Why Federalism? Thomas Jefferson’s Warning
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Why Federalism? Thomas Jefferson’s Warning


The Founders had many reasons for setting up a decentralized system. I’ll share one of the most important ones next. In an 1800 letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government.” Today, the federal government really does try to direct virtually all of our affairs; from what our kids learn in school, to what plants we can grow in our own yards, to how much water we can have in our toilets. This is the kind of micro-managing that the founders warned us about. Jefferson’s point is pretty straightforward. Bureaucrats hundreds, or even thousands of miles away in Washington DC simply can’t grasp of all the issues facing a local community. Since there is no way for them to understand what’s needed locally, we end up with one-size fits-all solutions that don’t work for anybody. But the flip side of the coin might be even more dangerous. We don’t really know what’s going on in Washington DC, and we have absolutely no control over it either. Jefferson warned us about this too. He said this kind of situation “will invite public agents to corruption, plunder and waste.” You don’t have to look around too much to see that’s exactly what we have today.

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