By editorial board • 

What happened to states’ rights, once a staple of political thought?

Americans have been harping on states’ rights for a total of 241 years.

Some latter-day Confederates go so far as to argue the Civil War was more about states’ rights than slavery — as if almost 100,000 Southern white men died because they were peevish about tariffs.

But the fact is that practically no one actually cares about states’ rights as a political philosophy. Americans, it seems, prefers to take the rights of states à la carte.

Conservatives go to the mat for states’ rights when it comes to the right to restrict legal abortion, civil rights, gun control, same-sex marriage and who gets to use which restroom. Liberals tend to believe rights are, by definition, universal and should not be decided on a state-by-state basis — except, of course, the right to legal marijuana, net neutrality or providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, which won’t be upheld federally.

Which side is the more hypocritical? Clearly, the other one. It’s always a matter of perspective.

These days, however, President Trump has emerged as a definite frontrunner. He’s all for reducing federal interference when it comes to environmental regulations and national monuments. Yet the states suddenly lose their rights regarding marijuana and immigration.

Then there’s Trump’s war on net neutrality.

While it’s difficult to evoke states’ rights as a principal political philosophy, a good rule of thumb holds they should be evoked more to expand individual rights rather than restrict them.

Take net neutrality. It prevents broadband companies from playing favorites in the blocking or slowing of access to websites. Put simply, it keeps the information superhighway a public thoroughfare.

However, under Trump, the Federal Communications Commission is insisting net neutrality be sacrificed to free-market forces.

Capitalism is lovely. But the way we see it, when you start rationing information like it was the latest soft drink, you create an unjust imbalance of power and opportunity between the haves and the have-nots.

A measure passed by the Oregon House Monday restricts state agencies from buying Internet service from any company that blocks or rations online information. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s only a gesture in all reality.

Meanwhile, FCC officials vow nothing will deter them in their efforts to squelch net neutrality, least of all any meddling states.

That’s because states’ rights exist to keep transgendered people from using public restrooms. People apparently don’t want the federal government restricting their access to firearms, only their access to information.


Don Dix

I recently read a very simple explanation comparing states rights vs federal:

It’s the “go ask your mother” law. Regress back into your childhood and think of your father as the state law and your mother as the federal law. You want to go to a party and stay out a little later past your curfew. Your father (state) says yes but your mother (federal) says no. Who ultimately has the final say?

“Go ask your mother.”

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