Tag: FederalIsm

Why Every Liberal Should Favor Small Government


Being a conservative who likes art, music, film, theater, new foods and cultural celebrations isn’t a stretch. That makes up the majority of conservatives I personally know. And while our preferences in those arenas may be different, we all share a near universal belief that government that is small is government that works best — streamlined, efficient, not trying to be an expert in areas that it is not. And, most importantly, a government that doesn’t think its interference makes things better.

But, for so many in liberal media and those moving narrative over facts, the conservative in America hates the arts (see: Meryl Streep), despises culture, and universally is an evil demagogue who hates brown people, wishes to live back in the ’50s, is desperate to eradicate all levels of government, and can’t stand the Commies.


Let’s Talk about Self-Determination and Federalism


I once worked for a holding company of three grocery store chains that were supposed to serve distinct customer segments. But customers of the full-service grocery store were complaining of low-quality products and poor service. Customers of the discount supermarket were complaining of exorbitant prices and products that were too upscale. And customers of the hypermarket were complaining that it had become a confusing blend of the other two chains. Inadvertently, centralization of back-office functions had caused the chains to lose their distinct identities. The resulting nondescript offering pleased no one.

Today the United States has a problem similar to that of my former employer: When it comes to government, people want blue or red; nondescript purple pleases no one.


Is Modern Conservatism Too … Utopian?


I have come to the conclusion that modern American Conservatism (in its classic, three-stool, Buckley-Regan model) is utopian and not a viable model for governing modern America.

Now, let us not misunderstand one another: I think American Conservatism is the truest and the most correct political philosophy there is; one that — under the right circumstances — best-serves a fallen, sinful, broken, or imperfect world (choose, from among those adjectives, the one that best fits your personal political, philosophical, or religious outlook). To paraphrase the old Churchill saw, it is the best of all the bad options that exist. But it simply will not work in modern America and must be replaced with some sort of pragmatic approach that ameliorates our current problems until a better day appears.


A New Constitutional Convention Is Not the Conservative Option


citizenshipday09The other day Peter Robinson asked what I thought of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a constitutional convention. (Peter will be interviewing Gov. Abbott for Uncommon Knowledge early next month.)

The conservative in me thinks a constitutional convention is a bad idea because of the inability to limit the convention’s work. We could go in with a Constitution with a separation of powers, federalism, and a Bill of Rights, and emerge with a wholly new framework of government that merges all state power into one government, as in Great Britain or Europe. A convention’s work would still have to gain three-quarters approval of the states under Article V, though the Convention could reject that process too.


Compact for America: Using the States to Fix Washington


Compact-for-America-logoAs we’ve seen during Republican administrations and Democrat administrations, and with Republican congresses and Democrat congresses, Washington, DC refuses to fix its addiction to spending. During “conservative” George W. Bush’s two terms, the debt jumped by $4.9 trillion, and during “progressive” Barack Obama’s term (so far), it has jumped $8.2 trillion.

Looking at our nearly $19 trillion hole and with no end in sight to deficit spending, many limited government fans have decided that any solution to the Beltway can’t come from the Beltway. So, Marco Rubio caused a minor stir last week when he floated an idea that has been circulating in the right-leaning policy community for the past few years: Having the states leverage the power given to them by the Constitution.


Turning Social Security Over to the States


I’ve been pondering an item I saw in the Wall Street Journal the other day about states creating “automatic IRAs” for residents who don’t have a retirement plan at work. So far only three states – California, Illinois, and Oregon – have approved such programs, and none have actually gone into operation as of yet. The general idea is that workers without any other retirement plan would have an automatic payroll deduction into an IRA, but they could opt out if they want.

In general, I like to see the states moving into areas that are thought (incorrectly) to be federal concerns. The federal social security system has no legitimate constitutional basis – it was upheld in the midst of the New Deal by an FDR-friendly majority of the court. Justice Cardozo’s opinion was based mainly on the idea that Social Security was good policy given the “crisis” of the Depression. The policy argument looks a little thin now, with the Social Security Trust Fund facing depletion. That’s not to mention the inherent unfairness of paying into a hypothetical retirement account that your heirs cannot inherit.


What’s the Best Political Strategy on the Market?


We-The-960x321Obergefell v. Hodges has stimulated a lot of thought on the Right about how to restore Constitutional government, but plenty of strategies had been considered before that. A lot of folks say that politics is downstream from culture, but that doesn’t mean these political strategies are a bad idea:

I happen to think we should go with quite a few of these strategies. But which is the best strategy?


Our National Government, Again


LynchOver the past year, I wrote a few times about the spectacle of Massachusetts completely handing over the prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the federal government. As I wrote in April, the purpose of a federal government is to do only those things that the states are either incapable or ill-equipped to do on their own. In a normal world, the murder of four of its residents should easily be handled by state or local officials. Indeed, such officials should be very excited to prosecute such people.

Earlier this month, there was an odd development: Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan decided to go ahead and try Tsarnaev for the murder of Officer Sean Collier and other crimes the brothers committed in her district (the bombings occurred in neighboring Suffolk County).


Voters: Let States Go Their Own Way


shutterstock_187308782It never ceases to amaze me that advocacy for states’ rights — and suspicion of federal power — is portrayed as the viewpoint of the lunatic fringe. In fact, it is the view of mainstream America. The latest summary from Rasmussen:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 33% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe that states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if their elected officials agree with them. That’s up nine points from 24% when we first asked this question in February. Just over half (52%) disagree, down from 58% in the earlier survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)


Let’s Demagogue Puerto Rico… For Federalism (Seriously)!


imageVia today’s Cato Daily Podcast, Puerto Rico is in a bit of a mess. Its economy hasn’t grown in a decade, it has net population loss (among U.S. states, only West Virginia has that distinction), and it’s got a debt-to-GDP ratio of 70%, more than four times that of the average U.S. state. And just this week, its state-run electrical utility is expected to miss a payment on its debts this week. It’s not quite America’s Greece, but it’s doing its best to audition for the part.

While many of these problems are the result of the islands’ own bad choices — among them, a refusal to publish its budget in English as well as Spanish, making it much more difficult for others to review — Nicole Kaeding explains that some federal policies are making matters worse. Specifically, she cites shipping regulations that artificially raise prices there (as well as in Hawaii, I presume) and the federal minimum wage. The latter has an enormous effect on Puerto Ricans: 28% of hourly workers there earn it, which means it likely prices many others out of the labor market entirely; unsurprisingly, Puerto Rico has an unemployment rate of 12.2%. If you have seven minutes, take the time to listen to the whole interview.


Rehabilitating States’ Rights


BN Less PerfectI wanted to give you all a quick preview of my new book, coming out tomorrow. It’s called “A Less Perfect Union: The Case for States’ Rights.”

I know, I know: “states’ rights” is one of those taboo phrases in today’s politics. If you ask Americans about states’ rights, the reaction you get is typically negative — slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. And yet, Americans happily embrace notions that are intimately related to states’ rights, such as federalism, community-based politics, responsive politics, home rule, local control, and “think globally, act locally.” In poll after poll, Americans trust their state and local governments far more than they trust Washington.


The Court’s Assault on Democracy and States’ Rights


One of the ironies of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is that it is being touted as a victory for civil rights. Surely it’s an unusual civil rights victory that disenfranchises the people of all 50 states on a critical issue. After a mere decade of political debate on the topic of same-sex marriage, the voters have been told that our opinions are no longer needed. Justice Kennedy will tell us what we think.

The violence to democracy is bad enough, but it is greatly compounded by the damage to American federalism. The federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate marriage, nor does it have a roving license to promote “dignity” or “autonomy” or any of the other vacuous phrases contained in Kennedy’s majority opinion. If the Constitution granted anything like that kind of authority to the central government, the document would never have been ratified. In Federalist No. 45, James Madison assured readers that, under the proposed Constitution, the states would remain sovereign over “all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people” (emphasis added).


The Reverse Chesterton Fence


640px-WesttownFor a movement that prides itself on nuance, the Left is remarkably — if unsurprisingly — uninterested in questions of cost, externality, and unintended consequences. Once they’ve identified something as a good, the only remaining issue is marshaling the will to see it through; the details will sort themselves out.

The Right, however, generally accepts that life is complicated. Ideas have consequences, we’re apt to say, often with the strong subtext that they’re probably not all those we intended. As such, we’re more likely to resist the urge to fuss with (seemingly) imperfect things, lest we discover afterwards that they were far more beneficial than we understood or appreciated.