The Weekend Read
The Two American Constitutional Freedoms

The U.S. Constitution encompasses two different ideas of liberty that operate in tension.

Published on: August 10, 2014
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  • FriendlyGoat

    We make lots of improvements to people’s lives at the national level because state and local governments are too fragmented, too inept or too mercurial to do them well. Imagine fifty versions of the FAA. Imagine fifty versions of FDIC. Imagine fifty versions of OSHA. Imagine fifty versions of Social Security. Even try imagining ourselves not so enamored with constant talk about “libertarian” and “federalism”. The “good old days” were old but not good and we don’t need a “return” to anything at all. We need to walk forward and face current problems sensibly as a people who actually understand the UNITED aspect of the United States of America.

    • mnemos

      @friendlygoat:disqus – I can see your point, but it completely avoids the question. For example, fifty FAAs may not be appropriate, but what’s wrong with fifty HUDs? What’s wrong with fifty departments of education? (Hint – there already are fifty departments of education and the federal one doesn’t really do much.) Sometimes the federal version exists because people at the state level rejected a bad idea, and the federal government was willing to be a back door for the folks who didn’t get their way locally. I’m not a particular fan of government run healthcare, but I would be perfectly willing to try it at the state level. The national level is a waste of time – it mainly succeeded in generating a bunch of income for DC without significant benefit in terms of cost or coverage. (Yes, if you count people who lost insurance and got it back through the exchanges as “newly insured” there have been millions covered, but most of that’s delusion if you read all the numbers. The billions spent for very small coverage gains and no costs gains is basically a waste.) By deciding to define Aunt Thelma’s blood pressure medication as the “common good” the federal government is supposed to serve, the phrase has lost its meaning.

  • Anthony

    “It may be, however, that the problem is less about the bigness of government than the decline and corruption of the national government itself.” (see Francis Fukuyama – AI)

    From an ethical point of view, doing justice to its constituents parts (and their many interests) is a central problem embedded in cited two Freedoms. Author analogizes preemption (reducing conflicts among its various interests while distributing its limited resources) and federalism (enabling its members to pursue their own ends as individuals) though our current dilemmas have not emerged necessarily as a result of aforementioned tension. Most importantly, implied problems constitutionally from essay are not necessarily traceable to preemption or circumscribed federalism. That is as essay intimates, they reflect the influences of vested interests, structural components, and diverted publics (in most cases). Yet I cannot get away from thought that as politics is the realm productive of public policy (public good), the constitutional troubles hinted at in essay trace back inevitably to our governing structure (politics). Where we find (in most cases) inadequate public managers chosen by a distracted public on the basis of largely irrelevant criteria. To this end, one could surmise that the democratic (constitutional) system thus comes full circle…

    How does one address the descent of the public good and the rise of preemptory politics? First, perhaps one ought to consider a return to civic responsibility – Americans committed to contributing to the common benefit and cooperating for mutual gain (nationally and locally). As referenced below, United aspect….

  • Just call me Joe

    I am not sure if America can be saved. The fatal wound is delivered by the nationalization of power, something that started just over 100 years ago. Few people realize we are the United STATES, not the United People. The Federal government was supposed to protect us from foreigners and from over-jealous States, not each other.

    I personally know someone who was involved in a domestic dispute, the kind of duke it out at the county court house kind of thing. One turned it into a Federal case, and used the Federal government to put her opponent in prison. That is uncalled for.

    If there is any hope of saving the country, we must first repeal the 17th Amendment. The Founders had a clever design to meet the needs of the citizenry, big states, and little states. The Senate’s role was to represent the States, the only representation of the States in the Federal government. Populism came up with the 17th Amendment. It was as much of a mistake as the 18th.

    The next thing is to put the Federal genie back in its box and return responsibility for all but foreign affairs and true interstate commerce to the States. Eliminate Depts HUD, Education, Labor, Energy, HHS, the EPA and SBA. Fold Agriculture and Transportation into Commerce.

    That is what is needed. It will never happen.

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