Saturday, November 13, 2010

Think Locally!

The debate on health care has focused on questions of national policy; in other words what reforms should be uniformly imposed by the federal government on the economically, politically and culturally diverse states of the union. But, I have yet to hear a sound explanation of why the people of the 50 states should not be allowed to debate and decide the health care policies that best suit their needs, values and desires. In other words, if the people of California desire a single payer plan - let them enjoy its benefits and bear its costs. And if the people of Texas desire market driven reforms - them enjoy its benefits and bear its costs. These principles also apply to education and a host of other issues. Here are but a few of the many benefits of a less centralized approach to governance:

1. It's inherently more democratic and respectful of diversity. At the very least, if you don't like a policy, you can move to a state that better represents your values, but federal mandates traps citizens by to not allowing them to "vote with their feet."

2. It allows for greater domestic tranquility. For example, if the people of each state can only influence their own educational policies, they have little reason to engage in divisive policy and cultural wars on a national level.

3. State and local governments can serve as a "laboratory for democracy." In other words, we can learn from the successes and failures of the initiatives of other states.

4. The connection between a local policy and end result is almost always more apparent than it is between a federal policy and end result. For example, it's very difficult to determine which, if any, national policies are responsible for changes in the rate of crime. However, the connection between the sharp drop in crime that New York City experienced and Rudolph Giuliani's policies is strong and apparent. This allows the public to better assess what works and what does not.

5. It fosters greater individual and community participation and power. For example, parents have greater opportunities to influence the policies of their local schools via PTA and town hall meetings, than they have to influence national educational policy.

6. The larger and more distant a center of power is, the less responsive to the needs and desires of its people it tends to be. As inept or corrupt as a local politician may be, they almost always possess more detailed, up-to-date information about the nature and needs of their community than a federal bureaucrat does.

7. The true cost of policies are almost always more apparent on a local level. For example, the federal government was able to spend over a trillion on the War In Iraq while simultaneously cutting taxes. In contrast, the rising cost of government in Chicago and Cook County have quickly lead to rising property taxes. This helps explain why the people of Chicago vigorously protest costly new initiatives, such as Mayor Daley's push to host the Olympics, yet largely remain silent in the face of out of control federal spending.

8. State and local governments are limited in their power to plunge the public into debt, because of they are unable to print money and limited in their ability to borrow it. So, states and local governments are forced to face fiscal reality much faster than their federal counterpart.

9. Many federal initiatives violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution. The powers of the powers of the federal government are limited to functions specifically enumerated in the constitution, the powers of states and communities are broad and plentiful. To justify the expansion of the size and scope of federal government, politicians and their judicial enablers have resorted to willful misrepresentations of the Commerce Clause and General Welfare Clause.

10. A federal government that focuses on the functions assigned to it by the Constitution, will be more effective in achieving them. For example, the federal government has greatly expanded its areas of responsibility, while failing to secure the border.

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