By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
The U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment reserves to the states and to the people all of those powers not explicitly granted to the feds.Since the 1960s Supreme Court era when even a child’s neighborhood lemonade stand or a street corner crack dealer could be regarded as interstate commerce, the inconvenient Tenth Amendment seemed in as much judicial disfavor as the Second Amendment.Fortunately, the doctrine of states’ rights now seems to be staging a minor comeback. Indeed, the recently rediscovered Tenth Amendment has been courageously championed by Supreme Court justices such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.Moreover, the important role that state governments can play in our federal system has been validated by respected thinkers such as David Osborne. His seminal 1988 book Laboratories of Democracy – which included a foreword by a young Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton — argued that state governments are often better positioned than the cumbersome feds to experiment with new approaches to nagging problems.Word of this reformation seems to have reached all corners of the land except for that parochial enclave inside the Washington Beltway. There, Congress and the White House have persisted in acting as though the states are helpless wards needing federal guidance ranging from No Child Left Behind to earmarks for public works.On the contrary, what the states most need now is to kick off the traces of federal interference so that they can truly become “laboratories.” After all, in the federal-state division of labor, much of the heavy lifting – in education and transportation, for instance — has been primarily left to the states.State-based think tanks recognize this and invest much of their energy and resources into the public policy debates around their state capitals. They know something that the D.C. establishment and the mainstream media have been slow to grasp: that the states are now where much of the real action is.Excerpt from June 2010 Point of View “Reviving our Laboratories of Democracy.”