Thoughts on localism and federalism
I attended an all-day work-related training session the other day in Clayton, Missouri, an up-scale suburb of St. Louis. While driving there along I-70 I passed through Chesterfield (another nice suburb), Lake St. Louis (a smaller St. Louis suburb), and Wright City (a small town on I-70.) On the way I stopped at a McDonald’s in rural Montgomery county.
These communities are just a small sampling of the many diverse areas in just one portion of our state, not to speak of the Ozarks, our farmlands, and the like. Though we have many differences, we have much in common: language, general culture, and an overall consensus on basic law and order. So it is all fine and good that we are all included in the state of Missouri, and it’s okay that we’re all part of the United States of America.
But as I get further from home, regional difference increase, as people’s ideas of what they want their community to look like and what the law of the land is start to diverge. Particularly as lawmaking and regulations start controlling in increasing, intricate detail our economic and social behaviors (for good or ill), it makes more sense to make those decisions as close as possible to where the affected people live. Ultimately in a free society, the local jurisdiction is the individual person, then family unit, then on from there.
In a free society some individuals will make bad choices, as will municipalities. I can’t say that I agree with some local decisions like New York City’s recent ban of big sodas or Los Angeles looking to ban plastic shopping bags. But at least those ideas are isolated within those jurisdictions, and a whole state or our whole region are not contaminated by such rotten laws. Same even if Missouri or Minnesota finds it must subsidize ethanol…until the Feds jump on board, that is. Clayton and Columbia and Cabool have many things in common, but not always their distinctly different ideas about the role of government. As do I from my neighbor a 1/4 mile down the road, for that matter, whether it’s about welfare, road quality, marriage definitions, curfews, zoning, income/sales taxes, or the school curricula.
Oh, but back to my training session. The instructor was a really sharp guy, hailing from Rhode Island – actually I learned he summers in Rhode Island, winters in Miami Beach, and travels the nation consulting with multimillionaires. I therefore reckon he might have different views of the world than rural McDonalds patrons, Clayton residents, or even myself. Still, God bless him and his communities, and God bless mine, too. Let’s each do our own thing, and interact in voluntary cooperation as we see fit. However, laws affecting all 330 million of us in this great country should be as few as possible.