What is States’ Rights


“Our Rights are like a cookie. No matter how big the cookie and how small the bites, eventually you run out of cookie.”

A very wise man, one for whom I have great respect, recently issued what seemed to be a challenge, “Was all y’all’s talk about states’ rights just whiskey talk, or do y’all really believe it?” Then he followed with, “If you do really believe it, then get liquored up and write an article!”
So this POOR (Plain Ole Ordinary Redneck) mountain moron got to thinking about that. In my younger years it has been rumored by some that I got liquored up once or twice, but I can’t remember a thing about it. Some said that was the effect of the liquor. Now that I am kind of the opposite of a youngun, I can’t remember getting liquored up at all. Some say that isn’t the effect of liquor. Life is like that at times — what was isn’t, and what is wasn’t.

Of course, English majors will just go berserk over that last sentence; but it does apply to a discussion of States’ Rights in the year A.D. 2012, even if it is some of the poorest English grammar of the year. What was State’s Rights isn’t what it is today. What is States’ Rights today isn’t what it was.

To begin, I will put on my virtually unused and in brand new condition English grammar hat and point out that the apostrophe is in the wrong place. It should be State’s, not States.’ And the word Rights should be Powers.

Why States’ vs. State’s? In the founding concept of American liberty (Declaration of Independence), the primary purpose of government is to guarantee the rights of the people, which are derived from God. To accomplish this primary function of government, the power to govern was divided between a person’s State and The (several) States as a group (or the central government). States’ is the plural possessive. It references The States as a group and is thus the same as saying Federal Government Rights. So you could argue that people today who speak of States’ Rights have lost part of the basic concept before they even get started.

Why Rights vs. Powers? The second word of the phrase is also misused. Rights are given to the people by God, not to their State, a group of States, or to a central government. States do not have rights; they have powers to govern that have been granted by the sovereign people. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the concept of American liberty. Government at every level is supposed to execute only those powers for which the people have granted the authority. Any debate that begins with the “Rights” of any government at any level has most likely been lost from the outset. Even if the effort seems to have initial success, in the end it only winds up chipping away at our God-given Rights.

But for the sake of this article let’s just leave the above for consideration, thought, and prayer by the reader. Of those three, prayer should be the most important, giving thanks for the Rights that have been bestowed upon us by our Creator and asking forgiveness for being so complacent in giving His gifts away.

From my perspective it is easy to identify what States’ Rights (or more accurately, State’s Powers) are not. States’ Rights are (is) not a slogan to be used to stop ObamaCare or Obama Cap and Tax or any other of the Obama socialist programs coming out of Washington City like a swarm of katydids. States’ Rights are (is) not a slogan to stop the Bush Patriot Acts or Bush CAFTA and other expensive trade agreements. By the same token, States’ Rights are (is) not a slogan to stop DFACS (Department of Children and Family Services) from illegal search and seizures, or some idiot in Atlanta telling me I do not have the proper permit to raise a duck unless the duck’s great grandmother’s owner had a proper permit!

Now think about that last example. When someone says that States’ Rights will solve all of our problems, are they suggesting that it is proper to require a documented duck’s ancestry of suitable quality for a citizen to feed the duck and give it a home? Is such nonsense acceptable simply because it’s being perpetrated by an idiot in Atlanta, Montgomery, Nashville or Columbia instead of an idiot in Washington City? A silly example, maybe, but in Georgia to raise ducks you have to prove that it is three generations from the wild! Have you ever tried to ask a duck who its parents are? Quack sure did get around!

But once you concede Rights to any government entity you have lost that Right – most likely forever. Even worse is that your children and grandchildren will not even know that it is something that you lost and that they were denied!

Today the debate should be about how State Powers will be used as a check on Federal Powers to guarantee our God-given Rights. It should be about how delegated Powers given to the Federal government will be used to guarantee our God-given Rights in areas that extend beyond the State in which we live. Otherwise, all of the rhetoric, all of the campaigning, and all the elected officials’ use of today’s (improper) definition of States’ Rights will only determine how fast we go over the cliff.

American liberty is rapidly approaching the cliff. It’s up to you the citizen to change that direction if it’s going to be changed. You have only this recourse at your disposal. Demand that all levels of government keep their hands off your God-given Rights unless the people grant them a Power to do so. Elect only those officials who are willing to abide by this restriction. Retire any elected official who abuses or usurps that which God has given you.

Arguing about which level of government will do a better job abusing your God-given Rights makes for interesting partisan battles, but it’s a formula for failure year after year, election after election, and decade after decade — as we have seen. After all, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In summary: what was State’s Rights isn’t what it is today. What is States’ Rights isn’t what it was. What your Rights will be is up to you. But this subject is too long for one article, so…

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