published Monday, March 14th, 2011

Washington, the states and the NFL

One advantage of our federal system of government, when it is functioning properly, is that it lets each state experiment with different types of laws.

If a law works well in one state, other states’ lawmakers may enact a similar law, and the benefit can spread from coast to coast. By the same token, a public policy that fails in one state may serve as a warning to other states, and the entire country need not suffer the effects of a bad law.

That is the trouble with Congress’ ignoring of the Constitution’s delegation of most powers to the states and the people under the 10th Amendment. Washington enacts laws in areas where it was never intended to have authority. And when those laws don’t pan out, the whole country has to suffer.

You may have read that the National Football League wants all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia to enact laws to help reduce concussions among young football players. The NFL is also promoting such a bill in Congress.

Unfortunately, the Constitution delegates no power to Congress to handle such matters, so it is far preferable that the states address football safety issues individually. Some of those laws may be effective; some may not. But the effective ones can be replicated in other states, and the ineffective ones can be avoided.

If, however, Congress enacts a poorly crafted law to address football players’ concussions, every state will pay the price. And it can be difficult if not impossible to get a federal law repealed once various special interests discover that they have a financial stake in keeping it on the books.

Washington has grown accustomed to seizing power that belongs to the states. But that doesn’t make it right, much less constitutional.

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