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Thursday, February 01, 2007

ACS v. FedSoc: States or Federal

The split of power between the states and the federal government is the first of the core issues we hope ACS and FedSoc members will discuss in our new project of cross-group dialogue and debate. The following do not represent the views of FedSoc (or even myself necessarily), but are meant to spur on debate over critical issues facing the legal world today.

When one thinks of the advantages that have accrued through the federal usurpation of areas of governance traditionally under state control, the gambit seems to have been worth the notion. The New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, and so on are all hallmarks of the society we live in today. These expansive grants of federal power were brought on by a pragmatic impulse to solve the social and economic problems that befell this country during the Great Depression. However, this impulse loses its pragmatic value if it is not specific to the problem at hand. Once the federal government appropriated itself the power to regulate interstate commerce to the nth degree, there was an institutionalization of the federal government's latitude which is not easily shaken.

What was lost by the replacement of the states with the federal government is the ability to vote with your feet. The ability for states to offer different combinations of social services and corresponding levels of taxation would have been an immense boon for our social order. States would be in competition with one another for the tax dollars of their constituencies, and would give voters the ability to directly choose whether or not they want Social Security or public health care or any other combination of public services, with corresponding levels of taxation to go along. Such a framework would even give poor deluded libertarians like myself a chance to actually see how well a minimalistic government might work. The point is that overly centralizing everything risks putting all of our eggs in one basket. In any event, the possibilities for innovation aside, the sheer capacity for liberty and self-governance sacrificed to the federal government is lamentable in and of itself.

To see what the people over at ACS have to say on the topic, please click here.


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