Despite their overall cinematic quality, or lack there of, the Star Wars prequels contain a fair amount of insight into how a free society under a republic can degenerate into a tyrannical empire. There is one line in Attack of the Clones which is particularly apropos. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who in later films becomes the galactic emperor, addresses the concern that separatists will secede from the Republic.
I will not let this republic, which has stood for a thousand years, be split in to.
He will not let. These are words which convey force. They convey that the relationship between the separatists and the Republic is involuntary. Of course, if the relationship is involuntary, than how can it be argued the Republic is a free society?
In the Star Wars films, as the name suggests, the question is settled with violence. In real life, when considering the same question in a far more serious context, we have nonviolent but nonetheless revolutionary alternatives.
One such alternative is articulated by nationally syndicated radio talk show host Jason Lewis in a new book available in stores this week. Power Divided Is Power Checked: The Argument for State’s Rights is a scholarly and concise illumination of the federalism intended by America’s Founding Fathers. In its pages, Lewis demonstrates how the structure of our federal government has been radically transformed from one of limited enumerated powers to one with effectively limitless power. He does so by taking a critical look at one of America’s most revered presidents, along with the long history of judicial activism since tolerated.
In his final chapter, Lewis presents a solution for restoring the federalism of the framers’ intent, a proposed 28th Amendment which would answer the specious interpretation of “penumbras” and “emanations” which has replaced plain meaning. Lewis sat down with NewsReal Blog to discuss his book, the proposed amendment, and the philosophy of liberty.
NRB: I noticed that every chapter in the book is meticulously footnoted. You get to the end of each chapter and you get several pages of references. Clearly, this wasn’t phoned in. I get the impression that it was a labor of love, something that was important to you personally. No doubt you could have chosen any number of subjects to write about. So what is it about state’s rights? Why did federalism tickle your fancy?
Jason Lewis: You’re very observant. The fact is I’ve been working on this for a number of years. It started out as a white paper for a think tank, maybe 10 to 20 pages… It was in the late ‘90’s, and you had a number of [federal court] decisions come through, and the Clinton administration was becoming very aggressive in expanding government. I started to think about Reagan’s New Federalism and the [Robert] Bork [conformation] hearings. I thought… what is the best methodology where we could live and let live, where we could all get along? Because the nation has become so polarized, and we are turning into some sort of mob rule where 51% of the people think they can do anything they want to the other 49%. What is the best form of government that would account for our differences, yet embrace pluralism in a way where you could express those differences yet get along and unite on a few common goals.
The more I thought about that, the more I realized there really is, when it comes to political science, nothing new under the sun. The framers had it right, which of course is not to say there weren’t mistakes in the original document. That’s why we have the amendment process… The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the idea of dual-sovereignty and dividing power amongst different levels of government really does allow for us to vote with our feet, to live under the laws that we create as opposed to some far away central bureaucracy.
So it started out with that particular viewpoint, which I always believed, but had never really crystallized in my mind. I started doing that years ago. It was going to be a short little briefing paper. Lo and behold, I get married and have kids. It’s amazing how those things can interfere. But they take precedence. So it was kind of on hold for a while. But I would add to it here and there, and I would continue my research and my reading. Finally I had a burst of energy here a year and half ago, and just decided I needed to get this done…
And you’re right, I was very concerned that I got it right… You may disagree with the philosophy of republicanism, or you may not like what I’m saying, but you’re going to be pretty certain, if you read the book, that that was the [original] intent and there’s very little doubt that we’ve had this transformational shift in the way we’re governed which ought to be disturbing to anybody who objectively takes a look at it.