Another helping of the 10th Amendment, please

Listen to the podcast segment "More Federalism, please!" from the July 28, 2018 episode

Contrary to the claims of those on the left who want to see every issue nationalized (and their counterparts on some parts of the right), some of us are advocates for more true Federalism -- placing decisions as close as possible to the people affected by them, with the maximum allowable room for local/regional customization possible without infringing on the personal liberties of individuals.

Most states today are at or near the same population as the entire USA in 1790 (it's true: George Washington was President of a nation of 4 million people; Kim Reynolds is governor today of 3.1 million Iowans). Not everything needs to be a national issue, and in many cases, many things ought not to be.

Time, effort, and psychological commitment expended in pursuit of national agendas that don't need to be national sap the country of the motivation and accountability to grapple with the big issues that truly do require Washington's attention. Thus we find ourselves polarized by stupid wedge issues and ignoring important things that need to be done -- like having a true cybersecurity policy or putting appropriate resources into trade and technology adjustment assistance where entire regions are struggling economically.

Local conditions vary widely across the country, in as many different ways as we have different people: The current average sale price for residential real estate in San Francisco is $1,057 per square foot , which is more than the $989 monthly rent on a decent 950-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom, apartment in suburban Des Moines. That's not an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, but when buying 12 square feet in one place would rent an entire apartment for a year in another place, maybe the same policies need not apply uniformly everywhere. It's not an exercise in Constitutional fundamentalism to argue for optimizing freedom from Federal overreach.

It might be bad for cable TV punditry, but it would be very healthy for the country if we advanced a model that insisted on maximal localism (and accountability), reserving the Federal for truly national needs and for those instances where personal liberties were under threat from negligent, malicious, or hostile state and local governments. That's when the Federal government is at its best: When it acts to preserve rights that are under local attack.

Whether it's coming from the leftists who want to undercut the representation of smaller states in the Senate or from radical right-wingers like Steve Bannon who have twisted grand visions of a "nationalist" agenda, arguments against Federalism are ignorant of not only the Madisonian structure of our Constitutional government, but also of the very simple reality that what's right for Connecticut isn't always right for California, and what's good for Detroit or Denver might not be good for Des Moines.

Say it and believe it: More Federalism, please!

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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