4.24.2010

Centralized Power- An ode to 'big government'.

(this isn't really an ode because it isn't a lyrical poem. But you are still welcome to set these words to song.)
I was listening to something on Npr recently about the future of America and the author being interviewed spoke about how he believes that in the future power will become more localized. Ie. Local governments will have more authority.

Until that moment,I had never really given much thought to how I feel about this issue. I realize it's been an ongoing tension since the founding of our country, how much power should be on the federal level and how much should be on the local level. I realize there are pros and cons to both ways, but I think that, in general, I prefer strong central power rather than localized powers. Here is why:

Local control seems to more easily to lend itself to discrimination.

When a local government is making laws, they have less need to take into consideration various opinions and beliefs.

Our society tends to segregate itself geographically. People of similar racial, political and economic backgrounds often clump together.

Take, for example, a homogeneous state like Utah. Utah is 92.9% white and around 70% Mormon.
In circumstances like these, law makers are less inclined to make laws which benefit those who aren't white, Lds Church members. This may not even be a conscious act of discrimination. If only 1.3% of your population is black, you may have honestly not ever considered what things you are doing which may discriminate.(I want to make clear here that I am not trying to make an attack on Utah, whites, or Lds church members. I just think Utah serves as a good example because of its homogeneity, plus I am familiar with it.)

When one breaks the country down into counties or cities the homogeneity gets even greater. This often means that the more localized one gets in terms of law making, the more discriminatory the laws are.

On the other hand, when one looks at the country through a wider, national lens, there is much more diversity (at least in an immigrant country like the Usa or Canada). It would be difficult to pass a law on the federal level which benefits only Mormons, because the large percentage of non-Mormons would become upset. The federal Government must take into consideration a much more diverse group of people which leads to less discriminatory laws.

(In some instances the reverse can also be true. If a minority group is so small they have no voice nationally, sometimes the only place they may receive fair treatment is on a local level where they are clustered. However this sort of thing seems more common in homogeneous countries, such as in Europe)

The history of America seems to support the point I am making. National laws are often more progressive than local ones. Without federal compulsion, who knows if the south ever would have given up segregation. (there are exceptions of course. States like California and Oregon are often trail blazers in terms of progressive laws, but without a federal backing, these things would not be able to take root nationwide.)

3 comments:

Jack W. said...

Great points here. It's not something I have ever really stretched my mind over until now. It's been hiding dormant somewhere in the back of my mind, and your post seems to bring those thoughts together and for that I thank you kind sir.

Chris Almond said...

Thanks jack. This is also not an issue I had really given much serious thought to, until the other day.
I've always felt, on an emotional level, some opposition to a strong local government, only because I know conservatives are so against it, but other than that I hadn't really any reasons, so not much of an opinion either way.
Because this is my first time really thinking about this, my opinion may change as I learn, think more, but who knows!?(juddasus[a mix between jesus and buddha)

Cooliosaurus said...

I think we could do well with a strong libertarian federal government and equally strong state and local socialist governments.
it would never really happen but
i would trust a libertarian federal government to watch our civil liberties and not get involved in foreign wars unless necessary. and a strong socialist local government could take care of, and know local problems better.