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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/3857/what-we-mean-by-decentralization/

What We Mean by Decentralization

July 21, 2005 by

The Kelo decision, in which the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case of a local government taking of private property, touched off a huge debate among libertarians on the question of decentralization, writes Lew Rockwell. The most common perspective was that the decision was a disaster because it gave permission to local governments to steal land. Libertarians are against stealing land, and so therefore must oppose the court decision. And yet, stealing isn’t the only thing libertarians are against. FULL ARTICLE

{ 25 comments }

Michael A. Clem July 21, 2005 at 8:40 am

Good article! This really clarifies the decentralization question, even if it doesn’t delve much into specific details. And he extended it to cover the question of corporate globalization, as well.
I confess that I wasn’t happy about the Kelo decision, but have to admit that a preference for decentralization probably should be stronger than “federal freedom decisions”. One point about Kelo, though, is that the Supreme Court didn’t specifically say that this is an issue that should be left to state and local governments–they actually ruled that it was okay for state and local governments to use eminent domain in this way. Nitpicking maybe, but I would prefer an explicit recognition by SCOTUS that there are things the federal government shouldn’t regulate.

Curt Howland July 21, 2005 at 9:08 am

Had the SCOTUS decision been short and explicit, I wouldn’t have minded. Imagine the repercussions of this as the decision in Kelo:

“The restrictions of the 5th Amendment, like the rest of the Constitution of the US, applies only to the Federal government unless specifically stated otherwise (such as the 10th Amendment). Case closed.”

All that bru-ha-ha about the 10 Comandments in the Alabama courthouse, in fact most of what the SCOTUS has ruled upon in the last hundred years, thrown out on its ear. What a HUGE loss of power for the SCOTUS! Such a ruling is about as likely as any other government agency voluntarily giving up power.

Phillip Conti July 21, 2005 at 9:10 am

Im not really sure how one could see the Kelo decision as a good thing, in light of the recent Medical Marijuana ruling that all but re-affirmed Wickard V. Filburn. It is kind of the worst of both worlds here for libertarians. The federal government will not intervene to protect property rights because they supposedly want to give the local government more discretion(to violate basic human freedoms), and the federal government also wants the right to regulate activity under the interstate commerce clause provision that is neither interstate nor commerce. Any idea that Kelo is ‘turning back’ a trend is nonsense. The justices didnt want to piss of developers plain and simple.

joseph zack July 21, 2005 at 9:20 am

As is usual, Mister Rockwell went right to the heart of the manner. A thoroughly excellent article in every sense of the word.

Also, as is usual, I am the better, for having read this cogent and concise piece.

Respects,

Joseph Zack

hej July 21, 2005 at 9:28 am

How would the following argument sit with libertarians?

The constitution does not give the supreme court any right to intervene in a case like Kelo. However, nothing prevent the justices from speaking their mind. If the state then wishes to follow the unconstitutional ruling, that is their decision. If they don’t want to follow the it, they just have to ignore the verdict.

Wouldn’t that be consistent with the idea of Jefferson and other American classical liberals, that the states (not the SCOTUS) are responsible for protecting their citizens against increased federal power?

Aaron Singleton July 21, 2005 at 9:31 am

I agree with the article, I just don’t see how it applies to Kelo. If the decision really were a victory for decentralization I would applaud it but I do not believe it is. To me it just goes to show that the Federal government will intervene when it serves its own interests, but if non-intervention better serves it, then it will choose not to intervene. True decentralization as laid out in the constitution is long dead and I don’t think Kelo is an attempt to ressurect it.

John O'Hara July 21, 2005 at 11:08 am

Concerning the section of the article on the Bill of Rights placing the restrictions on what the federal government may do, I find it to be flawed by over simplifying the purpose of the Bill of Rights with respect to the original Constitution.

The structure of the original unamended Constitution itself is the primary restraint on what the federal government may do. The debates concerning the ratification of the original Constitution often provides that the delegated powers to Congress are to be interpreted narrowly. In all truth, the Bill of Rights is really another expression of the principles of the original Constitution. The problem is that over time all branches of the government (and even the people themselves) have interpreted the powers of the federal government to be larger than they were ever intended by falsely interpreting the Bill of Rights as the only limits to the powers of the federal government and contradicting the original interpretation of Framers and those in the ratification debates.

http://www.constitution.org/cons/prin_cons.htm

– John O.

Tom July 21, 2005 at 12:59 pm

Apropos the earlier post about the Kelo decision (why not link to it?), you have your eye on the wrong ball. In celebrating a sort of victory for local government over the federal government you overlook the oppressiveness of local government.

Don Beezley July 21, 2005 at 3:06 pm

While we might be able to agree that an autocratic approach may not be the optimal solution for the libertarian movement (and probably an impossible one), we need to evaluate our current progress in the decentralized model. Government spending and employment at all levels are at all time highs. Social security will claim several lifetimes of work, and the federal deficit and debt are out of control (although I understand we are celebrating that the defecit is only $300 billion or so instead of $400 billion; and the “brilliant” Senator Corzine pointed out that none if this is a problem since the government can always print more money). So, given the facts of our current status and trends, if the decentralized model is the optimal one, please explain the end game to me—or share what you’re drinking so it looks successful to me as well.

With regard to Kelo, whether one likes the fact that a federal government exists or not, it clearly fell down on the job under the Constitution by endorsing an arbitrary taking of private property. Ultimately, and in a worst case scenario, the failure of government at any level to protect the inherent rights with which we are born was/is the purpose of the second Amendment.

Todd Birch July 21, 2005 at 3:28 pm

I agree with Tom that those who think the Kelo decision is good for freedom are ignoring how abusive state and local governments can actually be. I live in Oregon so…well, ’nuff said. I also think Mr. Conti is on the money when he suggests that recent SCOTUS opinions represent the “worst of both worlds” for people who believe in liberty. Given the real-world dynamics of modern American jurisprudence, the end result of virtually any United States Supreme Court decision henceforth is going to be that some government somewhere is the beneficiary of greater power and legal authority to subvert freedom. How that serves the cause of freedom in the aggregate, I fail to see.

To me, we have a problem that’s ideological in nature: mainstream conservatives (and like Hayek, I ain’t one) tend to think part of being “free” means getting together with like-minded majorities at the state or local level and manipulating government so that it preserves their ability to officially trample on the rights of politically weaker minorities. (They also don’t mind doing it at the federal level, of course, so long as they’re in agreement with the cultural thrust of the effort.)

My view is that libertarian advocates of limited government in this country have too often too closely aligned themselves with conservatives whose support for limited government means merely that it is “limited” to achieving the social engineering schemes of their choosing – rather than that government is limited on the whole to the bare and essential functions that the vast and overwhelming majority support. There’s a notion among conservatives that somehow if the states or counties or cities are the ones abusing their power, or exercising authority in a manner hostile to the rights of individuals, then somehow it is more legitimate (in fact, a good thing) because it more truly represents the will of the people and is a more organic expression of their values (however hostile to liberty those values might be).

Maybe the 14th amendment “(doesn’t) magically (transform) the whole Bill of Rights to mean the exact opposite of its original intent,” as Mr. Rockwell observes, but I can’t quite see how interpreting the negative rights set forth in the constitution as a “floor” below which no state can sink with respect to how it treats its citizens would be “opposite” of the founders vision.

tz July 21, 2005 at 8:05 pm

If I were in Africa, and I came upon a lion and crocodile fighting, I would try very hard not to interrupt.

Since at the moment we have two evils, I prefer they fight each other than me. As neither SCOTUS or the individual state governments are likely to respect anything I would recognize any more than the lion or the crocodile, I can only hope for individual victories at an entirely pragmatic level. As much as I believe in principle, it doesn’t exist in any way before the court, so when it ends up that liberty wins, even for the wrong reason, it is a win. It will never win for the right reason with the current setup.

Stephan Kinsella July 21, 2005 at 11:26 pm

Hej:

The constitution does not give the supreme court any right to intervene in a case like Kelo. However, nothing prevent the justices from speaking their mind. If the state then wishes to follow the unconstitutional ruling, that is their decision. If they don’t want to follow the it, they just have to ignore the verdict.

Sure; the Court could have said: “We have to dismiss this case since the Fifth amendment is a limit on congress only. So unfortunately, we are unable to strike down this law; an unjust law plainly in violation of Connectitcut’s own constitution, and which their state supreme court was too cowardly or socialistic to strike down themsleves. Connecticut citizens ought to lynch the lawmakers, judges, and planning commission scoundrels behind this.”

Aaron:

I agree with the article, I just don’t see how it applies to Kelo. If the decision really were a victory for decentralization I would applaud it but I do not believe it is. To me it just goes to show that the Federal government will intervene when it serves its own interests, but if non-intervention better serves it, then it will choose not to intervene. True decentralization as laid out in the constitution is long dead and I don’t think Kelo is an attempt to ressurect it.

Kelo is not a victory. But libertarions who oppose it wanted the Court to overturn the law, which would have been unconstitutional. Lew is saying the opponents of Kelo shouldn’t criticize it for this reason; but for failing to simply refuse to apply the Fifth Amendment in the first place.

O’Hara:

Concerning the section of the article on the Bill of Rights placing the restrictions on what the federal government may do, I find it to be flawed by over simplifying the purpose of the Bill of Rights with respect to the original Constitution.

The structure of the original unamended Constitution itself is the primary restraint on what the federal government may do. The debates concerning the ratification of the original Constitution often provides that the delegated powers to Congress are to be interpreted narrowly. In all truth, the Bill of Rights is really another expression of the principles of the original Constitution. The problem is that over time all branches of the government (and even the people themselves) have interpreted the powers of the federal government to be larger than they were ever intended by falsely interpreting the Bill of Rights as the only limits to the powers of the federal government and contradicting the original interpretation of Framers and those in the ratification debates.

Your comment is confusing. You seem to acknowlede the purpose of the Bill of rights was to limit the feds; but that it is not the only limit. Rockwell would agree; he says the BoR limits the feds; as does the very structure of the Constitution which grants them only enumerated powers. Where is the simplification?

Tom:

Apropos the earlier post about the Kelo decision (why not link to it?), you have your eye on the wrong ball. In celebrating a sort of victory for local government over the federal government you overlook the oppressiveness of local government.

“Overlook”? Who is overlooking anything. We decentralist (that is, non-centralist) libertarians–we libertarians who actually favor limited federal power, unlike, apparently, centralist libertarians–we are actually opposed to eminent domain altogether (unlike some centralist opponents of Kelo who advocate eminent domain when used “properly”–yeah right). The states don’t have a “right” to take private property. But that does not mean the Constitution gives the right to decide to Congress.

What is bizarre is that most advocates of federal supervision of the States have no problem with the federal government being unsupervised–or with the other 200 or so states in the world being “unsupervised” by an overlord state. Why are only the American States so infantile and childlike as to need paternal supervision by the feds? Why is there an assumption that we are better off if the feds have final say-so over state law, than if state courts do? Interesting that centralist libertarians never answer this question.

The ridiculous yelps and whining by libertarins over this case, as if it’s the end of private property, are embarrassingly ignorant. First, the decision only slightly expanded the scope of what counts as a public use; the limit was not eradicated. Second, this view presumes that the federal courts are our only guarantor of liberty and rights. Bah. Ridiculous. If the fed courts fail to protect the right, mabye the state courts will. If the state courts fail, maybe the state legislature will. And so on. The view that this case means there are no rights presupposes that all our rights come from and are protected by the courts and the courts alone; it is to partake in the Court-glorifying and worshipping mentality that has infected our society.

Beezley:

While we might be able to agree that an autocratic approach may not be the optimal solution for the libertarian movement (and probably an impossible one), we need to evaluate our current progress in the decentralized model. Government spending and employment at all levels are at all time highs. Social security will claim several lifetimes of work, and the federal deficit and debt are out of control…

Yes, and this is in part due to the erosion of federalism, hastened drastically by the demolition of the constitutional right to secede in the War to Prevent Southern Independence. Arguing for further ignoring of federalism makes no sense.

So, given the facts of our current status and trends, if the decentralized model is the optimal one, please explain the end game to me—or share what you’re drinking so it looks successful to me as well.

If the Courts and the other parts of the fed gov’t would start abiding by the limits placed on them in the Constitution, they would be unable to do 95% of the things you complain of. Those who want the fed courts to ignore limits placed on them just to achieve the goal of the moment ought not be surprised when the Court says, “Yeah, I agree, we are NOT really bound by the Constitution, are we?”

With regard to Kelo, whether one likes the fact that a federal government exists or not, it clearly fell down on the job under the Constitution by endorsing an arbitrary taking of private property.

Er, no, it did not, since its “job” is not to prevent “the governemnt” from taking property unjustly. It is to refuse to go along with its own government–you know, the federal one–doing such things.

Birch:

Maybe the 14th amendment “(doesn’t) magically (transform) the whole Bill of Rights to mean the exact opposite of its original intent,” as Mr. Rockwell observes, but I can’t quite see how interpreting the negative rights set forth in the constitution as a “floor” below which no state can sink with respect to how it treats its citizens would be “opposite” of the founders vision.

Because the founders wanted the states to have plenary power to protect citizens’ rights, and to be free from federal interference. The first amendment limits Congress’ power in part ot prevent Congress from establishing a natioanl religion or from stopping states from having their own state relgions; in fact 9 of the 13 colonies had a form of established religion in 1791. The courts don’t jsut “set a floor”; they don’t just have a mere veto power over state laws. Ever heard of forced bussing? Hellooo? These bastards FAIL to strike down federal laws that prevent STATES from letting their citizens have marijuana for medical purposes. They FAIL to stop the feds from doing all number of things. You expect them to benevolently use the power NOT granted to them, to strike down only “bad” state laws? Like waht, abortion laws?

Moreover: look at what the feds do with fedearl highway funds: they threaten to withold it from states to force them to, say, increase their drinking age to 21. After all, it’s only a negative power. Yeah right. If anything the states ought to be able to nullify and reveiw federal laws and legislation. The states ought to be the final authorities on interpreting the constitution.

tz:

If I were in Africa, and I came upon a lion and crocodile fighting, I would try very hard not to interrupt.

Since at the moment we have two evils, I prefer they fight each other than me.

How does this logic demonstrate (a) that the Cosntitution authorizes the feds to review state laws? wishing does not make it so. or (b) that if we set up a fed gov’t, it is better to set it up with limited powers than with unlimited ones? Why are libertarians unable to separate the issues and keep emotion out of this.

As neither SCOTUS or the individual state governments are likely to respect anything I would recognize any more than the lion or the crocodile, I can only hope for individual victories at an entirely pragmatic level. As much as I believe in principle, it doesn’t exist in any way before the court, so when it ends up that liberty wins, even for the wrong reason, it is a win. It will never win for the right reason with the current setup.

How does this imply that the constitution authorizes federal review of of state law? how does it imply that when setting up a central state we ought not to care about placing limits on their power?

Todd Birch July 22, 2005 at 3:26 am

S. Kinsella writes: “If anything the states ought to be able to nullify and reveiw federal laws and legislation. The states ought to be the final authorities on interpreting the constitution.”

Exactly. State judges should be striking down federal laws they find objectionable, and just to make sure things stay good and “decentralized,” the feds ought to keep striking down state laws that clearly violate individual liberty – like, for example, those that prevent people of different races or sexes from marrying, or which establish a “right” to own slaves, or, for that matter, allow local governments to take private property from an unwilling “seller” and hand it over to a well-connected mercantilist scum for a subsidized song.

Stephan Kinsella July 22, 2005 at 11:33 am

Birch:

S. Kinsella writes: “If anything the states ought to be able to nullify and reveiw federal laws and legislation. The states ought to be the final authorities on interpreting the constitution.”

Exactly. State judges should be striking down federal laws they find objectionable, and just to make sure things stay good and “decentralized,” the feds ought to keep striking down state laws that clearly violate individual liberty – like, for example, those that prevent people of different races or sexes from marrying, or which establish a “right” to own slaves, or, for that matter, allow local governments to take private property from an unwilling “seller” and hand it over to a well-connected mercantilist scum for a subsidized song.

To say the feds ought to strike down bad state laws assumes that the feds ought to disregard the principle: “you should not violate the limits placed on you in the Constitution.” In other words, to advocate federal review of state law is to advocate the feds NOT being limited by the Constitution. Call me crazy, but I happen to prefer a limited federal government. Apparently, I am almost alone among libertarians. Sad.

Paul Edwards July 22, 2005 at 12:43 pm

Hi Stephan: I doubt you are very close to being alone amongst libertarians on your position on the desirability of a very limited central government that adheres to its constitutional constraints. (Life would be better if such a thing were possible). I just think you and Lew have articulated and defended your position well and so you leave us nothing to add. Your case is open and shut.

Todd Birch July 22, 2005 at 1:21 pm

“Call me crazy, but I happen to prefer a limited federal government. Apparently, I am almost alone among libertarians. Sad.”

What’s also sad is a “libertarian” in America who apparently doesn’t think it should be a violation of federal law to own slaves. It sounds to me like you’re interested in limiting federal power not so that human beings can enjoy more liberty, but so that the state governments are free to take it away without having to worry about “federal interference.”

I don’t know where you live, Mr. Kinsella (District of Columbia, perhaps? Texas?) but I find your faith in the wisdom and benevolence of state governments to be quaint and naive – maybe borderline Utopian.

D. Saul Weiner July 22, 2005 at 1:29 pm

One important advantage of decentralization that Lew hinted at but didn’t specifically mention was that smaller jurisdictions have a smaller resource base to draw upon with which to wreak havoc. For example, it would be much harder for say, Texas, to raise the money and the people to overthrow Saddam Hussein versus the USG.

Vince Daliessio July 22, 2005 at 1:41 pm

Todd,

At the risk of stating the extremely obvious, there is NO way slavery would ever be reinstated by any state, if for no other reason than its uneconomic nature, and the fact that many of the southern slave states now have black majorities.

So throwing out that ridiculous straw man argument against states’ rights, what else have you got?

Paul Edwards July 22, 2005 at 4:58 pm

Hi Tom: Regarding your comment “What’s also sad is a “libertarian” in America who apparently doesn’t think it should be a violation of federal law to own slaves. It sounds to me like you’re interested in limiting federal power not so that human beings can enjoy more liberty, but so that the state governments are free to take it away without having to worry about “federal interference.”

It is popularly held that the slave states during the slave years in the US acted on their own. That it came down to nasty ignorant slave states against the more enlightened non-racists central state in Washington, defender of all human dignity and liberty. This is popularly held, but amazingly and brutally wrong.

In fact, it was US central state laws that forced the citizens of the entire country to assist slave owners in recovering run-away slaves. Washington enforced slavery and the north did not attack the south over slavery. Another piece of history: General Grant owned slaves up to and after the end of the Civil war. That’s Grant: the general of the North. Was the union aggression rooted in moral outrage against slavery? Nope.

Anyways: To grant more power to the central state, unconstitutionally on the pretext that it cares more for our liberty than do the more local state governments is painfully misguided. I would rather have to move away from a despotically run Oregon state for instance, than to live in a despotically run United States.

Anyone interested in how the central state in Washington “helped” the slaves should read Thomas DiLorenzo’s work, especially “The Real Lincoln”. Among other things, it describes the treatment the blacks received at the hands of the northern armies (Not inspiring).

Paul Edwards July 22, 2005 at 5:25 pm

That was Todd rather than Tom.

Som July 22, 2005 at 9:33 pm

Great article, I still hate the decision with every fiber of my body, and i’ll tell you why.
Lysander Spooner wrote the Unconstitutionality of Slavery…am I not correct? Now, as i recall, he CONSTANTLY referred to phrases in the Bill of rights such “no person shall be denied the right to due process” considering negros have rights to due process and contradict slavery privelidges everywhere in the U.S. Now recall slavery was enforced by the STATES, soo correctly interperted, every person had their rights protected under the bill of rights, OVER states rights! States decided to have slavery or not, but the general attitude was that the bill of rights applied to the people regardless of the states rights. This decision is a terrible one, because the federal government intervened in issues of property rights and liberty lost. This is just like the horrible dred Scott decision, and its implications may be even worse than what we can expect.

I wonder why we even have a appeals court at all really. The supreme court has been a failure ever since decisions such as dred scott. The only real reasons why someone should “appeal” from a local court decision is because: 1) the court failed to be impartial (or sentenced a cruel and unusual punishment). 2) the court violated due process. 3) it diverged from the common law.

Then any of these issues can be handled by the local or state legislature, the only other thing the legislator can do, besides watching over the police violations of individual rights.

Hey, maybe now that ghandi was much more libertarian than earlier percieved, we could take a lesson in non-violent seccesion. whatever. I’ve always had a feeling gandhi was actualy a libertarian, judgeing by his actions and writings. But i’ll save that for later

Todd Birch July 23, 2005 at 1:55 am

Vince: “…there is NO way slavery would ever be reinstated by any state, if for no other reason than its uneconomic nature, and the fact that many of the southern slave states now have black majorities.”

Now why didn’t I think of that? Everybody knows state governments would NEVER do anything that flies in the face of free-market economics. Also, maybe you’re aware of scientific studies that indicate White American Southerners are, as a group, the only people genetically predisposed to using government to enforce a system of laws whereby the proprietary ownership of other human beings is legally permissible? You’ll have to point me to it, because I was under the impression that a thriving slave trade is still tolerated in many Sub-Saharan African nations (in which, if I’m not mistaken, “black majorities” predominate).

You’re probably right, though – such things could never happen (again) here, in this Land of the Free.

Vince: “So throwing out that ridiculous straw man argument against states’ rights, what else have you got?”

Well, in my earlier comment you seem to have overlooked my mention of laws passed that prohibit people of different races or sexes from marrying, or allow local governments to take private property from an unwilling “seller” and hand it off to a private interest. In general, I would add that any law criminalizing private nonviolent behaviors or that otherwise prohibits and artificially penalizes the exercise of voluntary, peaceable, non-fraudulent agreements between consenting adults should be targeted for nullification, either by a judge or conscientious members of juries.

Stephan commented that he perceives “most advocates of federal supervision of the States have no problem with the federal government being unsupervised.” Well, speaking for myself, that’s entirely untrue. I’d relish the prospect of activist libertarian state judges striking down federal laws within their jurisdictions that they determine violate either the United States or their own particular state constitutions – after all, they’re sworn to uphold both aren’t they? If this slippery creature “federalism” is to mean anything (and, frankly, I have my doubts), it means the states should be keeping an eye out for abusive federal tendencies, and visa versa. In other words, I believe in strictly limiting governments at both levels, with both zealously guarding against usurpations of their citizens’ individual freedom by the other. (That this wish seems rather fantastic given the current ideological make-up of both our state and federal courts is beside the theoretical point as it pertains to this discussion, I would submit, if for no other reason than because the idea of States’ Rights is more or less a fantasy at present as well). It looks to me like the pro-Kelo conservatives, on the other hand, only want power limited at the federal level. Personally, given the choice, I’d much rather see judges at every level striking down laws that could debatably be construed as violating the the Bill of Rights (including 9&10) than see state legislatures getting away with writing laws that undoubtedly do.

So I guess I’ll put it back to you, Vince – and any of the other Big State Government Libertarians who want to weigh in – Can you conceive of ANY abuses of citizens with which the states shouldn’t be allowed to experiment in America, or is it pretty much an anything-goes type of deal as long as the policy is backed by regional political elites, or a 50.1 percent majority of the jurisdictional electorate?

Todd Birch July 23, 2005 at 2:09 am

Apologies to gay readers, I think what I meant was “prohibit people of different races or [the same sex] from marrying” …

Paul Edwards July 23, 2005 at 11:58 am

Hi Todd: I get where you’re coming from, but let me modify your question a tad and then ask my own question, and you’ll get where some of the Big State Government Libertarians may be coming from.

Can you conceive of ANY abuses of citizens with which _Washington_ shouldn’t be allowed to experiment in America?

I’m sure your answer is YES, as would be the answer of almost all readers of this site. From this then comes the question: would you trust a world government to govern over Washington to ensure that liberty would prevail amongst these United States?

Before you answer, i’ll give you my answer: No. The larger and more centralized governments become, the less responsive they are towards their subjects, and the more repressive of liberty they have the capacity to be. The laws they pass tend to compound old or create new local problems. In governments, small is better. Let us at least have the option to secede (or move away) from the tyranny of a local government, rather than live under the tyranny of a usurping grand central government. Keep a strict interpretation of the constitution as an enumeration of the limits of the power of the general government.

Todd Birch July 23, 2005 at 3:32 pm

Mr. Edwards,

Your comments are appreciated, and in fact I more or less agree with much of what I perceive as the thrust of your points. I also said before that I think state judges ought to grow some spines, get a gleam in the eye, and start shitcanning federal laws with a gleeful fervor; I think such a radical development would precipitate just the types of vigilant discussions about the nature of freedom and power that have been absent in this country for better than 100 years. And like most any other “small l” I’d be horrified at the prospect of the UN or some other unelected, unaccountable international body attempting to “govern over” the U.S. or states herein because certain of our laws don’t sufficiently facilitating the expansion of World Socialism. And, I heartily agree that the more localized or regionally-limited a democratically-elected government is, the more responsive it’ll tend to be to the People (at least those who make up the popular majority) over whom it claims dominion.

But however hated by self-styled states rights conservatives, we do have a 14th Amendment, and it reads, in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

I find absurd, for example, the suggestion that even though the Fourth Amendment guarantees I be secure in my home and belongings against unreasonable searches and seizures (there’s no specific mention of from whom), that it somehow applies only to potential federal intrusion, and that the fate of my liberty in that regard, irrespective of my status as a legal citizen of the United States of America, is completely subject to the discretion, whim and tender mercies of whoever happens to be running my town, county or state. To me, such an outlook is not just a clear contradiction of the 14th Amendment, but reveals an obstinate refusal to acknowledge any number of dark and abusive episodes in American history (some of which are ongoing). State governments may not have the resources at the ready to violate individual rights to the shocking extent and scale of the federal government, but that doesn’t mean they should be encouraged and left unchecked to give it their best shot.

I’ll say it again – I’m not so sure the term “federalism” has meant anything of substance for a long, long time. (Or maybe it means so many things that, like the labels “conservative” and “liberal,” its only real functional is to muddy the waters of reasoned discussion.) To the extent that the chimeric vagaries of the ambiguous doctrine are used to bolster and rationalize abusive actions of government at any level, then it isn’t going to be a doctrine that I or anybody else who wants to see liberty flourish in the future ought to ununyieldingly subscribe to.

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