Is Recreating Federalism Feasible?

Re: Is this (decentralization) even feasible given the Constitution as amended?

I think so, but don’t know so. Could start small, using Leo’s (L3’s) interstate compact idea to build-up the self-rule muscles and address those immediate issues most likely to get support, and get the Federal government accustomed to the idea that their world is changing, shrinking.

I think this is no more radical than what the Congress has done over the last two years. But the politicians will need a template and some hope for success, and be willing to embrace a George Washington “give the crown back” future of greatly reduced domestic power and their own influence at the federal level. i.e. the average (county or a TBD more rigorously defined (i.e. not gerrymandered) metropolitan statistical area) council will have more power over domestic issues than what remains in D.C. The states may well object that this is a usurpation of their rights, but perhaps that could be handled a voluntary opt-in in the enabling legislation. If the states want to maintain the status quo, so be it, else they can free their people – and they themselves repeat the federal disestablishment of their own bureaucracies (unless their own communities again see value in their services and are willing to pay the bills).

If and where there are hard constitutional issues, attempt to avoid or postpone dealing with them until the larger disaggregation is completed. i.e. even though the IRS is authorized to collect income taxes from everyone, it need not (can be told by legislation that the tax rate is zero) and after a while we can consider a constitutional “clean-up” amendment that documents then current practice as limiting Federal (and State) governments to largely voluntary mechanisms for coordination of common interests among the communities. Until then we will have to use the ballot to discipline the Federal politicians (which will be hard work as long as 50M+1 can tell 50M-1 how to live).

In my dreams even the DoJ and FBI go thru this process – where some communities may choose not to adopt our current system of torts and civil-code. Rather something similar to what we wrote for the post war Germans and Japanese where the law is what the lawmakers and people write and approve, not an interpretation informed by past judicial decisions and penumbra. So if someone wants/needs a change in the law, they (must) act politically. Which will cause the legal profession to shrink to a few percent of what it is today (at least in communities which decide they need not compete on number of lawyers, amount of time and dollars spent litigating).

Call it a dream (today). I’m not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar. I’m a businessman, an engineer, a mathematician and physicist (and am reminded every day by (often foreign-born) youngsters how little I used to understand about these disciplines). I’ve founded schools – and companies – in several countries. I’m more than willing to settle for half-a-loaf. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve a 20-30 year conservative/libertarian wave about to take power that will transform the Federal government to something 21st century with attributes competitive with what I describe but still managed from the Center – and not locally. But I don’t see how anyone in our current system of centralized power can avoid the temptation and corruption that is currently wired into 50M+1 deciding for 50M-1 on day-to-day issues. There’s just too much money and power in that one place. And it’s just too easy to buy influence once they have decided to interfere.

I’m interested in the opinions of others in how to make this work, improve it, critique it. Perhaps we’ve some members of the Federalist Society who could create a map of how to legally (and politically) achieve this, incrementally, using small (achievable) changes in the law that would arrive at the final result – of returning government to the people and their communities. Or perhaps argue for a “big-bang” – one law that’s a catalyst that sets this all in motion (I don’t think this can be addressed top-down, a large part has to be bottom up). Corporations didn’t make these changes overnight, it took months of planning but once the incentives were changed, it happened quickly, and often from the edges in. I’ve a friend at George Mason (Maurice McTigue*) who was part of an equivalent transformation in New Zealand 20 years ago – which even though there’s been backsliding (they failed to find a mechanism to prevent domestic power from returning to their federal government – which is near impossible without a written contract with the people) it does give me hope.

re: why target 300M or so citizens per self-governing community.. this is roughly one power-plant (a gigawatt or so for homes, business, and some industrial), a water and sewage plant, 10,000 classrooms, a few jails, courts and hospitals, (perhaps a lethal injection gurney), a (small) airport, a community college, a fair sized retail and services complement, etc. In dense areas with lots of (social and economic) diversity, it allows people to pick their community of comfort and commute to jobs if elsewhere. Means left, right and other can have communities in and around San Francisco and the Central Valley, without having each attempting to / able to dictate to the other. Implies that some parts of NYC will have rent control, and not far away there will be other parts without. Lots of diversity and experimentation possible, though with this freedom will come responsibility and near-term consequences. Communities that choose poorly will go bankrupt (and/or their citizens will flee) and we’ll need mechanisms to manage their dissolution and salvage.

* see/listen:

http://www.uccs.edu/~csgi/mctigue2004august.shtml

http://www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2006-09-26-mctigue-accountability.pdf

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