What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Black Star (Flash Ninja)
America is too big. As centralization of power has increased in Washington, federal effectiveness has correspondingly decreased as the overall population grows, and along with it the ratio of political representation. Disenfranchisement continues to swell among the near-powerless masses, each channeling their frustration into the cacophony of contemporary political dialogue. As time progresses and with each new act of the federal behemoth, the seeds of America’s demise take root and begin to sprout.
Simply put, America has become too unwieldy to be effectively governed by the few hundred elected federal officials and their tax-guzzling bureaucrat minions. More to the point, America shouldn’t be governed by such a body, nor was it ever intended to be. But political idealism aside, today’s reality presents a startling picture of governance stretched thin and entrusted to incompetents—imagine a few rambunctious teenagers freewheeling at a demolition site with a crane and wrecking ball, and there you have government in a nutshell.
Of course, the sheer size of the country is not to blame for its inefficiency, nor is the ignorance and idiocy of those who win elections; based on proper principles and governed by just and wise individuals, neither the population nor the geography would make much difference. Deviation from the nation’s traditional values, however, has created a diversity so divisive that no “mixing pot” elementary school analogy can adequately gloss it over. Take any political hot topic—gay marriage, abortion, federal bailouts, health care, religion’s role in government, etc.—and you have a perfect illustration of the wide and contentious spectrum that exists in America.
While some may cherish this range of ideas, it is not without its destructive tendencies. To understand why, it is important to note the difference between a nation and a state. A nation is a group of people united by some common culture, set of values, or world view. On the other hand, a state (loosely defined, generally meaning any government) is a group of people joined together by geography. While individuals in a nation may have differing opinions and ideas, they have a common foundation upon which to find understanding and mutual trust. They can, of course, form a government (create a “state”) to secure their mutual interests—but their citizenship in the state is not what defines them. Those who simply share a government have few things in common other than their identity as citizens, which does little to help bridge the gap when confronted with a heated subject of governance.
While a common heritage and set of beliefs was once enjoyed by the majority of Americans, today’s society presents a different scenario. Looking over a set of geographical points within the nation’s boundaries—New York, San Francisco, Texas, Louisiana, Detroit, etc.—it becomes apparent that people largely cluster together with others who are like-minded and share a good portion of their values. As just one example, while many citizens of San Francisco may agree with each other on gay marriage, their common values stand at odds with those shared by people living in Provo, Utah.
The destructive aspect of this regional disparity comes into play when we are required to govern such a diverse body of unique groups of communities at a federal level. As in recent decades the federal government has found it necessary to intervene in, regulate, and control the lives of each American, it then follows that each elected individual tries to implement what’s best for them and their community at the expense of other countrymen who live elsewhere and believe differently. While a Constitutionally-sound federal government would have little to do with domestic affairs (and thus each state would be able to govern itself as it pleased), today’s degenerated District of Columbia aims to oversee the vastly heterogeneous lifestyles of hundreds of millions of individuals. This overreaching arrogance is the fertilizer nourishing the seeds of demise spoken of earlier.
Another issue at play is the dilution of representation which weakens our hollow shell of a Republic with each new baby’s birth. The first amendment in the original Bill of Rights would have, if passed, instituted proportional representation for a growing population. Instead, Congress having capped the number of Representatives in the House in 1913, each Representative currently has an average of nearly 700,000 constituents. Such an astronomical number clearly explains why nearly 75% of Americans thinks that Congress is out of touch with their concerns and problems.
So, what are we to do? Can we realistically reign in the leviathan monstrosity that the federal government has become, or should other options be considered? Given the various nations (city/states, as Aristotle called them) that exist within America’s geographical boundaries, it might be time to consider the peaceful secession of autonomous states—devolution, as this author calls it:
Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society.
Devolved America is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition—a tradition that has been betrayed by the creeping centralization of power in Washington over the decades but may yet reassert itself as an animating spirit for the future. Consider this proposition: America of the 21st century, propelled by currents of modernity that tend to favor the little over the big, may trace a long circle back to the original small-government ideas of the American experiment. The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized scale—too large to make any rational sense in an emerging age of personal empowerment that harks back to the era of the yeoman farmer of America’s early days. The society may find blessed new life, as paradoxical as this may sound, in a return to a smaller form.
Whether states secede outright from the federal government, work towards some type of (better) implemented federalism, or pursue some other radical change, America’s future is becoming fairly certain. Infected by the “hubris of inordinate size,” as historian George Kennan wrote, the federal government has been fueling the fire of its own cremation with each new action. While new life would surely rise from the ashes, it’s far better to salvage what parts you can before the body becomes toast.
America is not too big to fail. Rather, on her present course she will fail because she is too big. Our political survival depends on our ability to quickly, peacefully, and fully return sovereignty and domestic governance back to where it has always belonged—the people.