Federalism Redefined

Kevin Langdon

Published in Gift of Fire #122, Jan./Feb. 2001

It is ironic that the term "federalism" indicates a preference for placing power in the hands of the states as opposed to the federal government.

As I write this, in January 2001, there is still a great deal of partisan heat surrounding the 2000 Presidential election, but in time it will be perceived that the wrong candidate was declared the winner by a biased Supreme Court which disregarded the law and the will of the people to put the candidate of their choice into the White House.

However, I believe that this is simply an unfortunate exception. It is my experience that the federal government is usually more sensible than local jurisdictions where they come into conflict.

As someone who has had relatively minor unfortunate experiences with the civil authorities, and as one who knows of many outrageous cases of official misconduct (not all, of course, by local authorities), I wish to minimize their ability to, as we Americans say, fuck with me.

I asked myself whether it would be possible to escape from national authorities altogether, say, by living on a ship, like L. Ron Hubbard, or by taking over a small and backward country.

But I realized that, while social isolation need not be a problem, given the existence of the Net and the potential for others to travel to me, there's a major problem in any such arrangement: it lacks the security provided by a country with an army, a navy, and an air force. So going off on one's own is so hazardous as to be impractical.

Then I asked myself whether it would be possible to become subject only to the federal government. Although this is the case, for example, with people in the military, there doesn't seem to be a way to do this while living an ordinary life here in sunny California - not legally.

But I'm tired of the paranoid redneck survivalist creeps at the extreme of states'-rightsism. If they can say that the federal government has no legitimate authority, I can say the same thing about the state governments. While I am, of course, a law-abiding citizen of California, I obey state law only because I am coerced, and with contempt for the minions of the state. The laws of the United States are on a higher level of legitimacy, and I follow those laws on principle (which is not, of course, to say that they couldn't use a lot of improvement or that these laws, in turn, are not subordinate to still higher principles).

It is quite possible for all governmental functions to be performed by the federal government, as the post office and military defense are. When push comes to shove, I'd much rather deal with a single, unified system.

This is not an a priori conclusion. It is based on my observation of how well the state and federal governments perform various functions. I don't like private security guards, because I think that the guys with the badges and guns should be working for us, not for some private employer. If people need more security they should be able to buy it from a police agency. I put it this way because this point doesn't depend on the state/federal distinction. But this principle generalizes to what I am saying about federalism.

I wish to speak out for a new kind of federalism, one which takes all the cookies away from the states. Abolish state and local governments. And those damn Indian reservations, too.

Everybody should have to play by the same rules.