Confederacy vs. Federacy

>> Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In case you couldn't figure this out, this post represents my point of view rather than fact.

I've been butting heads, as I frequently do with Relax Max, on the topic of local control (state's rights) vs. Federal. I tend to prefer federal control/regulation/standards. RM, as usual, thinks I'm ill-informed and idealistic.

You probably won't be surprised to find I think of it differently.

But he did me the favor of making me think why I feel the way I do. See, I felt that history wasn't kind to groups of small city-states and independent countries working in a close alliance. You know what? I still think it. In fact, every collection of small independent allied countries that did not have a strong central government that I could think of has either collapsed or turned on itself in an ugly way or has grown to have a stronger central government. But, if you can think of an exception, let me know.

I know the United States, before it was a federal entity, was a confederacy that failed pretty miserably.

So what? Just because they haven't worked in the past doesn't mean they can't, right?

So then I thought about it. Why doesn't it work? What is it about close community or local government that make it a bad bet in a larger community?

I'm sure there are many people who have written their thesis on that particular topic and, hell, I don't claim to be a political scientist...


I thought for a minute on what types of people tend to be rabidly attached to the notion of local control, that spurn the notion of broad brush standards or centralized regulation. They tend to talk about freedom and commerce and tradition and whatnot and I'll get to what I think of that. But, looking past the hype, what is it they're really looking for? Why are they so passionate?

Well, to my way of thinking, they tend to fall into two categories. One are the organizations that have a vested interest in local regulation instead of centralized such as insurance companies who like the advantages of setting up business in one state that might have lax regulation and then doing business elsewhere. Having a hodgepodge of laws, tax schemes, regulations and tariffs works to the advantage of those who like to take advantage if you know what I mean. That can also apply to criminals. Just sayin'.

The other groups, the general public that tends to cry out for local control, state's rights, etc. tend to be those that seem to want that control to facilitate oppressing subgroups within their midst. Now, before you start squawking, think about it.

Say the Civil War was all about state's rights. What did they want the right to do? Keep a minority oppressed, maintain a rather antiquated hierarchy (and social structure that was short-sighted, doomed to failure and only benefited a very small minority) and safeguard a number of prejudices. They used "freedom" as their call, but what they really wanted was the freedom to oppress others.

It's been 150 years, folks, but the story hasn't changed. The ones that want local control, state's rights, etc. also tend to be the ones who want the "freedom" to have "marriage preserved" by keeping gays from having it, or want the "freedom" to "maintain moral standards" by prohibiting abortion (and a woman's right to choose) the like or perhaps the "freedom" to rewrite history to ignore key historical figures or their well-documented motivations for other slanted views, like Texas.

Truth is, when you have a larger and more diverse pool that sets the standards, it's harder, not easier, to oppress minorities, to distort the past, to impose rules based on moral, or rather religious, views. If everyone's playing by the same rules, it's harder to treat people differently just because they're "different." It's also harder to use the rules to your advantage to circumvent them.

It's interesting, despite the choruses of "freedom" that go with the local control advocates, that you rarely hear that same group talking about becoming more tolerant or open or treating everyone on the same level. If they talk about tolerance, it tends to be tolerance for their "right" to take choices from others, their right to be intolerant.

You know what? I don't think that's a coincidence. How's that for some confederate history?

Oh, and RM, don't respond with a rant. Better provide counterexamples from your superior knowledge of history. That will at least get my attention.


  • Jeff King

    I think state control is the only way to go... let the people in those states decide what laws they want.

    Give the federal gov any more power is a bad idea. They have too much power as is; last thing I want is to grant them more.

    It is the ultimate checks and balances.

  • Stephanie Barr

    You say it's too much. Based on what?

  • The Mother

    Amazing how those "State's rights" types change their minds when they have a chance to impose their ideas on the entire country.

  • Roy

    Hear, hear! And also "Hear, hear" to The Mother's comment.

  • Project Savior

    A big problem with states rights is the liberal bias of reality, pollution doesn't respect state boundaries. The high sulfur coal that used to be burned in the mid-west didn't effect the communities where it was burned because of the limestone basin they were built on, but it recked havoc in New England.
    In the case of Texas Education Laws, Universities will be faced with the students that learn history wrong in a few years and will have to deal with not letting them in or changing the curriculum to teach the new freshman from Texas what everyone else was taught.
    And finally, if one state discriminates against a minority it will be at an economic disadvantage and have to turn to the richer states (that don't discriminate) for support.
    So the federal government has to step in to keep one state from making laws that hurt other states.

  • Shakespeare

    The problem is that on both sides, Republicans are the representative culture. Republicans tend to want more state control, and they are also anti-Gay and centered on many other ideals.

    I feel pretty happy with my "state's rights" right now because of where I live. Washington State is one of the bluest states, and greenest, and most open and affirming. And I wouldn't want the people of most southern states telling me that the gays I go to church with can't see each other in the hospital or adopt each other's kids.

    Oh, and a successful example? The United Arab Emirates, an astonishingly peaceful place set amidst an otherwise extremely volatile Middle East. I cannot speak to its future, but it has not yet gone under. Nor have we.

    Consider, too, that states are governed by the same principles. They govern the state as a whole, yet each city has jurisdiction over its municipality. And the laws are different--speed laws, restrictions, permits, allowances--in each place. Would city governments be happy if the state dictated all of these?

    Perhaps, as with everything else, balance is what we need. And right now that is what we have--a mixture of states' rights and federal, and district and city, with all serving to check the others.

  • Stephanie Barr


    I don't argue at all that some states are quite liberal and tolerant. But you also rarely hear those folks squawking about state's rights. Truth is, state's rights is generally only an issue if you want to do something that the federal level thinks is discriminatory. Being less discriminatory doesn't cause a problem.

    I don't know much about the UAE. How strong is the central government? How old is it? I do appreciate the example and don't mean to imply that the federal government should control everything; however, I'm in disagreement with many on several key issues on who is best to decide.

    This article was to explain why. And Project Savior pointed out another reason. And the Mother made a fine point as well.

  • Jeff King

    I am not going to argue politics or religion, since it doesn't get anywhere.

    I prefer to have a say in what happens in my state and that only happens if the state has control. If states had to defer to the federal government what good can come from that?

  • Stephanie Barr

    Well, I'm not going to argue that there are definitely rules, regulations and codes that should be local. I absolutely agree.

    However, local rules can have far-reaching effects. In my opinion, the more interconnected we become, the more we more we effect each other, the more dangerous local controls with far-reaching implications become.

  • Shakespeare

    Since I'm about as liberal as they come, I am fine with most of what the federal government is doing. But when a more conservative government takes power (and they will)? Florida lost thousands of acres of protected wetlands when Bush was in office because they were "reclassified" so that developers could use their resources. I'm sure most Floridians were none too happy about it, but the federal government had jurisdiction over those lands.

    Right now a huge chunk of my beautiful state is protected. Much of it is protected by the state, but far more is either federally protected or protected by our numerous Native American tribes. Yet the Native Americans have lost the majority of their lands to federal movement over the years. They are at the mercy of the federal government, who has changed the rules for classifying tribes, taking lands and other resources from these tribes once they have been redefined. Call me territorial, but I am ashamed of what has been done, and I don't think the federal government can see the problem, since they are located all the way across a vast country.

    We Washingtonians know the problems--at least many of us do--and yet, even if the power rested with our state, there is no assurance that the state government would protect these lands or tribes any more than the federal government does.

    The truth is, with every type of governance, we, as its citizens, should still keep faithful watch, so that we can live with what our government--federal, state, and local--chooses to act upon.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Agreed. We must be diligent on every level. Ironically, it was because states were frequently lackadaisical with "public" lands that federal parks were instituted. I don't know that anyone appreciated that companies and blocks of companies would get big enough to strong-arm the federal government.

    But you're not wrong in pointing out they have.

    Unfortunately, smaller governments are easier to manipulate, not harder, even though you'd think it would be the opposite, because people are often readily manipulated (especially if you also have local influence on education). The smaller the group to influence, the less costly it is. And people can often (though not always) be influenced with arguments it's in their financial interests to do so - jobs, local influx of business, etc. If you have to go federal, it's a harder sell unless your rep has political clout he's willing to barter. Which is, of course, the problem with the fed level.

    The problem, in my opinion, isn't the fed level, it's the freakin' corruption. And that's at every level.

  • Jeff King

    "The problem, in my opinion, isn't the fed level, it's the freakin' corruption. And that's at every level."

    Now that's something I can't get behind... couldn't agree more.

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