When trying to promote my ideas of an alternative form of governance, I often encounter Americans who believe the political solution is to return to the ideals of the 1787 constitution. In particular, these thinkers believe that the original intent was to give the states a lot of autonomy in their affairs of governance. Anything at the federal level was to be very minimal. And, according to these thinkers, there has been a transition of "rights" from the state level to the federal level--and this transition is contributing to whatever flaws we see in the USA today.
I am hoping to generate some more discussion on this topic, and this article will bring up several points. Bear in mind, that I am from Canada, so my perspective may not the best. And I am here to learn more about this topic as I believe any knowledge I can gain will be useful in communicating about my book.
FEDERAL, PROVINCIAL, AND MUNICIPAL JURISDICTION
Similar to the United States, Canada, in 1867, also adopted a federation approach to governance where the provincial rights are clearly spelled out--and the federal people must clearly stay away from provincial jurisdiction. For the most part, there really isn't a lot of conflict here in most things: the provinces do these things, the feds do those things. But an issue or two does come up every once in a while that requires some kind of new definition of roles--or perhaps a bit of a nebulous arrangement between the provincial and national governments. But our constitution is pretty clear (at least 90% of the time) on federal vs. provincial jurisdictions.
I had my own oil well testing business from 1985 to 1992. Of course there were regulations around this business. But I mostly dealt with provincial agencies, such as workers' compensation, labor laws, and vehicle inspections. If I were to be in this business today, I would probably have to deal with more environmental issues, but this too would be provincial.
My only contact with the federal government was to remit payroll taxes of my employees and remit a corporate tax return. The system was set up quite well such that as long as my books were done correctly, it really didn't take that much work to keep up with my monthly reports: at best, a couple hours a month.
I didn't have much contact with municipal government in the seven years. But there were a couple of times I had to call the police for minor issues.
I am wondering if American small businesses have the same proportion of federal/state/local government agencies to deal with. I bring this up because my experience is that the federal government was really not an onerous body for me to deal with in Canada. If American small businesses are similar, then is it really correct to blame excessive business regulation on the federal government when most of these regulations are actually imposed at the state or municipal level?
EXPANSION OF THE UNITED STATES
Some thinkers believe the transition from state to federal started soon after the Constitution was written--which means the federal government extended beyond the reach that founding fathers had originally intended. In other words, a very strong federal presence started early in this young nation.
If there wasn't a strong federal presence, would the 13 original colonies been united enough to effect the geographical expansion? Consider the following historical achievements:
1) Louisiana purchase
2) Repelling the British out of Michigan
3) Florida purchase
4) Annexation of Texas
5) Annexation of SW US
6) Oregon Territory Settlement
7) Alaska purchase
8) Annexation of Hawaii
If the 13 states had been acting more or less as independent countries, it's not hard to envision that three or four states not committing to one of these particular causes. Then the political drive and the resources to effect the expansion might not have been there. In other words, the United States was able to expand because it had a strong federal government. Why then should the USA want to curtail these powers today?
SMALLER IS BETTER
There is a common platitude that smaller government is better government. And government from a smaller jurisdiction is more able to administer to the local people than a bigger jurisdiction.
If this is true, then state government is superior to federal government, right?
If so, then should we not even go smaller? Maybe all counties should have their own FBI, high school curriculum, and vehicle registration. Or just divide up the country in Rhode-Island sized bits, and give each unit its own government. Should that not fix many of the political problems America seems to be facing?
SMOKESCREEN AND MIRRORS
When reverting government authority more towards the state level from the federal level is considered a political fix for America, I say this is all a smokescreen for what really ails America. If there is such a thing as the DEEP STATE, it should be happy that the discussion is being carried in this direction. After all, it will take decades of deliberate political effort to move to more state control with the DEEP STATE bucking the changes all the way. And if the changes are successful, the DEEP STATE will just move its nebulous forces to the state level. If it loses, it still wins, right?
But let's see where this WB discussion goes.