Government as a Competitive Marketplace

In modern politics, it seems that the mainstream approached to governance involve a tightly integrated and uniform system of government from the federal level down to our individual neighborhoods. Unfortunately, this model has the most in common with Stalinist central planning regardless of if the goal is to create an anarcho-capitalistic society or a socialist paradise. In the end, such proposals lead to disenfranchisement and limit your ability to get the government you want. Instead, we should be approaching government as a competitive marketplace of ideas with the most power invested in our counties and cities.

One of the key problems understood by the founders of our nation (and largely forgotten today) is that the further removed from the people a branch of government may be, the less power you need to give it. As elected officials get further from the consequences of their voting actions, they often become detached from the real implications of what they are doing and end up making bad policy that fails to meet the needs of everyone it affects. This also leads to government that barely has the consent of the governed, a situation that is freedom-crushing at best. With this clear understanding, our Constitution was written to restrict the federal level of government to only a few key functions that states could not very well perform on their own in such a union.

This balance was made to ensure that states would be able to define for themselves what good government means. A friend of mine has commented that, after reading the constitutions of the original thirteen colonies, each had a very different idea of what that meant. When combined with the freedom to travel amongst the states, this provides the ability to vote with your feet if a state fails to meet your expectations of good government. I would also argue that if states further devolve their powers to counties and cities, it gives us even more choice in our preferred form of government. The competitive choice in such environments is nearly limitless.

Unfortunately, mission creep at the federal level has been chipping away at this freedom of choice for several generations. Too many have become willing to take their notion of what comprises good government and force it upon their fellow citizens without a thought. Both major parties and most poles of political thought are guilty of this infringement. This not only robs us of our ability to choose, it also results in the federal government doing its core functions rather poorly. Immigration, for instance, has turned into a train wreck of doing nothing as the federal government introduces needless delays in naturalization and pointless quotas on how many can come from a specific geographic area while refusing to enforce existing restrictions.

Everyone, regardless of political stripe, should be able to get on-board with devolving as much political power as possible to as local as possible. Without it, we are all being robbed of our right to enjoy government of, by and for the people.

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7 Responses

  1. Paul Mero says:

    Very good thoughts!!

  2. brent says:

    Jesse! This is great, great stuff! I didn’t ask before, and if it’s a problem, I’ll take care of it…but I linked this post from my blog.

    I thought it was something people should read and contemplate. Thanks for a great post!

  3. Reach Upward says:

    Part of the problem is described by Gene Healy in his book, The Cult of the Presidency. You can read an article about this topic by Healy at .

    Americans have come to worship the President as a sort of demigod. We demand that he take responsibility for far more than the Founders ever intended for that office. Of course, we are required to transfer power to him equal to the responsibility we place upon him. Americans are doing this willingly.

  4. Cameron says:

    An interesting, very nice post.

    I think part of the problem with more localized control is that most of the time local governments can’t pay for everything we want the government to pay for.

    I remember Representative Matheson at the Leg this spring when someone asked him about redoing the transportation tax so we could get more money from the federal government. He told them that we already get more than we pay in, so it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to poke that hornets nest.

  5. Jesse says:

    Local government usually can’t, though states often can. I’m not bothered so much by state-wide programs so long as there is no expectation of homogeneity. States and local governments would also be in a better position to pay if federal taxes dropped significantly upon devolving programs, thus giving both states and localities more taxable revenue.

  6. Cameron says:

    True. Though I wonder what effect the federal government’s ownership of so much Western States land has on our ability to pay for things ourselves?

  7. Jesse says:

    Depending on who you talk to, it’s anywhere from a lot to a whole stinkin’ lot. The APPLE report that the Utah Legislature did a while back estimated the total impact in the billions for both one-time land sale revenues and on-going tax revenues. Nevada has it the worst with 93% of their land claimed by the feds.

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