Category Archives: Localism

Place and Politics: Idaho’s Spirit of Localism

Tim Woodward

Last year, former Idaho Statesman political writer Dan Popkey demonstrated his willingness to shill for a corrupt sheriff in more than one way. But despite aiding and abetting an illegal release of information for political purposes, Popkey continued to write for the Statesman until very recently. Thus, it was with my faith in the newspaper’s integrity and judgment severely damaged that I recently picked up a book by now-retired Statesman writer Tim Woodward. Like Popkey, Woodward has been formally recognized for his writing achievements; fortunately, that’s where the similarities end. Continue reading

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Filed under Idaho, Local Politics, Localism, Uncategorized

Localism, Federalism, and the 14th Amendment

I recently wrote a guest post for an Arizona-based website called Western Free Press. The proprietor there shares many of the ideals of The New Polis and has graciously shared his growing platform so that they may have a wider audience.

What I chose to write about is the complicated issue of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and whether incorporating the Bill of Rights’ restrictions on the powers of the US Congress (or perhaps I should say ‘clarifications’ as Jefferson would argue that the power to abridge the freedom of speech, for example, was never enumerated to the federal government in the first place) to the state and local governments has increased or decreased individual liberty. I argue that the application of the 14th Amendment has unambiguously expanded the power of the federal government to the detriment of both localism and federalism. Also questionable in this shift of the balance of power between the states and the federal government is that while the federal government is seen as having the ability to overturn the decisions made by state and local governments, the common position is that state and local governments have no corresponding power to overturn the abuses of the federal government (even a Cato scholar claims that state nullification is “discredited” and “a nonstarter in the 21st century.” I will address these claims in a future post). Even so, many friends of liberty see this check on state governments an unambiguously good thing for freedom. What are we to do if the state governments violate individual rights? they ask.

One of the best analogies for this, I think, is whether one would be comfortable with the UN intervening and overturning the unconstitutional decisions of the US government. I would hope the answer for those who value individual liberty would be a resounding “No!” as even if the UN made the right decision in a few cases, it is generally anti-liberty and anti-localism. Furthermore, the times where it is wrong would be much more destructive, just as when a bad policy is made at the national level rather than the state level. It is harder to escape or mount a political battle against it. Thus, we should be wary of large, unaccountable powers that are long distances away having the ability to overturn governments that are more local, even if they may be right sometimes. The question isn’t which level of government tends to be right, but rather which one is more dangerous when it is wrong.

So, I request that you check out that post here and let me know what you think.

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Filed under Government, Localism

Inviting Fraud, Banishing Freedom

KTVB reporter Justin Corr

The most disappointing thing about Justin Corr’s piece at KTVB.com called “More drug dogs help Idaho cops battle traffickers” isn’t that its author expresses unwavering faith in the hopelessly failed “War on Drugs”; it’s that Corr misses a great opportunity to do some actual reporting and thereby potentially improve the Treasure Valley. Rather than question even a single claim made by government officials, Corr chose to act as a mouthpiece by simply parroting the conventional wisdom of current drug policy that has done very little to actually protect and improve our communities. Continue reading

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Filed under Idaho, Localism, Uncategorized

Sovereign Living TV

I wanted to share this video because John Bush of Sovereign Living TV seems to take the The New Polis‘ ideals of liberty and community to heart.

Of course, this kind of lifestyle isn’t for everyone, nor do I believe one must replicate it to embrace localism. Though there are more encompassing ideas of what localism is (such as Christopher Felt’s ideas on it), The New Polis takes a more limited definition: localism is the idea that decision-making should be done at the most local level practical.

Clearly, though, there are certain conditions that are more conducive to localism and John Bush embodies some of them. An important one that he mentions about a minute in is community defense. Indeed, it ought to be obvious that the amount of crime in any neighborhood has much more to do with the character of the community that lives in it than  the quality of public policing. Just ask yourself: what is more effective in protecting your home when you are away: a neighbor who will check in on your house? Or a police officer who randomly patrols in his or her car?

As well, if it ever becomes the case that money creation by the Federal Reserve results in high inflation and the federal government responds by instituting price controls on food, there will likely be food shortages in the stores. This is what typically happens with price ceilings. A community will be better off if it has access to locally grown food and can thereby nullify price controls.

Bush also mentions medical care, which just like every good and service, is produced more efficiently when it is decentralized and open to competition. Central planning has had some disastrous results, especially in medical care, and Bush’s dedication to take control of his and his family’s medical decisions is another application of localism.

Personally, I am very excited about their endeavor and have great hope for their success. If you share this interest here are links to their website and YouTube channel.

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Filed under Food Production, Individualism, Localism

Guest Post: The Social Aspect of Localism

By Chris Felt

small is beautifulIn their post Why Localism?, Archer and Fegley argue that the size of the United States government has grown to such an extent that it has now become too large. The government is too large because it cannot adequately represent and serve the 300 million citizens that reside within its jurisdiction. Archer and Fegley suggest that the government inadequacies are readily apparent in two key areas: education and environmental conservation. In education, the federal government attempts to satisfy the unique educational needs of localities by enacting a general education policy that produces only frustration and inefficiencies. The EPA also seeks to solve the local environmental issues which would be better handled by local departments such as the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Local departments have greater insight into what is necessary for environmental protection for their local areas. Archer and Fegley claim that centralization of power in the federal government is not only ineffective but also potentially dangerous. Archer and Fegley state that atrocities such as those that occurred during the regimes of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism are logical outcomes of the centralization of power.

The views expressed by Archer and Fegley are those that are easily accepted by the other well known localism movement which is built upon the works of E.F. Schumacher. However, Archer and Fegley have only expressed agreement with the political aspect of this movement. This movement also emphasizes a social aspect. The social aspect includes many ideas but the basic ones are buying local, human scale technology, and simple living. Archer asserted in the June 19 podcast that in order for personal relationships and a sense of community to flourish, the proper size for a political unit needs to be the city. I argue that not only is a city-size political unit important for personal relationships and community, the acceptance of the social aspect is also necessary. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Economy, Food Production, Localism, Reader Contributions

National ID and the Unfriendly Future of Liberal Nationalism

Kevin Drum

Blogger Kevin Drum

While reading up on the current Senate plan for “immigration reform” and a national ID card, I stumbled upon a post at Mother Jones from January of last year called “The Friendly Future of a National ID Card.” The arguments offered by blogger Kevin Drum are quite weak to say the least, and I caught myself wondering if he was the victim of a hacker hell-bent on setting himself up to knock down a straw-man. They do, however, serve to illustrate some important points about national ID and nationalism generally.

Drum begins by quoting, approvingly, another blogger who writes as follows:

I live in Singapore and all citizens are required to have an Identity Card. (IC) The IC is very useful. It doubles as a library card, it serves as identification when I apply for overseas visas, or want to open a bank account etc. Someone’s IC also allows me to identify the other party if I get into an accident (i.e. who to pay or who to bill for damages etc etc). At this level, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. So, what are the problems with having a mandatory IC policy?

That’s right, citizen: all the Founders’ warnings about the need to check government’s potential for tyranny can be casually dismissed in the name of removing the pesky inconvenience of carrying around a localized library card. Forget the timeless warnings about freedom and security – trading our sacred liberty for mere convenience is all the rage these days. What we would do without enlightened bloggers like Drum to relieve us of George Washington’s anachronistic prejudices, the Good Lord only knows.

Drum casually overlooks another important point, which is the relative size of Singapore and the United States. Singapore’s population stands at just over five million – less than 1/60th the size of the U.S. and over three times larger than Idaho. Unlike the United States, Singapore is a city-state with more homogeneous interests and much greater cohesion across the people’s way of life. It is naked self-deception to pretend that mandatory ID is the same thing for a city as for an extended republic like Idaho or a federation of extended republics like the United States.

For Drum, a national ID is by definition nothing more than “a way to make our lives more convenient,” and we should “get the whole Nazi-inflected ‘papers please’ thing out of our heads.” As to its advantages, he muses, “The whole voter ID movement would become moot. Sure, go ahead and require ID. Why not, as long as everyone has it?” Since in Drum’s imagination it seems no government anywhere has ever committed a clerical error, why not indeed? He further opines, “It would make it easier to keep employers honest about hiring illegal aliens.” Apparently illegal aliens who find honest work are a serious threat compared to those engaged in criminal enterprise – something a national ID system would obviously do nothing to curtail, by the way.

I admit that I’ve dealt with Drum’s comments rather harshly, but there is a deeper problem with the mindset he displays that needs to be addressed. I’ve chosen to call it “liberal nationalism,” but I’m using “liberal” here in a historical sense broad enough to include thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke as well as many – if not most – Republicans in Congress. In brief, it is the view that the most fundamental relationship in society is that of an individual to a central, national government. If this is true, then all meaningful relationships with family, community, and fellow citizens must pass through a uniform filter of government approval. Government under liberal nationalism must define marriage for us, decide which charities are worthy of tax-exempt status, and ultimately regulate any and all contact one could conceivably have with another person; this last is of course achieved in part by a national ID card and the privacy violations it necessarily attends. To a liberal nationalist like Drum, this is no big deal, but there’s no logical stopping point to it. The only barrier is what people will tolerate, and we know well from history that many people are willing to tolerate tyranny for quite a long time. In the name of individualism, liberal nationalism destroys the freedom necessary for true individuality.

“National ideals choke out the influence of genuine shared values and meaningful customs”

Liberal nationalism carries out its task by imposing uniform, one-size-fits-all rules across a vast, diverse collection of people. In order to avoid the charge of favoritism toward any one community or group, these rules must be abstract and unresponsive to the particular needs of particular communities. Culture and social life become sterile and bland as vague national ideals choke out the influence of genuine shared values and meaningful customs. As a member of a local community, you can be valued as a unique person; as a member of a nation-state, you are only an anonymous taxpayer designated by number and – if Drum gets his way – tracked by a universal ID card.

In contrast to liberal nationalism, localism can and does recognize instances where values like family privacy, community, and personal liberty must reign supreme. A true sense of community built around a local, shared way of life makes a person more respectful of his neighbors’ privacy and other rights. The mass society of liberal nationalism encourages the opposite – a herd mentality conforming to the lowest common denominator and obsessed with achieving an impossible guarantee of safety and fairness in every human interaction.

In short, localism fosters trust; nationalism fosters fear. Put not your faith in national ID or any other nationalist scheme. Instead, live locally.

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Filed under Localism, National ID, Nationalism

Why Localism?

By Tate Fegley and Jackson B. Archer

hyde park

Hyde Park Book Store by Thickstun Fine Art

Can a nation ever become too large? Can there be too many people living under the same government? How many people can a representative government truly represent? Aristotle, among other great thinkers, taught the importance of “human scale;” i.e., that there is a proper size for all useful things, including governments, and that this size is relative to the human person. Although it is not commonplace to do so, we ask whether the United States today fits this definition.

The problems facing us today give us reason to believe that the US has vastly surpassed the maximum size

of what could be considered human scale in terms of its ability to govern justly, be held accountable, and allow communities to live as the individuals within them choose. In the place of such centralized power over such a large number of people, we advocate “localism,” the idea that power should devolve to the most local level that is practical. Here are a few good reasons to support localism:

Localism is Neither “Left” nor “Right”

There are disagreements about the role of government in our lives. Whether you consider yourself politically left, right, or neither, we think local officials should make decisions rather than bureaucrats thousands of miles away. And whether you believe government should have a more or less active role in governing the environment, won’t the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality have a better assessment of local environmental issues than the EPA? We certainly think so. And consider: It’s possible that the endless disagreement about what should be taught in schools could be solved by simply putting control of curriculum at the most local level; then parents can make choices rather than a centralized entity dictating a one-size-fits-all program. In the face of ideological and political disagreement, localism is the best means for bringing out the best solution each person has to offer. Continue reading

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