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May 25, 2005 7:19 pm

More on Federalism

Further to my posts here and here and the lively discussion they generated, I refer readers to Walter Block and Stephan Kinsella’s essay on Federalism posted today.
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Keith Halderman - 5/27/2005

I agree, one of the most important ideas that libertarians should be promoting is devolution of government. Our society is clearly moving in the opposite direction as the two ruling parties spend almost all of the time creating more and more power at the federal level. I think it is possible that the idea of local control could unite people with very different views into an effective opposition coalition.

Kenneth R Gregg - 5/26/2005

I quite agree, David, about the matter of local control. I've often suspected, although I haven't done the research on it, that this was the case regarding another issue that has gained prominence recently: Same sex marriage.

I suspect that if local jurisdictions in parts of the western states are studied, you will find some where gay marriages were accepted by the local magistrates. Historically, there has been a great deal of variation within local legal systems and am fairly certain that in smaller communities where the city fathers were openly gay or accepting of homosexual relationships and the state had little or no control, you will find documentations of gay marriages.

Localism has long been a staple of American libertarianism. One of the major reasons for the popularity of Henry George's single tax movement was due to the focus of the single tax movement on the sovereignty of local communities. It is in the nature of land taxes that they appertain to local community interests and services. This financal connection between the land value within a community and the public services provided was well recognized by the people who were attracted to the Georgism at the height of its popularity.

It was also well-noted that land taxes would benefit primarily local government services and, at best, secondarily, state and federal ones. George once said, when asked about how his single tax would provide for a naval fleet, that it wouldn't, that the navy should be abolished! And this was at a time when many in the U.S. Government were clamoring for military escapades throughout the world!

Just a thought.
Just Ken

David Timothy Beito - 5/25/2005

That's "from taking over the city of Tuskegee"

David Timothy Beito - 5/25/2005

I looked at Kinsella's essay and come back to the key problem of geographical size. A historical problem is that the states are simply two big to be effective promoters of liberty, hence I prefer to promote the Swiss system.

Let me also note that there many examples in the 1950s of relatively enlightened local governments in the South that were trumped pro-Jim Crow state governments. This happened many, many times.

For example, the city of Little Rock was quite willing to integrate its schools in 1957 but Governor Faubus overruled it. At about the same time, the state of Alabama stepped in to prevent black voters (who were a growing force) to take over the city of Tuskegee. It actually abolished the entire city government!

Another example was the all-black town of Mound Bayou (where blacks had voted since the 1880s) in Mississippi. During the early 1950s, the county and state authorities refused to count the votes of townfolk in the Democratic party because they feared that blacks might actually affect the outcome.

Similar local/state conflicts, of course, were common during the slavery era.

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