I recently saw this video on Facebook. It features a husband and father railing on his representative at a town hall meeting about his need for government ran health insurance. His wife suffered from cancer and his child was born with a pre-existing condition. Even with his anger and rancor, he maintained his composure and made a compelling case for government ran health insurance. Though I am against the government providing healthcare, I did feel sympathetic towards this individual, and the many others who are in similar situations.
The problem with a national health care program is that it does NOT serve everyone nor can it. There are approximately 320 million people in the United States. Each of and every one of those 320 million individuals has their own ideas and beliefs about what the government should and should not do. Assume half of the population wanted a government ran health insurance and it was implemented, it would still leave 160 million dissatisfied people. And, if it weren’t implemented, the same would hold true. You would still have 160 million dissatisfied individuals. With such a large constituency, it is NOT possible to effectively serve everyone! So, what’s the solution? How do you effectively have a government for and by the people with such a large and diverse citizenry?
The answer is fireworks! Okay, it’s not really fireworks, but they do provide us with an excellent case study. National laws and regulations surrounding fireworks are quite limited in scope and nature. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) says that person must obtain a permit for the larger ‘display fireworks’ that are seen at shows, concerts, and other 4th of July events. The ATF does not regulate when they can be set off or what commercial fireworks can be used though. Those laws are discretionary and left to each state to enact and enforce.
Utah, compared to the other 49 states, is the perfect example of decentralization in the case of fireworks. In Utah, unlike other states, it is permissible to set off fireworks for the 24th of July. The 24th, which is Pioneer Day, is a unique Holiday in Utah not celebrated elsewhere. The remaining states do not celebrate Pioneer Day ergo it makes no sense to legalize fireworks in the other states or criminalize them in Utah on the 24th of July. Because the Federal Government has not intervened and overstepped in this arena, each state and its residents are free to decide for themselves what rules and regulations surround fireworks. In short, they are free to use fireworks and to be governed as they desire!
This concept, of allowing states to govern themselves without Big Brother’s invasiveness, is known as Federalism. It is defined as, “the distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent units”. In the United States, as the name implies, it is the states being free to govern and let govern within their jurisdiction. They are united in that they have agreed what powers are granted to the federal government. The ideas is to have a limited and defined federal government, with states having unlimited and undefined powers.
The man in the video wants government subsidized health insurance, but I do not. Should one of us be compelled to suffer and sacrifice under a government that is not serving our interest? Is not that one of the prime purposes of government? To serve the citizens that have created and granted it permission to govern? Maybe for some people it is. For others, such as libertarians and anarchists, they want as little a government as possible, if any. Why shouldn’t they be allowed that freedom?
The opposite of Federalism is known as Centralism, which is “the concentration of power and control in the central authority of an organization (such as a political or educational system)”. Unfortunately, we are moving more and more towards centralism. States are ignored and their right to govern has been undermined and subverted. This tendency toward centralism is creating animosity and unrest in the streets. Simply put, 320 million people cannot live in political harmony with only one governing body making all the decisions. How could it? Californians drastically differ politically from Texans; Floridians have different interests and ideals than Montanans. The true tragedy is the fact, that when too much power is granted to a central government it is very difficult, nigh impossible, to return it to the people. More often than not, blood is the price that must be paid in order to get it back! History is replete with examples.
If clearly understood and utilized, Federalism would solve most of our domestic issues. The irritation and agitation we see in the streets would be considerably less, if not eliminated. Why? Because something can effectively be done at the local level about what people want politically. Public interest can be satisfied within a state that isn’t possible nationally. Smaller groups are generally more homogenous and easier to entreat. Furthermore, local politics engenders more responsibility. Local participation, for those that want to be heard, requires participation. That participation would help ensure that they are heard. It would not guarantee their desired outcome would be victorious, but the ground would be prepared for acceptable compromise at least.
Another reason in favor of local governance are the possible disastrous effects of a single policy or program. If a program, say legalizing drugs, fails at the national level its effects are felt nationwide and possibly even internationally. Whereas if it were to fail at the state level, the effects would be limited to that state and region. Additionally, it is far easier to reverse or change course when it is obvious the program is failing. Recovery is also much simpler in such cases.
The United States is big enough for all walks of life. But, if we can’t find a way to at least mutually tolerate each other, then the hate, anger, and violence that is growing will only worsen. It will continue to degrade society, further deteriorating the fabric that holds us together. The polarization that is happening is NOT helping either. It is great to stand your ground, but before doing so, why don’t we hear our opposition to see if there is some middle ground we can stand upon. Federalism may very well be that middle of the road highway we so desperately need!