The Founding Fathers are usually credited with designing the nation as a republic when they drafted the Constitution. Some insist that the nation be described as a democratic republic.
But it might be even more accurate to say that they created a federal democratic republic. By creating a federal system, the founders also created a mechanism that has prevented a second American Revolution for nearly 240 years.
Each of the “several states” is independent; they can create their own laws, set their own taxes, and generally ignore the laws of the other 49 states, so long as those laws recognize the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution. There are exceptions to this, of course, where the states have cooperated in drafting uniform laws to facilitate interstate commerce, such as the Uniform Commercial Code. Generally however, each state goes its own way. While all states have laws against murder, for example, each state defines what behavior constitutes premeditated murder versus manslaughter, and those definitions may vary from state to state.
But the bonus that the founders provided by making the nation a federal system is the availability of escape from intolerable abuses of governmental authority. The federal system allows people to vote with their feet. The latest census shows this “pressure release valve” working as the populations of California and New York decline while the populations of Indiana and Texas rise.
Now, I will stipulate that there will be some Californians who will be undecided about moving. Indiana, for example, has a lot less surf than California. Indiana has the occasional tornado as well. California has earthquakes, of course, which might even out the whole tornado problem for those making a judgment about relocating. And of course California also has Governor Moonbeam. Indiana has…has… — OK, Indiana must have something equivalent to Governor Moonbeam, but I’m embarrassed to say that nothing is coming to mind.
The point is that if a state is taxing its productive citizens into poverty, and allowing their public employees to enjoy wages and benefits that were last seen by the nobility during the reign of Louis XIV, drafting and passing laws which impose governmental whims on the private behavior of its citizens down to deciding for us how much salt we should consume, whether a private enterprise be allowed to operate when the owner disagrees with the local political powers, or how much soda is more than is good for us, the citizen can choose to relocate to another state where the taxes and laws are more congenial.
And that is the hidden bonus that the founders left as part of their legacy to us. So when faced with such governmental overreach, we don’t reach for our guns. Instead, we check the Yellow Pages for “Movers — Interstate” and start looking for work in a new jurisdiction.
Washington, D.C., home of Congress and the Obama administration, doesn’t seem to understand that such a pressure release valve is necessary. They are working to undo the federal model of government, and too many of the “several states” are actively cooperating with them.
How else can the plans to replace local control of schools, speed limits, and so on, with mandates from Washington, be viewed?
Granted, the central government tries to hide this reach for uniformity by using the carrot rather than the stick. The feds offer school funds to those states that will conform to what the geniuses at the Department of Education want done. You can see the tremendous improvement in the performance of our kids on standardized tests with all that help, can’t you?
They offer the states a great amount of money to fund high-speed rail. Of course, rail travel is the preferred mode of transit among those who worship at the altar of centralized government planning. Such bureaucrats view it as much more efficient than allowing independent people to act independently by driving their own vehicles, which allows them to pick the best time (for them individually) to leave the house in the morning to get to work and the best time (for them individually) to leave work in the evening to go home. It allows them to decide on their own to stop to get milk, fill the tank, maybe pick up something for the pantry. No, that’s inefficient. It sometimes clogs roads. It fills the air with greenhouse gasses. And worst of all, such behavior is outside the control of omniscient bureaucrats who always know better than the individual citizen what is good for him.
The result of this is the continual erosion of the entire concept of federalism. By forcing each state to act in ways that are designed and approved by Washington, difference among the states become blurred, and the ability of the individual to escape the heavy hand of bureaucratic overreach is curtailed, if not eliminated. Federalism used to be called “the laboratory of democracy,” demonstrating for all to see which approaches work best. Now that the education and media sectors are in the hands of progressives, the phrase has fallen into disuse.
Without the “pressure release valve” of federalism, and resulting hope of at least the possibility of an escape from idiocy, the psychological pressure on some individuals has the potential to erupt into violence. We see it again and again. Even if the pressures an individual might feel are illusory, they can still result in the violent episodes that the country has seen again and again.
So what do our wonderful central planners do in response to this? Do they relax their stranglehold on conformity among the states? Don’t be silly. Their answer is, and as has been for at least 100 years, to eliminate guns. Progressives claim that such actions simply make the country safer, and they are absolutely right. It does make the country safer — for them! The can feel much more confident knowing a cowed citizenry cannot resist their attempts to “transform” America. It would make individuals less able to give vent to their feelings of powerlessness.
Ordinary citizens giving vent to such feelings isn’t good for progressives, but unless our central planners decide to tranquilize the entire population, those feelings will come to the surface with or without having a gun handy. But it appears that the idea of returning to a real federal system of government has never occurred to the denizens of Washington’s cocktail party crowd.
So what is to be done? Individuals who live outside the Beltway need to elect governors and legislators who are not willing to enslave themselves to Washington in return for aid in building a high-speed train to nowhere. Why should the states give up freedom and local control in return for money that Washington took from them in the first place?
The same logic applies to local elections as well, but these are not nearly as critical as electing governors who have the vision and courage to simply tell Barack Obama and Company (and, as a lawyer would phrase it, their heirs and assigns), “Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll do it our way.”
This essay was originally published at American Thinker.