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Another factor of limited government: Decentralized government

Posted by Chance on March 17, 2009

I wanted to add something to my previous post about the idea of limited government.  As I mentioned earlier, the government that the colonists rebelled against was a centralized government.  Originally, the idea was that the state governments would do most of the governing, and the federal just a very little.

Now, unfortunately, when I bring up the idea of “states’ rights” it conjures up images of slavery, segregation, etc…  Thankfully the Civil War ended slavery, but it perhaps settled an either-or conflict that didn’t truly exist.  It doesn’t have to be a decision between a country with a strong federal government vs. a country where slavery exists.  Where the states’ rights components got it wrong was this, States’ rights overrode individual rights.

Anyway, I believe in a more decentralized government where states have more say in policy.  That does not mean states should be able to do what they want; the federal government should still ensure that a state government doesn’t trespass individual rights according to the Constitution.

Here are what I see as a few advantages of federalism:

  • A major advantage of federalism is that we, the people, can more easily see what policies work and what policies don’t.
  • There is less power in the hands of the few.
  • It is easier for the government to be of the people (or is it “by the people”).  Washington D.C. is much further away from the people than state or local governments.
  • People can move to different states based on cultural, and therefore, political differences.

Again, the federal government should do some things, but not everything.

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3 Responses to “Another factor of limited government: Decentralized government”

  1. Randy said

    I agree with you. The problem is in deciding what the federal government should do. Common defense is (or should be) a given. What about “fixing” the economy? Healthcare?

  2. dolphin said

    I have to preface any discussion of “states’ rights” with the disclaimer that I take it as a given that such a term butcher’s the english language. States have no rights, individuals have rights, states can only have power.

    But the problem is exactly what Randy says. If the federal government’s job is to protect the rights of the citzenry, there needs to be some kind of agreement on what those rights are, and there’s simply not.

  3. Chance said

    Even though we may not have all the questions figured out, I still think decentralized power is better. Dolphin, you seem to think that your rights are more likely to be infringed upon if states have more relative power in relation to the federal gov’t, rather than vice versa. However, I believe in the long run that individuals will always have less freedom if they are ruled by a centralized source of power. The one exception would be pre-Civil War, but that was because slaves were physically prevented from moving to another state. No, I’m not saying slavery or any other tyranny is ok as long as slaves have the option to move, I’m saying, even if we have an imperfect concept of rights, at least some states will have a better concept than others.

    Randy, as far as the government trying to “fix” the economy, I think you just made a good argument why a strong federal gov’t is bad.

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