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"What is needed, in some ways, is a return to this more flexible, broader way of thinking." Well, if the courts and the White House (as inhabited by Democrats AND Republicans) wouldn't keep moving power from the states to the federal executive, then maybe there would be more flexibility. Instead, what we have is a slow and constant undermining of the idea that states should serve as laboratories of democracy,[1] and a steady disappearance of the federal nature of the system in the U.S.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laboratories_of_democracy

(edited to correct a typo)




If state laws that ban municipalities from going against state policies on fracking, affordable housing, marriage, lgbt discrimination, and the like, are anything to go by, states are no better stewards of this kind of power.


True. But there are 50 of them in the United States. While moving to a state with more sensible laws is obviously less liquid than spending your money elsewhere, it's nevertheless a marketplace with 50 participants and they do learn from each others' experiments. Generally, the more decisions that are handed further down the hierarchy the better. If some matters are locked up at the state level, that might be a shame, but we should at least be happy they are not stuck at the federal level.


How exactly does your model propose to fix the issues of, say, states refusing to fill the gap in health care coverage because of their opposition to the entire existence of the federal government?

Some things need to be guaranteed for every American citizen, and that can't simply be left up to the states to "experiment" with. We're talking about government here, not scrum teams.


> Some things need to be guaranteed for every American citizen, and that can't simply be left up to the states to "experiment" with. We're talking about government here, not scrum teams.

There is virtually no way to have a consensus on what precisely needs to be guaranteed. I would personally prefer to move to a state that does not "guarantee" health insurance (I will pay for health insurance myself).

But like I said, moving isn't a liquid matter. There's quite a bit of friction involved. So states are imperfect, yes. But I still prefer 50 imperfect laboratories to 1 imperfect monolith. The potential of moving to a local maximum of ideal-fit with my tastes means a lot to me.

For what it's worth, the same rationale is why I do not believe the United States should adopt any given policy simply because it is done by a majority of other first-world countries. Policies should stand on their merits and should not be adopted simply to be aligned with other countries. I prefer diversity.


> There is virtually no way to have a consensus on what precisely needs to be guaranteed. I would personally prefer to move to a state that does not "guarantee" health insurance (I will pay for health insurance myself).

There was a consensus; we call it the Constitution. The problem is that American lawmakers today aren't able to negotiate a single law let alone a document like that.

States are not really a solution to that problem: large states have gridlock much like the feds, and small states create the patchwork of laws that prevent me from mailing you a beer but ensuring some lawyer at LargeCo will be paid to figure it out. And all states are more vulnerable to corporate capture than the feds are.

Laboratories of democracy work when we have democracies that are worth studying, and when politicians adopt fact-based policies instead of ideological ones. But we do not live in that world, and have not for at least 30 years.


> How exactly does your model propose to fix the issues of, say, states refusing to fill the gap in health care coverage because of their opposition to the entire existence of the federal government?

Move to a better state.


You ever think that there might be societal benefits to people living near their family? Such as help with child care, for example. Moving isn't that simple. And it requires a significant upfront cost.


> they do learn from each others' experiments

Do they?

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/kansass-...


This is really just a matter of definition at this point. The entities which actually hold governmental power are by definition 'states'. The individual states which make up the EU are what grant the organization its power. The individual states in the US are what grant the Federal government its power.

Central planners think that there should be one state, the US state, where the individual "states" derive their power from the Fed. And if you think that the states should be small municipalities then that's fine too. But it's not hypocritical that municipalities derive their power from, and are restricted by, the state.


Municipalities (and counties, parishes, etc.) never had any power to begin with. They have never been sovereign entities, in the US.

States have always been (partially) sovereign, and there is a clear trend over time of them becoming less so.


> if the courts and the White House wouldn't keep moving power from the states to the federal executive

What are recent egregious examples of this in your mind? Are you talking about ObamaCare?


Some quick examples that come to my mind:

* Drug laws (i.e.: Colorado has "legalized" marijuana but it's still federally illegal and for now the federal government is just ignoring enforcement for now, but there's no reason, e.g. Ted Cruz would continue to do so.) The laws are based on "interstate commerce" which the federal government how power over, yet somehow it still applies to state-grown marijuana.

* A lot of stuff very close to a "war" has been done without states actually voting to go to war.

* Personally, I'd like a state to be able to experiment with a basic income guarantee and corresponding removal of minimum wage, but that wouldn't be possible because of the federal minimum wage law.

* Federal agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA have been growing in power lately with their FISA court rubber stamps and attempted use of All Writs.




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