In the early 20th century, two of England’s intellectual giants engaged in a series of debates. Playwright George Bernard Shaw was the resident apologist for income redistribution and central planning. Opposite him was GK Chesterton, a Catholic writer who advocated for property rights and the decentralization of political power.
“I found them to be completely insane and grotesque,” Shaw said of the wealth inequality case of his day. “At the end of the day, I was convinced that we should be tolerant of any type of crime except the unequal distribution of income.” Shaw’s lyrics were a compendium of what would become modern progressivism.
“There should be in the world a great mass of scattered powers, of privileges, of limits, of points of resistance, that the mass of the Commons might resist tyranny,” replied Chesterton. “There is a permanent possibility that this central leadership, even though it has been appointed to distribute the money equally, will become a tyranny.”
“Mr. Bernard Shaw proposes to distribute the wealth,” Chesterton summed up. “We propose to distribute power.”
This is the argument that has raged in America since our founding: how best to distribute? Top to bottom or bottom to top? With the individual – and, as Chesterton argued, God – as sovereign? Or the state and its credentialed central planners, as Shaw argued?
Our Constitution divides powers among the branches of government, even within Congress itself. Less well known, it allowed states to compete with the federal government and compete with each other as well. This competition — these 50 policy labs — proves time and time again that a centralized approach to decision-making does not produce optimal results. It’s called federalism, this feature of American life, and it’s built into our system in a way that confounds the whims of progressives and central planners.
For the past two years, federalism has been on the rise. A recent COVID-19 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research comparing policy outcomes across states proves this point. The study rated the states on three variables: death rates, education and the economy. The results were shocking to some – especially central planners in Washington DC – and entirely welcome to those who challenged the groupthink of Beltway experts and their media cheerleaders.
No state did better than Utah, scoring well in all three categories. Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire are other top performers, mostly small states, many of which are red.
The only major state to make the top 10 was Florida, which placed sixth. Although Gov. Ron DeSantis drew ire from the crowds and the Beltway press corps for his handling of the pandemic, the state he governs ranked nearly on par with another great state, California, on the mortality front (28th and 27th respectively). While California has gained little from relentless shutdowns and school closures on the death rate, it has suffered a lot, ranking 47th on economic performance and dead last in education loss. And that’s not counting the emotional and psychological cost to millions of Californian children and millions of adults too. Florida, on the other hand, had the third lowest education loss and the 13th best economic performance. The lockdown juice, it turns out, wasn’t worth it.
The bottom 10 in this report were mostly states with strict shutdowns and those that were the last to reopen their schools. Media darling Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York led his state to a dismal 49th overall.
You probably haven’t read the study, or how wrong the DC consensus was on a host of pandemic-related issues, in mainstream media or the big social media giants. It’s because the one thing DC bureaucrats and their media enablers hate more than opposing views is real data from competing power centers – power centers that are closer and more accountable to “us.” , the people “.
Luckily for all of us, our governors respond to a power greater than Anthony Fauci. They are accountable to their constituents, who have their own doctors, and can very well measure the risk in their lives.
Moreover, governors live with the real consequences of their decisions. They must consider real-life trade-offs barely discussed by health bureaucrats in DC. It turns out that it wasn’t cold or inhuman to consider such things; it was cold and inhuman not to do so.
Federalism has not only won on the COVID-19 front. Last January, United Van Lines launched its 45th Annual National Movers Survey, which tracks where Americans travel to and from. Leading the outward migration was New Jersey, a spot it has held for four years. It’s true: The Garden State led the nation in people fleeing its borders.
Other states that successfully turn their own citizens into refugees are Illinois (second), New York (third), Connecticut (fourth), and California (fifth).
Where are these refugees from the blue states fleeing to? South Dakota, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Idaho were in the top 10. And Americans weren’t just traveling to these states for the weather. It turns out that matters of public policy. Taxes and regulations and how states treat capital, whether human or financial, affect where people move. Federalism is not content permit such a choice and such a movement. Healthy competition between states encourages this.
The latest news on the federalism front came as Americans learned of a leaked draft opinion that the US Supreme Court could overturn Roe vs. Wade. Many mistakenly assumed that abortion would be banned in the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. The current majority simply believes deer was a very bad constitutional law.
Conservative critics of deer are not alone. Prominent liberal academics in favor of the legalization of abortion were among the deerthe fiercest criticism. In 1973, Harvard law professor John Hart Ely, writing in Yale Law Journalsaid so in his article “The Wages of Crying Wolf: A Comment on Roe v Wade:”
Yes [the decision] has no connection with a value that the Constitution designates as special, it is not a constitutional principle and the Court does not have to impose it. I hope it will seem obvious to the point of triviality. Yet those of us to whom it seems obvious have rarely bothered to say it. And because we didn’t, we have to share responsibility for that decision.
Ely, who will become dean of Stanford Law School, noted that deer is bad not because it is bad constitutional law, but “because it is not constitutional law and makes almost no sense of having to try to be”.
Write in the Harvard Law Review the same year, liberal legal legend Laurence Tribe was equally critical. “One of the most curious things about deer is itbehind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests cannot be found.”
In short, the Supreme Court of deer acted like a super-legislature, taking a difficult moral issue out of the hands of the voting public. Yes deer is overturned, the conservative judges will do just the opposite. Rather than imposing their will on all 50 states, Americans will go to the polls to vote on the issue for the first time in 50 years. Some states will make abortions less restrictive, others more. Some may choose to ban abortions completely.
I hope voters in my home state of Mississippi will uphold the 15-week restriction. But that’s up to the people of my state — and all 50 states — to decide. Not nine judges.
This is federalism at its best. It gives the power to answer deep moral questions — whether it’s COVID policies, tax rates, or abortion laws — where our Constitution says it resides: in the legislature. And, thanks to federalism, with the conscience of the voters of the 50 states that make up our vast constitutional republic.
Lee Habeeb is vice president of content for Salem Radio Network and host of Our American Stories. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.