States’ Rights Are For Energetic People One of a series of messages quoting from the book THIS AMERICAN PEOPLE. Copyright 1951 by Gerald W. Johnson. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row. There were and there still are two valid reasons for this reluctance of wise men to see the States surrender all their authority to the Federal government. . . . The positive reason is that government, being instituted to “effect the safety and happiness” of the people, according to the Declaration, and “to insure the blessings of liberty” to them, according to the Constitution, cannot do its duty unless it knows what constitutes the happiness of the people and what sort of liberty they cherish. In a country as large as the United States these things are not the same everywhere. . . . It is flatly impossible for any human being, or any group located in one city, Washington or any other, to have the knowledge of local conditions that is necessary to good government everywhere. . . . The negative reason is a matter of “spreading the risk,” as insurance people say. . . . The art of government is tricky, difficult, and full of risks. .. . While the States retain and exercise their right of lawmaking we have in this country fifty chances of hitting on the right solution of any new problem that may arise. We also have the chance of hitting on fifty wrong solutions; but the possibility that out of fifty solutions all will be right, or all will be wrong, is extremely remote. So when a wrong solution is adopted, the resultant damage will be relatively slight; while if a right one is found the other forty-nine States may soon profit by it.. .. In addition to the two sound ones, many unsound arguments have been advanced in support of the doctrine of States’ rights. .. . In the past certain people representing interests that have cause to fear the power of government have argued loudly at one time for States’ rights and at another time for extension of the Federal power. Obviously, what they really want is no power at all in the hands of any government. . . . When the railroads were able to charge what they pleased for hauling wheat to market, they frequently charged so much that they took nearly all the profit out of wheat-growing, and the farmers found themselves working for nothing. The outcome was that many Western States set up railroad commissions to protect the public interest. The railroads saw this as a threat to their profits, so naturally they objected. Their argument then was that they were engaged in interstate commerce which Congress alone has power to regulate. But later, after the Interstate Commerce Commission had been established, and Congress began to pass laws regulating the railroads, these same interests argued just as loudly that States’ rights were being violated when Congress stepped in. What they really wanted, of course, was no action at all by either State legislatures or Congress. Their concern for States’ rights was all put on for show, and their argument was fraudulent. . . . There is not now, there never was, and there never will be a good State government that isn’t made so by a lively and loud demand for excellence on the part of the State’s voters. Twist and squirm as we may, we cannot get away from the factdemocracy, usually defined as the right of the people to rule, means first of all the duty of the people to rule. They have not always and everywhere been willing to discharge that duty, and whenever and wherever they have refused the government has gone rotten and rights States’ rights, individual rights, all sorts of rights have withered away. To the extent that the States’ voters are willing to exercise them constantly and intelligently, States’ rights, even in the twentieth century, are safe enough; but not an inch further. Recent public opinion polls have shown that a majority of Americans have stopped believing in certain vital protections of the Bill of Rights. This ad is run as a contribution to public understanding, because we share the growing belief that corporations have public and social responsibilities. CHILDERS MANUFACTURING COMPANY P. 0. BOX 7467, HOUSTON, TEXAS 77008 Our 24th Year
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