Powers retained by the States and the people

Reserved powers, residual powers or residuary powers are the powers which are neither prohibited nor explicitly given by law to any organ of government. Such powers, as well as general power of competence, are given because it is impractical to detail in legislation every act allowed to be carried out by the state. Reserved powers are given to different branches of the government in different countries. In Canada the reserved powers lie with the federal government; in the United States, the reserved powers lie with the constituent states.

Enumerated Powers


Amendment X to the U.S. Constitution
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people."

Web Pages

FindLaw: U.S. Constitution: Tenth Amendment


Gay Marriage Quicksand, by Ron Paul, Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk, 1 Mar 2004
Comments on the George W. Bush announcement that he endorses a constitutional amendment "defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife"
"'Why should Washington dictate marriage standards for Massachusetts and California? Let the people of those states decide for themselves.' This is precisely the argument conservatives and libertarians have been making for decades! Why should Washington dictate education, abortion, environment, and labor rules to the states? The American people hold widely diverse views on virtually all political matters, and the Founders wanted the various state governments to most accurately reflect those views. This is the significance of the 10th Amendment, which the left in particular has abused for decades."
Related Topic: Marriage
James Madison: Father of the Implied-Powers Doctrine, by Sheldon Richman, 26 Jul 2013
Examines whether James Madison intended the U.S. federal government to have "expressly delegated" powers vs. "powers by implication"
"Twelve amendments made the final cut in the congressional committee [writing a bill of rights]. Amendment XII (later to become X when two failed to be ratified by the states) read,
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
It was a pale reflection of the old Article II. On seeing this language, Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker of South Carolina rose to amend the amendment by inserting the word expressly before the word delegated."
Orchestrating Energy Disaster, by Walter E. Williams, 23 May 2001
Discusses the problems in California's electric power industry, deriding comments by Paul Krugman and columnist Robert Scheer that the problems were due to "deregulation", and emphasizing the benefits of federalism
"California's experience points to one chief benefit of our federalist system of government. Federalism is where individual states surrender only partial sovereignty but retain all rights and prerogatives not specifically assigned the federal government by the Constitution of the United States – the idea behind the our Tenth Amendment. Therefore, individual states are free to engage in stupid policy and other states are free to observe the outcome and learn from it. Imagine if there were a federally mandated nationwide electricity 'deregulation' scheme like California's – the entire nation would be in a mess."
Penumbras, Emanations, and Stuff, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 6 Feb 2006
Examines how Federal employees avoid mentioning the Tenth Amendendment to the U.S. Constitution, and how politicians instead search for implied powers in order to expand their authority
"The Tenth is often referred to as 'the states' rights amendment,' but that's not quite accurate. It speaks of powers, not rights. ... The Federal Government could exercise only those powers listed in the Constitution. Whatever wasn't authorized was forbidden. The basic list was found in Article I, Section 8. It was pretty specific ... So the politicians, all practical men, began their endless but fruitful search for powers other than those listed — 'implied' powers that weren’t spelled out in the text, but were 'necessary and proper' for the execution of the explicitly enumerated powers."
UpdRule of Law Damaged by Schiavo Bill, by Sheldon Richman, 23 Mar 2005
Discusses the implications of the hurried legislation, which became known as the Palm Sunday Compromise, to allow the parents of Terri Schiavo to have federal courts another look at her case, after state courts had ruled against them
"It is beyond dispute that the legal issues involved in the Schiavo case are state issues. That has been the rule for more than 200 years. It is what has made the American system a federal system. The point of federalism is to decentralize power, and its rationale is that concentrated power is dangerous — always and everywhere — regardless of which political party rules ... My focus here is on Congress's and the president's intervention. It was extraordinary and ominous. The bill singled out one case in an area where federal authorities have no constitutional jurisdiction. This makes no sense."
Related Topics: Rule of Law, Republican Party
The Bill of Rights: Reserved Powers, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, May 2005
Discusses the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the system of federalism and the breakdown that occurred in 1937 when the Supreme Court held that the federal government could regulate economic activity
"The first eight amendments to the Constitution expressly prohibit the federal government from denying people fundamental rights and important procedural protections ... to ensure that powers not expressly delegated to [it] could still be exercised by the states, the Tenth Amendment was enacted ... This system of federal and state powers is known as "federalism." By dividing power in that way, the idea was to keep the central government weak and keep political power closer to the people. Compare that to a country that has one central, national government, which is responsible for governing the entire nation."
The Constitution or Liberty, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Sep 2012
Contrasts Article II of the Articles of Confederation with the Tenth Amendment and Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and discusses the implied powers of the latter document (revised version of article published 7 Dec 2007)
"'Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.' We might think those words ... are in the U.S. Constitution. But they are not. They are from Article II of the Articles of Confederation ... They ... were deliberately left out in 1787. After the Constitution was ratified, something like Article II was added to the Constitution as the Tenth Amendment. Unfortunately it is like Article II in the same sense that a whale is like a fish—superficially."
Tired of Two Parties?: Blame the centralization of the federal government, not the Constitution, by Pradeep Chhibber, Ken Kollman, The Washington Post, 17 Aug 2004
"... the truth is that the United States has not always been so dominated by two parties. ... Starting in the 1930s, however, minor parties stopped winning significant shares of votes for elections to Congress ... The decline in voting for minor parties has corresponded to the increasing power of the national government relative to the states."
Related Topic: Political Parties

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Reserved powers" as of 11 Aug 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.