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Try federalism, not federal domination

November 13, 2014 in Economics

By Gary Galles

From the moment it became obvious Tuesday’s Republican wave would make shore, media mouths began talking up the problems its leaders would face in converting a widespread rejection of Obama’s policies into a positive agenda. Given that the abusive centralization of power was the core of what the electorate was saying no to, leaders would do well to focus on restoring Constitutional federalism.

At America’s founding, decentralization of power—a federal system, rather than a national system, (better described as “The States, United solely for specified joint purposes,” than “The United States”)—played a key role in protecting Americans’ liberties from infringement. However, in America today, for every problem, real or imagined, a “federal father knows best” program is imposed or proposed, regardless of how individual, local, or varied Americans’ preferences are.

America’s founders did not envision the federal government as being involved in virtually any decision made by anyone, much less as the domineering senior partner for almost every decision made by everyone. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 17: “all those things…proper to be provided by local legislation, can never be desirable cares of a general jurisdiction.” James Madison wrote in Federalist 39 that “the new Constitution will…be a federal, and not a national constitution,” and in Federalist 45 that “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government are few and defined…exercised principally on external objects.”

The current nationalization of every decision is blatantly inconsistent with individual rights and our founders’ federalism, designed to constrain national government to few, enumerated powers. Since Americans sharply disagree about what they want government to do, national imposition really means some political majority is empowered to impose its will on others nationwide, no matter the harm those tyrannized over bear. In contrast, federalism allows the “law and order” necessary to freedom to be provided without empowering national political domination.

Under federalism, the potential of voting with your feet into other jurisdictions limits the burdens majorities can impose on those who disagree. Even more, leaving arrangements to be made voluntarily in markets represents a democracy in which every dollar vote counts, without providing the ability to violate others’ rights.

As Dwight Lee put it, “the chief concern of the framers of the Constitution was not that of insuring a fully democratic political structure. Instead they were concerned with limiting government power in order to minimize the abuse of majority rule.” Or as R.A. Humphreys summarized, our founders …read more


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