Thursday, August 12, 2010
The States Grow Restless as an Empire Wanes
There is a long tradition in the United States of dissent among the States toward the Federal Government. The battle between State and Federal power has been constant since the birth of the nation. In the decades since World War II, however, it is quite clear that the balance of power has shifted decisively toward the Federal Government.
Lately, I've theorized that the nation as a whole would do a lot better if each state had greater autonomy. Bigger states, smaller Federal Government. An immediate rebuttal is the "economy of scales" argument which would state that things could be done more efficiently at the Federal level and that, by empowering the Federal government, we could have a smaller governmental presence in the aggregate. The flip side to the efficiency argument is that empowering each State to a larger degree would create a very robust political structure that would be nearly impossible to sink by an outside influence. Assassinating the president is easy. Assassinating 50 governors who are widely distributed is nearly impossible.
To a large degree, redundancy is already present in our political structure. After all, we already have 50 governors. But the states themselves do not have as much power as the founding fathers intended. Instead, States find themselves beholden to the Federal Government for funds for schools and infrastructure. The reason behind this is the discrepancy in the tax base. In 2007, the Federal Government collected $2.674 Trillion in taxes while the states collected a comparatively paltry $800 Billion. The result? States find themselves gutted. The power may as well not even be there.
Why have distributed power? Simply put, we are a diverse nation with diverse problems and solutions to the same problem may not be the same across the country. In California there is a large consensus to legalize marijuana. In Utah... things are quite different to be polite. Standardized Federal Income tax brackets are a perfect example of "one size does not fit all." If you make $250,000 a year and live in Orlando your a wealthy person. If you make $250,000 a year and live in New York City you're middle class at best and you'd be lucky to have a Manhattan address. I could write for days about how an all powerful Federal Government is actually very inefficient.
The point of this post (as indicated in the title) is that the states aren't taking this lying down. In fact, there's a steadily growing list of them that, starting in 1994, are telling the Feds to piss off. The kicker is that they're justified in doing this under the tenth amendment to the constitution:
(Edit: I'll fix those links in a couple of hours)