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In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, he describes a cavernous chamber in which men are imprisoned. Although a large fire lights the cave, the prisoners cannot see the light source. Instead, they can only make out figures that dance and parade in front of them illuminated by the fire. The prisoners cannot even see the figures directly, only their shadows. Everything that the prisoners know about reality they have learned from the distorted shapes of the shadows dancing about the cave's walls. Socrates wonders, if a prisoner were suddenly freed and could see the objects themselves and not merely their shadows, whether he would know them from their two-dimensional shapes or whether he would be perplexed and find the objects less real than their images.

The author argues that we more closely resemble the prisoners left in the cave than Socrates's enlightened prisoner and that the Constitution is full of shadows that demand our careful scrutiny. These shadows are evidence of state power and are the only evidence the Constitution will provide us. Owing to its origins, the Constitution creates a federal government and confers power to its branches. Those powers that are not so conferred—either expressly or implicitly—are reserved to the states that ceded their own powers under the Constitution, or to the people, who are the ultimate source of all governmental power. Because the Constitution does not define the powers of the states in the same way that it defines the powers of Congress, for example, we must seek vestiges of state power. Unlike Socrates's enlightened prisoner who finds the ultimate light source, we shall not discover the source of state powers in the Constitution. Only in the shadows of federal authority will we make out the authority of the states. The shadows themselves—of which the Tenth Amendment is the most obvious example—are the most direct evidence of the reality of state authority.

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23 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 551 (2000).