Thomas Jefferson believed that the dispersal
of power between federal, state, county, and local agencies was crucial to
America’s “system of fundamental balances and checks for the government.” However,
the Senate is based on equal representation and the House is based on
population. How is this an equal way to balance the power in our government?
Simple, it’s not. The problem in government today is special interest groups (factions)
who constantly lobby our elected officials. Politicians listen to these groups
because they are the same people who donate money to campaign funds and other
interests of politicians. These are the people who have the power. Thomas
Jefferson spoke against a strong federal government and instead advocated
states rights. The Founding Fathers viewed “factions” as dangerous to
the public interest; which is the main problem today in American government.
Commentators think that Federalism
has diminished as a result of heavy-handed policies coming from the national government
in areas ranging from education to the environment. For example, you could
think about drinking age laws or speed limits, both of which are supposed to be
state issues, yet the federal government appears to have considerable control
over the states on these issues or more recently Attorney General Sessions’
attack on states’ right to legalize marijuana that just kicked off a firestorm
of pushback from politician on both sides of the aisle including from
Senators who opposed the legalization of marijuana in their own states.
Alexander Hamilton however
disagreed with Jefferson’s perspective, as he believed in an emphasis on centralized
government. Hamilton’s successful efforts led to the creation of a publicly
chartered bank. In Hamilton’s point of view, the creation of the Federal U.S.
Bank was within the authority of Congress, and that it would bring forth
economic prosperity and development, the circulation of paper money, and allow
for government loans. Despite Thomas Jefferson’s (now George Washington’s first
Secretary of State) efforts to oppose Hamilton’s plan on grounds that the
federal government has no right to enforce an action such as this, Hamilton convinced
Washington to pass on this legislation.
During his younger years in
Virginia, Thomas Jefferson theorized how a government should be organized, and
the importance of the separation between the state, central, and local
governments. “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” is one if his publications
where he addresses the problems of parliament in 1774. One of Jefferson’s complaints was the mistreatment
of the colonies by British Parliament. Laws
such as the Stamp Act drove the colonies further from Parliament and angered many
of the patriotic citizens. Jefferson decided it was best to keep the government
in check with itself, giving the legislative, executive and judicial branches
of government equal power over each other in his book, “Notes on the State of
Thomas Jefferson said: “It is
not by the consolidation or concentration of powers, but by their distribution,
that good government is effected.” That is, Jefferson
believed Federalism (the geographic distribution of power between the
states and the national government) and the separation of political
power within government (Executive, Legislature, and Courts) are central
components of good government. I believe Jefferson would be content with the contemporary
distribution of geographical power, as many of our laws are handled by the
individual state governments, and the federal government gears their focus
towards foreign affairs and decisions that affect the nation as a whole.
Do you think Jefferson would be happy with the contemporary
distribution of geographical power in the US?