I’ve been listening to a lot of television and radio about the mid-east turmoil, the election, and just about every other thing that's going on out there. It’s been very surreal, to say the least. Every morning, I turn on Fox and Friends while getting ready for work. I listen to radio most of the day while at work. I catch the news in the evening before dinner. My iPad is frequently on Flipboard, Drudge Report, and other news aggregators so I can keep up with the news. I hear the results of polls, see stories about all kinds of things and see politicians everywhere telling me what’s wrong with the world and how they are going to fix it.
A couple of days ago as I was pondering why the federal government was involved in so many things that should be local issues, I suddenly realized something: Nearly every liberal policy affecting our nation is due to the problems of the ‘city’. If you think about it, things like gun control, police over-reach, TSA 4th amendment infringements, control of ‘sins’ like alcohol and tobacco, pollution, high-speed trains and mass transit, school reform, light bulb design, toilet flushing and many, many other issues are things that are primarily issues in the city. Most small communities and rural areas don’t even consider most of these things to be anyone’s business but their own, yet we see torrents of legislation coming out of the federal government to control all of these things at every single level.
You may remember that in an earlier blog, I mentioned the problems with legislating almost anything at the federal level: that legislation ignores the needs of the community and emphasizes the needs of… well, for the most part, the city dwellers and federal bureaucracy. As an example, there are a lot of murders in Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and most other big cities. The vast majority of gun related violence occurs in the major cities. As a result, the cities have laws about gun ownership and such. As long as the state constitution doesn’t prohibit these laws, this is well within their purview, in my opinion, since they are not limited by the federal Constitution. The issue is that because of this ‘local’ problem, and in spite of the local laws to deal with the problem, the federal government also wants to try to deal with the issue by putting bans on assault-style weapons and large clips, or by putting limits on purchases of ammunition. The question must be asked: Does Bozeman, Montana have a problem with these things that this new law will help? Does Pikeville, Tennessee have a mass of people being killed with folks armed to the teeth with assault weapons? What about Anderson, South Carolina or Sharpsburg, Georgia? The answer, of course, is no. To take this a step further, I’d go so far as to ask where, exactly, these federal laws make any difference OTHER than in gangland in a large city?
Don’t like the gun issue? Ok, let’s try this one: Abortion. Currently, it’s the law of the land (by federal fiat from the Supreme Court in the form of Roe –v- Wade) that abortion is legal (i.e. - no state can make abortion illegal). Since this is a federal mandate, it applies to every single person in the US of A. This makes the minority (about 41%) of the country happy, and the majority (about 50% of the country) unhappy according to the most recent Gallup polling. Now what would happen if tomorrow Roe versus Wade was overturned? The most obvious change would be that the states would once again get to decide if, based on their populations, if abortion was legal or not. Contrary to what abortion rights advocates say, it would not mean that abortion would be illegal. The interesting thing is that once again, about 50% of the country would be happy, and the other 41% would be unhappy. The question must be asked: “Why is the happiness of only ONE of the sides, relevant?” If Roe-v-Wade were overturned, folks in states that did not want abortion to be legal would have to travel to states where it was legal to get their abortions, but actually more of the country would have their desires met: If you didn’t want to live where abortion was legal, you could move. As it stands now, since we have a federal law making abortion legal, there is nowhere in the U.S. you can go to get away from the mandate. To make the point a bit stronger: What if tomorrow it was ruled at the federal level that ALL abortions were illegal nation-wide? Now the pro-abortion side is angry since there is nowhere to go to get an abortion! This is the danger of federal law: It can give, but it can also take away and it leaves no options.
Back on point, then: Since most federal lawmaking seems to be aimed at solving problems where large masses of people live packed together (i.e. cities), then, as with abortion or gun control, we find ourselves, as a people, being hammered by laws that have no positive consequence outside of the conclaves where the problems that needed to be fixed were located. We’re trying to fix a bad mayor or a bad governor with federal law. That is insanity! Are the problems of Chicago really the same problems that the people of Waveland, Mississippi face? Of course not! Writing law at the federal level impacts every single person in the country.
Unfortunately, the answer to this one is not easy. Part of the problem is that we’ve somehow let Washington believe that just because we send money to them, and they then send some back to us, that they can control what we do. We give up the ‘right’ to self-govern. In what sane world does this make any sense? Here’s the analogy: I give you $5 to park in front of your house. You decide you’re going to refund me $1.00, and in exchange, without my permission or approval, you decide you can now drive my car any time you want. We wouldn’t put up with this in any other area of life, but we do when dealing with the Feds. Why do we do that? If the people of Michigan send tax money to the federal government, and they then send some of the money back to the state to pay for public schools, why does that mean that we have to give up all sovereignty as a state where our children’s education is concerned? Very odd! So step one is that we have to cut the cord to the federal money at the local, city and state level. This makes it impossible for the feds to say, “Hey, if you don’t do it our way, we’re going to cut off the money!” Just like that, the states get back a huge chunk of sovereignty.
At a personal level, the single most effective thing we can do is to elect men and women to all offices who will take their oath to the Constitution seriously. That’s not always easy to do – politicians are very good liars. I think the most impactful thing we could do was outlined in an earlier blog I did: Eliminate re-election of all federal elected posts altogether. As mentioned before, this changes the dynamic dramatically at the federal level. It keeps fresh, and hopefully more idealistic people at the federal level. In my opinion, it also adds a tremendous competition to see who can improve things the most. We need to find a way to help our lawmakers, presidents, and appointee’s see that most of the United States is not made up of people crammed into tiny spaces where automobile ownership isn’t even that important. They need to understand that for most of the country, you can’t just run out and hail a cab or jump on the subway to get to work. They need to see that banning smoking in Pierre, South Dakota or Abilene, Texas because people in apartments in New York or Boston are complaining isn’t the solution. It’s simply creating anger, distrust and frustration with an out-of-touch bureaucrat. In my book, Washington trying to tell some town in Florida what flies must be protected is the very essence of out-of-touch. Hey Washington: We don’t need your help!