February 14, 2019

On February 14, 1912, Arizona became America’s 48th state. In an In Defense of Liberty post commemorating last year’s Arizona Statehood Day, Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur wrote that from the very beginning, Arizona had an independent streak. The fledgling state stood strong in the face of excessive federal control—just as the Founders intended:

“Joining the union wasn’t easy for the Grand Canyon State—Congress rejected Arizona’s early attempts at statehood, and President William Howard Taft refused to approve the new state until Arizonans tailored their constitution to his liking. But Arizonans were eager to govern on their own terms. The very same year that Arizona was finally admitted as a state, voters changed their constitution back to its original form, much to the President’s chagrin.

“Autonomy from overreaching federal power is exactly what the Framers of the federal Constitution envisioned for the states. James Madison, known as the ‘Father of the Constitution,’ wrote that federalism provides ‘a double security…to the rights of the people.’ In other words, the federal Constitution is a floor for protecting freedom, not a ceiling. States serve as shields for individual rights that the federal government fails to protect.”

So as Arizonans celebrate their state’s 107th birthday today, it’s also a great day for all Americans to reflect on how the very existence of states protects and strengthens our rights. The states are where policy reform is born, and at the Goldwater Institute, we’re working to develop reforms that give more freedom to more people—in our home state of Arizona and in the other 49 states, as well.

In 2018, it wasn’t hard to see how states guide reform that help liberty survive and thrive. States led the way on passing Right to Try legislation to give terminally ill patients the opportunity to access investigational treatments, giving them more control over the course of their care. Forty-one states have enacted Right to Try—and the bipartisan groundswell of support it received helped drive the passage of Right to Try on the federal level.

As Sandefur wrote last Arizona Statehood Day, “states can safeguard individual liberty by limiting the scope of government.” And Arizona has been at the forefront of state efforts to help people live freer lives: Over the past three years, Arizona has seen the adoption of new laws to protect free speech on public college campuses, to safeguard property owners’ ability to share their homes with overnight guests, and to allow drug manufacturers to communicate with doctors about off-label uses for their FDA-approved treatments.

When it comes to implementing reforms that keep the federal government’s power in check, it’s clear that Arizona’s independent streak is alive and well. Today, 107 years after it attained statehood, the Grand Canyon State continues to set a high standard among states in protecting individual rights—and that’s just what the Framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted.

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