“It is the public opinion formed in the independent expressions of towns and other small civil districts that is the real conservatism of free government.” — Alexis de Tocqueville
When Tocqueville penned these words our country was actually run by small governments, communities. Today it seems everyone, even we Republicans, has a desperate thirst for the ubiquitous application of our beliefs to the point where we’re almost as bad as the Democrats in favoring centralized decision-making.
Westminster, Massachusetts decides to write a little law that makes the sale of tobacco illegal. Instantly we decry ‘government overreach.’
New York City drafts the novel idea of disallowing the purchase of super-sized soda pop to try to curb obesity. ATTACK!!! Predictably pundits of our ilk proclaimed ‘nanny state.’
We are trapped in this weird paradigm where we perceive government as a scalable singularity. Where government, it’s believed falls somewhere on a scale between small and big.
Let me suggest an alternative. During the early days of our country, Federalists and Anti-Federalists disputed whether Washington DC (Actually at the time it was NYC) was the right place for power to be concentrated.
Very simply, DC was centralized big government and states represented small government. The whole point to being an Anti-Federalist, a philosophy today’s Republicans and Libertarians would embrace, was to promote that the decisions of the role of government were to be made closer to home.
Small governments (states), per Republican ideals, were to be the place where citizens decided what role they wanted their respective governments to have in their lives, not whether government was to be involved in their lives at all. Somehow this morphed into a debate about government or nongovernment and away from this system of tiered government; where the community determines for itself the appropriate roles of their governments.
Proclaiming small government as the proper political ideology is supposed to mean it is up to the people of a given community to decide for themselves the proper roles and influence of the governments that they have available to them. So, take poverty; San Franciscans may well decide they want to leverage their municipal government to feed the poor. Omahas may very likely prefer to accomplish this objective via churches and charities.
Who is right? Both. Both because the respective communities took it upon themselves to take the issue on in a way they feel most comfortable. And while San Francisco is, in this case, indeed using government, it is what our founders would have recognized as an acceptable use of a small government in action.
The bottom line is that our communities deserve the freedom to make decisions for themselves for no other reason than that they are American. Leave these cities alone when they proffer up an idea. In fact as the small government party we need to embrace this localitarianism and allow other governments to experiment so we can watch and build our own perfect little communities.
And next time you are whining about government overreach in a city that isn’t yours keep in mind that if you were to play any part in disallowing their ideas to be enacted as law, then you’ve just become a top-down Democrat pushing for universal acceptance of a centralized government.