Decentralize the government

One of the biggest threats to our republic is the drift towards a centralized government – an autocracy of sorts. We fought a revolution against this and our founders devised our representative republic precisely to avoid autocracy. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century there has been a shift towards centralized federal government and it has accelerated with the current administration.(more here)

But what is happening now goes well beyond the previously defined perimeters of the federal government’s powers. Obama seems to possess a desire not so much to fix the basic infrastructure of the country but to re-engineer our entire society into the model championed by liberal academia.

There also seems to be a conscious design to recreate the country as a European-style super-state. Forged by an understandable urge to minimize chaos after a century of conflict, the super-state generally favors risk management through centralization of authority. This has traditionally been accomplished by ceding regulatory powers to national capitals, though lately more and more powers have been ceded to the European Union.

Initially the administration had hopes of imposing similar controls through acts of Congress. However, with the shifting political mood, this seems less and less possible. With its latest action the administration sends the message that it will now impose the desired results through the bureaucracy. Under the proposal, private firms that do not raise wages will be bullied into doing so through the manipulation of federal contract awards.

This marks a departure from our basic traditions. For most of our history the burden of expanding opportunity has rested with the private economy, albeit in conjunction with often necessary protections for workers and consumers. Now the overall control of the economy is shifting to Washington–from government contracts to ownership shares in companies like General Motors and much of the financial sector.

The good news, of sorts, is that the American people are finally starting to wake up – and they are resisting.

Fortunately, most Americans do not appear ready for unbounded autocracy. This is particularly true outside the coastal urban centers. The Tea Party may have some cranky–even ill-advised–ideas, but they reflect a genuine–and broader–American preference for solving problems at the state or local level.

Indeed, Americans, including some on the left, are instinctive decentralists. We express this tendency physically, first in our decades-old movement to the suburbs, and increasingly to smaller towns and cities as well as rural areas. Even in cities like New York or Los Angeles, local neighborhood identity trumps ties to more grandiose visions of City Halls or regional bodies. The rise of the Internet and social networks has enhanced this decentralizing trend by providing instant linkages and helping ad hoc organization among neighbors.

This is a good sign. Anyone who thinks that a big centralized government is right for America should read about the Soviet Union – the epitome of centralization. You’ll quickly lose your appetite for autocracy…


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