your right to self defense with the police, the sheriff and state troopers, but not with federal law enforcement personnel. The States did not did not grant the Federal Government authority to act in that area.

The concept of sharing powers does not apply to those enumerated in Article I, Section 8, Clauses 1 through 18 of the Constitution. The Federal Government is supreme and has sole responsibility for those areas.

They are the “limited powers” granted to the Federal Government by the States. “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.” (Amendment X to the Constitution of the United States.) If the Constitution does not say the Federal government can do it, it is forbidden.

Al Kuchinka is a local resident and guest columnist.