Over the past century, there has been an unprecedented shift in power from the states to the federal government. The idea of 50 relatively autonomous states under the blanket of the federal government has completely been thrown out the window. Go to another state and you will see that there are tremendous differences in the people; their ideologies, their “typical” jobs, their culture, and even their demographic make-up. Yet, you will always find that one relative constant: all of them have essentially the same laws, income taxes, and government services. Now, how does it make sense for the same set of “one size fits all” rules and regulations to apply to 300 million people who are all incredibly diverse in their needs and wants.
It breeds inefficiency. If there is one way to describe the federal government, it would be inefficient. If you are a congressman from a state, and a potential project is being talked about in congress, you will push your hardest for it to pass… even if the costs outweight the benefits. The reason for this is you are really only paying 1/50th (for simplicity sake, I’m assuming all 50 states are the same size tax revenue wise) of the cost. This may not seem like a huge deal, until it happens over and over again and all 50 states are doing it. The bottom line is there is absolutely no incentive to reduce spending since all the costs are spread around.
Imagine how much more efficient and strong our economy would be if each state could specialize in the needs and wants of its citizens. This was the original idea of the whole 50 state system! It allowed for each state to set its own rules that fit its own people. It was a brilliant idea, and it still is. The idea that we could have 50 states each competing with each other economically and ideologically for people, and competition drives efficiency. For example, states would have incentives to actually reduce spending, not only because they are paying the whole 100%, but also, the more they save, the more they can reduce taxes or provide services to its citizens.
The fundamental concept behind the free market is that no transaction occurs unless it benefits both parties. This is a concept that is violated over and over in our country. People are paying taxes for services that they do not want and they are not receiving services that they are willing to pay for. Under the “original” concept of the United States, the taxpayers actually had a voice… which today has been reduced to the faintest of whispers. Sure we can determine the President, our congressmen, but can we really drive our politicians to change? I would argue we have very little impact, because of how un-localized our voices are. The more local and specific your voice is, the stronger it is. A single voice among 300 million is quite miniscule, but a single voice within a single state is magnified by about 50x.
To be honest, I’m getting sick of everyone talking about how “Washington is broken”, because it reminds me of just how far we have fallen away from the original founding principles of the country. I’m not angry that Washington is broken, I’m angry that people aren’t questioning when Washington became the sole decider of all things American. When is the last time you heard someone say “Albany is broken” or “Phoenix is broken” or “Olympia is broken”. Chances are it has been a long time. In fact, state capitols have become such a figurehead name and they don’t even have any importance in the grand scheme of everything (to test this, try naming all 50 capitols… I had enough difficulty naming 3). Well, at least relative to their intended importance set forth by our founding fathers.
I love the idea of the United States of America. Fifty states all operating independently but under one united entity. But, I fear that over the past century the fifty states are no longer operating independently under one entity, but they have become one entity. Being united is great, but not when it comes as a Washington mandate.