Tuesday, August 23, 2005

States' Rights



I grew up in Georgia and was taught that American history ended in 1865 with the fall of the Confederacy. The original federal system was killed. It was disinterred and a stake was driven into its heart in the 20th century with increasing centralization of power in the federal government and the decreasing importance of the states. I grew up thinking of myself as a Georgian first and an American second. We were obliged in the government schools to take a year of Georgia history in the 8th grade and to demonstrate competence in the official history of our glorious state. I loved Georgia with all my heart.

I still love Georgia, but in a different, healthier way. I love the landscape and the people and my cultural heritage, but I think that the State of Georgia is nothing more than a criminal conspiracy. Libertarians and conservatives sometimes wax nostalgic about federalism, the former out of principle and the latter when it is convenient for them. (Conservatives support states if they outlaw gay marriage but call in the feds if a state legalizes medical marijuana.) I am not entirely convinced by the arguments for dispersing power to smaller units of government, and I have commented before about the tyranny of local government. Smaller government is still government with all the attendant evils, and a smaller government may have more of an interest in screwing with my life than a more remote ruler.

Back to Georgia and why its government sucks. Georgia used its sovereignty to enforce the enslavement of thousands, hardly an argument for states' being more liberty loving than the central government.

Georgia used its sovereignty to harass and dispossess the Cherokee people in violation of every standard of justice and morality and decency. What libertarian defense of these crimes can be advanced?

Georgia used its sovereignty to segregate and discriminate against its subjects of African descent. Today, Georgia taxes and regulates its subjects mercilessly and exercises every power it can. If the federal government relinquished a power, Georgia would surely take it up with a vengeance.

Before anyone claims I am picking on Georgia, let me state that I have no regard for my adopted state of New York's government, either.

I question whether I would be better off if federalism were observed.

2 comments:

Lone Ranger said...

You want a history of the South? Read my blog http://stoprepublicans.blogspot.com/

And stop believing the worst of your country. Even with its faults, this is the greatest country the world has ever seen. That's why people keep trying to get in and even those who threaten to escape to Canada never do.

Brian Keavey said...

I've lived in NY virtually all my life, and I have no love for its gov't(or any other) either. I think the real benefit of federalism is not so much that all or even most states will be "liberty-loving"- the system was, after all designed as a "kinder, gentler" form of statism. But, it gives states more leeway to "do their own thing" and so allows(in theory) different systems, lifestyles, beliefs, etc. to have own enclave within the larger federal system. Of course, this tends to last only as long as it doesn't step on the powermongers' toes...but it can still be a usseful tactic. Personally, although I cringe at some of the the states-rights rhetoric from the right, I can cheer the notion generally; I suspect the modern, top-heavy State
will die of a thousand cuts. Whether from state-rights advocates,neo-confederate seccessionists(or other seccessionists inspired by them), Christian homeschoolers and "cultural seccessionists", multiculturalists(either pro- or anti- seperatist) operating outside the Chomsky radius, left-leaning decentralists, libertarians, or counterculturists, anarchists of all stripes, Randians seeking Galt's Gulch, space advocates looking to set up off-world colonies before Leviathan gets effective control beyond Earth orbit- anyone but the power-crazed and the intolerantly coercive can chip away at the colossus.