Cars, Cows and Federalism
Does anyone believe we need the Federal government's help to stop those darned states (especially the red ones) from approving of child labor? Let's grant that some states would not adopt the position of the EPA if somehow we were to return to a federal government of limited powers (by, say, adopting something like that wildly moderate Justice O'Connor's position in Raich); they might even differ from the approach of OSHA. But CHILD LABOR? Were these people never read the story of the boy who cried wolf?T. More titles his post "Or, if he says he's against child labor, will you support him?"
However, a personal distaste for child labor hardly is the point; the Times is addressing whether Roberts's judicial philosophy would render the federal government unable to enact legislation to prohibit child labor. I have a personal distaste for hate speech, but my understanding of the 1st Amendment doesn't permit for its prohibition.
As for whether it's utterly absurd that the states could prefer a lower standard for child labor regulation than that promulgated by the feds, even the federal standards have been criticized for being out-of-date and failing to recognize differences between minors and adult males (for example, in permissible exposure to pesticides during agricultural labor). Some states under-enforce federal immigration law in order to have a sufficient supply of labor for the picking season, so I don't find it impossible that they'd lower standards on child labor as well.
I suspect what T. More really finds objectionable is the idea that we would return to Industrial Revolution-era conditions, which is indeed ridiculous, but also not the editorial was talking about explicitly (though the authors may have wished to raise fear of it by implication). In the absence of federal regulation, states have the room to experiment, and those experiments can be good or bad.
To assume that a given state wouldn't lower the working age to 13 (Kansas lets girls get married before that age, which horrifies Nebraska) seems to me to ignore the diversity of needs and attitudes in different localities. Most of the kids who took driver's ed with me already had plenty of driving experience on back roads and pastures because that was the norm in East Texas, and the guy who sat in front of me in sophomore English had lost part of one finger to a cow he'd been milking. In contrast, none of my college friends from Northern Virginia got in a driver's seat until they were 15, nor had any of them dealt in animal husbandry.
Considering that part of the rationale for federalism rests on precisely this variation among states, I don't think a federalist honestly can claim that all the states would hew to the federal regulation in its exact letter if the Supreme Court declared it to be invalid. Probably none of them would return to the pre-federal regulation state of affairs, but a large number of federal regulations, being cut to fit the majority of states -- or just the states with the most influential representatives and lobbyists -- are not necessarily ideal for each one of the fifty. If the states might differ from the EPA regarding the environment, or from OSHA in matters relating to adult labor, why must they necessarily adhere to federal standards in the single area of child labor?