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Who’s in control?



Constitution Day meme. Hypocrisy on the right threatens Constitutional government. Can Liberty Amendments serve that purpose? Wanted: sheriffs who understand civil asset forfeiture threatens the innocent.

In spite of America’s greatness, many people today feel less free and don’t believe elected officials represent them. The federal government seems like a foreign country, filled with pompous officials. State-by-state heterogeneity makes the United States unique and complex. That’s a good thing. Many believe our states are America’s most important legacy. But what are the odds one federal law will be best for people in the Northwest and Southeast? Priorities vary from region to region. Our country has grown too large and distinct for one set of policies. The federal government fails because it has gotten so big and centralized its members cannot adequately represent people who elect them.

The Founding vision: local control

The Constitution assumed local control of most government functions, not the current centralized system.

The US Constitution. Photo: National Archives of the United States

Our Founders intended government should be small and hence effective. They never intended it to become this leviathan far removed from constituents. Our country has changed since 1787. The Constitution provides “The number of Representative shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand . . . .” To keep a 1:30,000 ratio would require 10,000 members in the House and that’s not practical. Today, 435 House members represent 300 million people and growing – almost 700,000 per member. How representative can that be?

The federal government has big problems that are not going away any time soon. What can the average person do to change this broken system? Think local first, where people control government, not the other way around, is a long-standing part of the American experience. In general, it is better to settle issues locally than on a state or federal level. Each step up the ladder takes government farther from people it is meant to serve, and puts power into the hands of politicians and unelected bureaucrats who believe they have the best answers.

Local control is not popular today among political nobility, but it is how our system is supposed to work. Defending local government means defending American sovereignty against those who think people can be ruled over. Should people know what transpires behind closed doors before politicians decide to tell us? The Constitution should guide decisions by elected officials. The next time an official brags about an ordinance or program he or she got funded, ask what provision in the Constitution authorized it. Our Founders certainly gave people that authority.

How to get local control back

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To make things better in our communities requires an attitude of cooperation and learning. We need to read the Constitution and memorize the Tenth Amendment as former Senator Robert Dole did, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.” A favorite argument against local control is local government is incompetent and does not have support of communities. That may be true. Local government, in its own way, can be as corrupt and blockheaded as Washington. Few officials today walk the walk when it comes to championing individual sovereignty. However, on a local level, people can do something about it. Sell-out politicians can be held accountable at the polls. Exercising one’s right to vote is powerful and can achieve titanic results. An informed active citizenry can dive in and run for local government. Recognizing names of candidates and knowing where each stands on issues makes possible intelligent decisions such as electing candidates who promise genuine democratic representation as envisioned by our Founders. In that way, we give power to ourselves.

So who is supposed to be in charge here? Under the U.S. Constitution, most power is possessed by We the People through local and state government. Americans are loosing faith in government, but not in themselves. Fighting government at every level takes courage and sometimes civil disobedience because meekly doing what we‘re told is not being a good citizen. Now it is our turn. That is what it means to return “Power to the People.”

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