In my life I have gone from fiscal conservative with social liberal leanings to hardcore libertarian and now to arguably a libertarian anarchist. During that journey one thing has become clear, government causes more issues than it solves and cannot and should not be all things to all people. Obviously, we need a strong central government, or our country would collapse. But it need not be, and must not be, a large unwieldy beast that devours our wealth, stunts innovation, and limits the diversity that so many of us claim to desire. As much as possible, governance should be limited to the state and local jurisdiction. Local governments can address the needs of its citizens much more quickly and efficiently, and with a larger consensus among those who those who live in those locales.
Government cannot be all things to all people, the cost alone would bankrupt any country and limit many of the freedoms we hold so dear or even take for granted. For example, laws against hate speech can easily consume free speech. Those in Montana have different needs, concerns and beliefs than those in California or New York, which is one reason the electoral college is so vital to balancing the power between the states. Those living in rural Mississippi do not need to make the same wage or need access to the same resources as those living in high-cost areas such as San Francisco and the Silicon Valley area to enjoy a similar quality of life and economic stability.
Much like the free market which inspires innovations through competition and letting the consumers decide who the winners and losers are our government could work the same way. Our federal government should be restrained and limited to only the things that a central government can reasonably manage like national defense, regulating interstate commerce and other issues that impact all Americans. In essence, our federal government should be restrained to protecting our rights, not micro managing our economy, healthcare or social issues. Issues like education, most regulations on business, and laws on social issues should be left to state and local government. If a state like California wants an all-encompassing social welfare state, high minimum wage and the high taxes and limited freedom that go along with such a large government, so be it. But it should not be the burden of the federal government, or taxpayers in other states, to concern itself with every aspect of our lives. If we desire such a government, that should be the domain of state and local governments whom we elect.
The free market concept between states works and has been used recently to make serious social changes. Take for example gay marriage. The right for same sex marriage started out state by state and was fought in the courts and, although it took a supreme court decision, it is now legal in all 50 states. A similar thing is happening with the legalization of marijuana. Every election cycle more and more states are now legalizing recreational marijuana and it is only a matter of time before it will be legal in all 50 states. The free market concept between states is also working to limit climate change. California will ban the sale of gas cars by 2035. This is not only because of a few eco warriors, but due to the citizens i.e., “consumers” demanding it. Legislation often comes after changes in social consciousness and rarely, if ever, does legislation lead to social consciousness.
The free market concept is already working with our economy and regulation. We see this in the exodus of those fleeing high tax and high regulatory states like California and New York to states like Texas and Florida where there are lower taxes and less unnecessary and burdensome regulation. Let the states compete for the best economies and allow the citizens of those states to determine the winners and losers by adopting similar policies. Let the states compete to find the best balance between social safety nets, taxes and moral issues and let the people vote with their feet by moving to the states that best suit their way of life. California and New York, even pre COVID, have been losing citizens to the point that California has flirted with the Constitutionally questionable idea of an exit tax on businesses and citizens who choose to leave the state. Free market principles can work in government, not only in business.
In a free society with limited government variatitons of the “cancel culture” can be a great thing as businesses and local governments will be forced to innovate and change with the demands of consumers and citizens. But the cancel culture with an omni present central government creating laws and regulations with a one size fits all approach stifles that same innovation and change by limiting what can be done and eliminating competition between ideas. We already see the pressure of free markets in response to the awareness of climate change. The rise of Tesla and all the options of “greener” consumer goods made from biodegradable or recycled content without legislation is proof of that. Consumers are demanding recycled and “greener” products, and the market is filling that demand. We should allow that free market approach to our state governments and allow them to experiment and innovate to create the best system of government. If enough people in one city or state, see what works in another city or state they will elect leaders who share their vision and implement it. However, if the people see how their own city or state has failed and the voters continue to elect leaders unwilling to change, those citizens will have the freedom to vote with their feet and move to where success is rewarded. That is impossible in a monolithic central government where innovation and change can die.
A one size fits all approach does not leave room for failure, if a nationwide law fails, we all fail and at the glacial pace the federal government moves that failure can continue to impact everyone indefinitely. Allowing states to determine what works and what does not work will limit those failures because state and local governments are able to change course much quicker than can the federal government. At the very least it will limit that failure to just a few states and allow the rest to flourish.
A smaller leaner federal government would also be able to respond quicker to issues such as a national pandemic or regional crisis such as the power grid issues in Texas recently. With debate in Congress limited to a few issues instead of “everything” they could come to a consensus much quicker in response to true national emergencies. Also, a smaller government would cost much less allowing it to finance responses to such national emergencies without burdening future generations with debt that can never be paid back without artificially increasing inflation through printing money and devaluing the hard earned wealth of its citizens.
How do we reduce the size of the federal government? First, we teach civics in the schools about why states’ rights are so important and why the Constitution left much up to the states to legislate, not the federal government, and why the electoral college is vital to reinforcing states’ rights. Then we demand our government limit spending and stop unnecessarily funding foreign governments and congressmember’s pet projects through bloated budgets and relief packages like the ones recently passed for the pandemic, and the one currently under debate, that will accomplish little of their intended purpose.
Next, we could replace our current tax code with something like The Fair Tax which would allow citizens to take back power from the Feds. By financing the federal government strictly through a consumption tax, we could vote everyday by not spending our hard-earned money, thus starving the beast of that is our national government and limiting its power. We would not need to wait until election day to voice our displeasure.
Finally, setting spending bills in congress to expire after a set time, whether 3, 5 or 7 years would defund useless or outdated programs and bureaucratic agencies. Currently once a spending program has been implemented, or a new agency is created, it is almost impossible to remove. Most spending programs or bureaucratic agencies have outlived their original mandate, never achieved the results of their mandate or are just redundant, costing taxpayers billions upon billions.
If we truly desire diversity, freedom, and true progress in economic and social issues, cookie cutter laws for over 300 million people will not work. Big government destroys the creativity and diversity of thought that leads us to social, economic, and material innovation. Diversity is not just about looking different, sexual orientation, and genders, it is about different ideas, morals, and ways of living and by taking the best of those we can thrive. But we cannot debate those ideas if we are restrained to the group think of an omnipotent government that legislates against freedom in the name of conformity. If we really believe in diversity and equality under the law, we need let the states experiment so we can see what works and what fails. Diverse ideas, thought and debate makes us stronger. There is a saying, “All politics is local”, and we have gone beyond that to the detriment of us all. It is time for big government to end and allow the states and local governments to reclaim the debate to the benefit of us all.