Monday, August 21, 2006
Beers at the Big 10
Paul writes (and I add a few hyperlinks in green):
I recall you and I having precisely this conversation over a couple of beers at the Big 10. Though, in my opinion, we came to a slightly more refined (and more consistent) position: That ideally, most laws should be set and enforced at the most local level to which geographical considerations become trivial. For example, laws regarding soil and erosion control are most applicable at the state level or even county level, where the people most familiar with the consequences of such regulation are involved. Soil in Dane County behaves roughly the same as soil in Green County, but not at all similar to soil in, say, Orange County. Laws such those that Soglin discusses were (and are) more appropriate at a federal level. Those conclusions didn't stop us from noting, as Soglin notes, that we're all the same when it comes to exploiting the power we have at whatever level we have it.
I respond:
For the longest time, stances on federalism seemed parts of the party platforms—remember Republicans touting "states' rights?" Why? Because Democrats held the Congress.

But that's bullshit. Federalism is a great principle, but the parties just pick one side or the other depending on what's politically expedient—nothing inherent in either's ideology* (what is the Democrats' ideology anyway?). Those with policy preferences will pull on every lever they can get their grubby little fingers on (Democrats too, especially now that it's the Blue States vs. Jesusland).

See federal crackdowns (or threatened constitutional amendments) on
  • State-passed laws permitting medicinal marijuana
  • Stem cell research
  • Gay marriage
Gee, how "states' rights." Grubby little fingers everywhere.

* Okay, I admit, that's bullshit too. There's plenty with traditional conservatism that favors sub-federal governments, and keeping the size of government bathtub-drownable, not to mention realist and neoconservative distrust of IGOs. And the further left you go, the more government intervention in the economy, which is almost necessarily done at the federal level. And of course it makes sense that Soglin, as a former mayor of a city with an often antagonistic relationship with the state legislature, is going to tout the importance of city-level autonomy.

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