City Journal Winter 2016

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Adam Freedman
Federalism, Red and Blue « Back to Story

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Enjoyed your article!
I think you missed a very important part of the slow running collapse of Federalism. On the whole the states cooperate with the Federal Government because it allows them to spend far more than they collect from taxpayers.

States in general have to live off what they collect. The vast majority of them have to balance their budgets.The Federal Government does not. So each time the Feds take something over many politicians realize that that is a service their constituents will receive but that lenders will at least partially pay for. Therefore they often receive far more than they pay for.

That system will eventually collapse and that is why many are partially opting out. Offer them block grants that they can choose to accept year to year so that they can opt out of if the Feds start attaching strings? I can almost guarentee that everyone would take them. The fear of committing now and being stuck with the bill later explains the opt outs far better IMHO.
Would coercive Federalism exist in the presence of apportionment?

While USSC robes decreed the U.S. congress already had the power to tax income, before the 16th, the apportionment requirement of the Constitution made it politically not feasible to tax those of richer states more. The 16th makes doing so possible.
This is an important article - and well worth the time to digest the various suggestions and problem statements. I am very appreciative of the thoughts contained herein.
Joseph Groppenbacher August 30, 2013 at 5:48 AM
Adam Freedman's statement that Article I "grants relatively few powers regarding Defense" is totally WRONG. Under Section 8, paragraph 11 the founders granted Congress (and only the Congress) the power "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." Other paragraphs assert Congress's power to "raise and support Armies", "provide and maintain a Navy", "define and punish Felonies", etc. Mr. Freedman might wish to trouble himself with a closer read of the Constitution before publishing erroneous remarks in the future
Although the overall message in this article appears sound, caution is warranted. As one commenter noted, state governments are often just as bad as Washington. I am not saying that Washington doesn't need to be reigned in. It most certainly does. But be careful what you wish for. It's quite possible (perhaps probable) that giving too much power to the states will leave us with more governments like those that run (and have run into the ground) New York, Illinois, and California. Do all of City Journal's readers really believe that their state legislatures are bastions of integrity, intelligence, and good government? I sincerly hope not.
This is exactly the impetus for The Coolidge Project, with the end goal being to reach the "holy grail of federalism" Mr. Freedman defined. This can be done through local activism, the domino effect and, finally, attrition on the part of the Feds. Our fledgling group is currently active in 16 states.
According to Wikipedia:

"The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (such as states or provinces)."

I think this is the sense in which the author meant it. You can count on City Journal not to get their terms confused.
I really enjoyed reading this article.

A lot of people make a lot of noise regarding states rights. A lot of the noisemakers have no idea how each federal dollar has a string attached. And, they are not imaginative enough to see that enough strings wound together form a rope.

That rope has been made into a noose. Articles like this help people to see that. Hopefully it will help them get involved locally and have a nationwide effect.

Excellent job.
Coercive Federalism has been a udder failure. It has only made major problems far worse, robbed away local control of everything. It's created a unsustainable, unaccountable, regal, monster sized humongous federal government. It slows and in some cases stops economic growth, takes our rights, taxes too much, imposes ridiculous rules, insults our intelligence, gives too much power to unelected arrogant bureaucrats.

Cooperative Federalism is hardly better as too much power goes to DC and is no longer local.

Dual worked the best, and that should be what we should return to. The federal government can be downsized to about the 1/6 of the size its overgrown to. Tax dollars can then stay home where they belong.

Though downsizing the federal government and giving control back to the states, is only one step. Many state, county and city governments are almost as bad as the feds in their overreach. Many things need to be returned to citizens. There are so many things governments have no business being in.

I think our over sized government is one of the biggest threats to our liberty. And that is a shame that we have wandered so far from what the founders set up. They knew the dangers of a unaccountable government, its too bad we have to relearn this hard lesson.
And WHAT comprises the "federal government"? "In the beginning", our Founders envisioned two polar opposite realms, held in tension, each with their own sphere of authority and responsibility. Neither could exist without the other. Each of the several states ceded a certain small, specifically enumerated, part of their own sphere of control to the general central government, which in turn was proscribed from acting outside of its own narrow and carefully defined responsibilities, ceding those to the sovereign states. The article perfectly and accurately describes this "tug of war" between the two extremes, and laments the sorry state of affairs wherein the central government have usurped massive control in areas they were never allowed to function, and the responsibility assigned the states in the oroginal covenant has been largely abdicated, or outright stolen.

The confusion is on your part, as you seem to hold that the present status quo DEFINES the "federal" system. It does not, and never has. The present status quo is merely descriptive of a power hungry central moster run amok, usurping control and power it was never meant to possess. The states are, finally, and ever so rightly, awakening to the renegade central powergrabs and reining in the runaway. And well they must, else we will become vitcim of the tyranny of the central monster. Mr. Freedman has it right. It is you who need to brush up on your history, constitution, and underlying documents.
The author of the article is embarrassingly confused as to what the term "federalism" means. Federalism refers to governance by the federal government, an aggrandizement of central authority.

Consider the sentence: "Conservatives may still be the most vocal advocates of greater state autonomy, but federalism is far from a uniquely conservative phenomenon"

Federalism is not promoting state autonomy, it is the exact opposite of that.

This is so embarrassing for City Journal. Someone should be sacked.