What the American South Fought to Defend
(Excerpted from Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative)
The Governor of New York, [Franklin Roosevelt], in 1930 pointed out that the Constitution does not empower the Congress to deal with “a great number . . . of vital problems of government, such as the conduct of public utilities, of banks, of insurance, of agriculture, of education, of social welfare, and a dozen other important features.” And he added that “Washington must not be encouraged to interfere” in these areas.
Franklin Roosevelt’s rapid conversion from Constitutionalism to the doctrine of unlimited [national] government, is an oft-told story. But I am here concerned not so much by the abandonment of States’ Rights by the national Democratic party – an event that occurred some years ago when that party was captured by the Socialist ideologues in and about the labor movement – as by the unmistakable tendency of the Republican party to adopt the same course. The result is that today neither of our two parties maintains a meaningful commitment to the principle of States’ Rights. Thus, the cornerstone of our republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by big government, is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism.
The Republican party, to be sure, gives lip-service to States’ Rights. We often talk about “returning to the States their rightful powers’; the administration has even gone so far as to sponsor a federal-state conference on the problem. But deeds are what count, and I regret to say that in actual practice, the Republican party, like the Democratic party, summons the coercive power of the federal government whenever national leaders conclude that the States are not performing satisfactorily.
There is a reason for the Constitution’s reservation of States’ Rights. Not only does it prevent the accumulation of power in a central government that is remote from the people and relatively immune from popular restraints; it also recognizes the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned. The people of my own State – and I am confident that I speak for the majority of them – have long since seen through the spurious suggestion that federal aid comes “free.”
The Constitution . . . draws a sharp and clear line between federal jurisdiction and State jurisdiction. The federal government’s failure to recognize that line has been a crushing blow to the principle of limited government.”
(The Conscience of a Conservative. Barry Goldwater. Victor Publishing Company, 1960, excerpts, pp. 24-29)