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Who has more power, the national or the state government? Well, originally, the Founding Fathers intended to give much of the governmental power to state governments. However, they wanted to do so in a manner that would not create ‘excessive democracy,’ which could result in a majority of people endangering the liberties of other people, such as minorities. As a result, the founders chose to create a federal government, a system in which some powers are given to the national government and others are given to the state and local governments. In order to avoid excessive democracy, the founders put both a Senate and a House of Representatives in place. The House of Representatives encouraged consent from states while the Senate prevented excessive democracy by acting as a control checkpoint. Additionally, the founders chose to clearly state the powers of both the national and state governments in the Constitution. The national government had 17 expressed powers, including the power to collect taxes, declare war, coin money, and regulate commerce. The states, on the other hand, gained strength through the police powers given in the 10th Amendment. These powers were any powers which were not explicitly given to the national government, yet not prohibited to the states. These reserved powers included the ability to set drinking limits, marriage requirements, and voting requirements. Additionally, the states had the power of coercion, which allowed them to enforce criminal codes, regulate marriage and divorce laws, administer health and safety rules, license professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, as well as the ability to define car ownership and private property. Finally, there is also concurrent powers, which defines the powers that are possessed by both the state and national government. This includes the power to levy taxes. As can be seen through the abilities given to each sector of government, the founders provided the state government with the ability to grow strong and powerful. The Founding Fathers had the wish of strong state governments, however, the strength and presence of the state governments later declined when the national government gained control over their implied powers.
As we know, the national government was given 17 expressed powers. Sometimes, in order to carry out their expressed powers, the national government must make use of its implied powers. These are the powers which are not explicitly given to the national government but are needed in order to sufficiently make use of their expressed powers. These implied powers created the potential for a large increase in the national government’s power, as it gave them the ability to do much more. For example, in their ability to collect and levy taxes, the national government created the Internal Revenue Service. Additionally, in its ability to regulate commerce, the national government created a minimum wage. So, the implied powers gave the national government a way to expand their influence without infringing on the Constitution.
Although it was always a part of the Constitution, the first time the implied powers were involved in a court case was during McCulloch v Maryland. In 1816, the United States Congress attempted to create the Second Bank of the United States. However, Maryland wanted to tax the bank, as it believed Congress did not have the power to establish banks, based on the Constitution. When this case was taken to court, Chief Justice Marshall said the actions of Congress were justified since they had certain implied powers, although not explicitly stated in the Constitution. Additionally, Chief Justice Marshall declared that any law created by the national government would be the supreme law of the land, referring to the supremacy clause in the Constitution.
If I could divide the powers between the national and state governments myself, I do not believe I would do it any differently than the Founding Fathers. Firstly, because I do not believe I am more knowledgeable or wiser in the topic of politics or government than them. Secondly, I support the government we have created today, even though it is different than what the founders had originally wanted. If the founders had changed any of their decisions, perhaps by giving the states too much or too little power, our government could be completely different than it is today, and possibly tyrannical. I believe if I were to separate powers differently amongst the government, one sector could end up having too much power compared to the other. In other words, the Founding Fathers seemed to have found a perfect balance in the government, in my opinion. I believe the implied powers give Congress the strength it needs to carry out actions that are necessary for the well-being of the United States, despite that it created a weaker view of the state governments. Between the implied powers, expressed powers, police powers, and concurrent powers, each government is able to do exactly what they are meant to do for the welfare of this country, which is why I would not change the division of powers.
“Implied Powers.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 June 2019,
“The Founding Fathers Understood The Importance Of States’ Rights”
“The United States Constitution,”
- WE THE PEOPLE. 11th ed., W W NORTON, 2019.
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