The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, August 03, 2018


Much of what Big Intrusive Government (BIG) does is wasteful. Much of what it attempts to do is ineffective. Much of what it does accomplish is to limit the freedoms that we all should enjoy. Much of what it demands is more and more of the wealth earned by fewer and fewer of the people. And much of its strategy is self-perpetuation—creating laws and regulations by the thousands that require a bigger and bigger bureaucratic workforce to administer, enforce, and expand.

Progressives worship at the alter of BIG, suggesting (via their increasingly socialist leanings) that BIG can solve all of society's problems, can lead to "equality," can provide "rights" (e/g. the right to comprehensive medical care at no cost) where none existed, and can magically eliminate things like racism or misogyny. They reject and long history of government failure because they believe.

Conservative politicians talk a good show, suggesting the BIG is the source of many problems, not their cure, but don't have the political courage to cut the size and scope of government, even when they control the reigns of power. They suggest that it isn't politically viable to reign in spending, to reduce or means test entitlements, to challenge BIG whenever possible.

Is there a solution?

David Brookes (h/t: The Belmont Club) suggests that the solution might be in localism. He writes:
Localism is the belief that power should be wielded as much as possible at the neighborhood, city and state levels. ... Politicians in Washington are miserable, hurling ideological abstractions at one another, but mayors and governors are fulfilled, producing tangible results ... many cities have more coherent identities than the nation as a whole. ... People really have faith only in the relationships right around them, the change agents who are right on the ground. ...

Localism is not federal power wielded on a smaller scale. It’s a different kind of power. ... The federal person sees things that can be reduced to data. The local person sees things that can be reduced to data but also things that cannot. ...

Federal change often means big shifts quickly ... Local change happens more gradually, more iteratively. ... As Leo Linbeck of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism describes, the new innovators “announce the availability of the upgrade and then allow users to choose when to make the switch.”
It's a simple and intriguing notion. Instead of the hubris associated with developing possible solutions that will somehow work well for 300-plus million people, develop solutions that are local—that work at a town, city or state level. Those solutions can be tested locally, rejected if they fail and expanded geographically if they work. They can better reflect the "values" of the locality without the need to impose those values on another locality that doesn't like those values.

Of course, there are dangers. Localism can balkanize the country, with small fiefdoms of ideology that often conflict with one another. And of course, there will always be a need for some forms of federal control—for defense, for international and interstate commerce, for trade, and for critical government services—the EPA, CDC, NOAA, DHS, air traffic control, etc.

But if, say, a small town wants to try a more socialist approach, banning private enterprise and profit within the town and establishing a more Kibbutz-like economy, have at it. If people don't like it, they can vote with their feet and move to a locality that likes capitalism. If a state wants to provide universal health care, do it. If its citizens don't like the resultant draconian increase in taxes, they will put a stop to that idea pretty quickly. And if a city thinks that police are systemically racist, they can offer an alternative 'safety force.' If its citizens can achieve adequate protection and safety without the police, that's great.

Localism allows for cultural and ideological experimentation without subjecting all of us to ideas that many might consider onerous. If mistakes happen—and they will—their impact is localized and correction is relatively easy. Localism is the antithesis of authoritarian BIG. I'm curious to see the Left's response to this idea.