Thoughts on “Neofederalism”

I am toying with a concept of “neofederalism,” which is a horrible name, so maybe I should just call myself a federalist. I think that if we’re going to solve problems like health care, it cannot be done on the national level. The issue is too complex, and so we should experiment on the state level to see what works and what doesn’t. However, these are not laboraties for federal policy. If a policy spreads, it will not be top-down. It will spread from state to state because the idea works, and because each state will have the freedom to adapt good policy to the needs of the people. I think giving health care is an admirable goal, but I don’t believe it can be done on the national level. I think other similar “liberal” concerns cannot be dealt with on the national level, or will be better dealt with on the state level. Some may argue that this process is slow, and so we should use the federal government. But it’s supposed to be slow. We are dealing with complex issues, and it will take years to hammer out the kinks. We should not be so hasty. We should also not be so arrogant as to believe that our idea will most definitely work for all people. It is an inherently conservative approach.

When we look at the current state of affairs, we see a paralyzed Washington. Some think that we should jolt the parties back to the center. I think that will take a long time, and even then, it won’t be enough. We can take the initiative on the state level, and we should. Legislators and governors of mixed parties can get along just fine and have done some amazing things. Some people think, “Okay, we should go ahead and duplicate this on the national level.” I don’t think that at all. I say, “We should duplicate this in every state.” If state governments can work together and Congress can’t, then screw Congress. When they’re ready to act like adults, maybe then we’ll talk. If the grown-ups are on the state level, then we should enter a dialogue on the state level. I don’t think it’s a crisis if Congress can’t get its act together on things like health care; it’s a benefit that these guys aren’t screwing things up worse. Led Congress be in gridlock, and let the more local levels act.

In my dream world, people more readily recall the name of their state legislators than they do their Congresspersons and Senators.

I also may end up advocating a more radical localism, but this I’m even less sure of than my new embrace of federalism.

I think a similar type of approach may be taken to world affairs. We should admit that the world is too big. We cannot solve all the world’s problems. We should let regions and countries solve their own problems. We should promote democracy, but we should not be too eager. The imposition of radical equality on an unprepared state only leads to chaos. Instead of the top-down approach of Iraq and unilateralism, we can lead by example, along with the rest of the West. We can encourage values, but we cannot impose them. We should criticize when we can, but the power to criticize is not a license to force people to change their ways.

These ideas are all starting points, not finishing points. I think it’s important to enter a bigger dialogue, so that we can address the political problems of the 21st century.