By Michael Boldin
The impulse from many – left, right, libertarian, and the rest – to give the federal government more power to “protect liberty” from state and local governments might seem like a good idea on the surface.
But stop and consider what they’re really doing – giving the most powerful government in the history of the world even more power, and hoping it’ll work out.
That’s never going to end well in the long run. The power that they think will “protect” liberty today will ultimately be in the hands of people who want to take it away.
Simply put, the power to protect is the power to control.
But when we make this argument and warn against using the federal court system to force one viewpoint on all 50 states, we get a lot of pushback. For example, some in libertarian circles will immediately jump to the absurd claim, “You must want states to violate people’s rights!”
Any honest consideration of our position should make it clear the argument is ultimately for more liberty. But a successful long-run strategy for more liberty is far different than what most people try today.
Like many in the founding generation, we view centralization of power as the greatest threat to liberty – or pretty close to the top. The founders broadly agreed. They called it “consolidation.”
Patrick Henry summed it up like this during the Virginia ratifying convention.
“Consolidation must end in the destruction of our liberties.”
While well-meaning, many libertarians, like their republican and democrat counterparts, are consistently going against this warning and using a dangerously bad strategy in an attempt to achieve their political goals.
But, for those who want to advance liberty, centralizing even more power in Washington D.C. is counterproductive, even if you get a few breadcrumbs of victory from time to time.
Stop and think about what they’re asking for. They seem to want the same entity responsible for all kinds of death and destruction around the globe…to “PROTECT” liberty?
Think about how many times federal courts expanded liberty over the years versus how many times they watered down our rights, restricted them even further, or just rubber-stamped expansive federal power.
We’re looking at you – qualified immunity, war on drugs, asset forfeiture, surveillance state, right to keep and bear arms, commerce clause, and a litany of other issues. By and large, federal courts have been awful for liberty.
It’s absolutely foolish to leave the fate of your liberty to the chance that five out of nine politically-connected lawyers – employed by the largest government in history – will do the right thing and limit that same government’s power.
That’s just how Patrick Henry put it as well:
“Shew me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty? I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.”
In response, some will claim that supporters of decentralization believe that decentralization, in and of itself, advances liberty.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Decentralization merely gives the people in each area a better chance to advance liberty rather than relying on a dangerous centralized empire to do it for them.
John Dickinson told us it was ultimately up to “the supreme sovereignty of the people.”
“It is their duty to watch, and their right to take care, that the Constitution be preserved; or in the Roman phrase on perilous occasions – to provide that the Republic receive no damage.”
Unfortunately, many, if not most, people reject this approach from the founders. Instead they believe that government will somehow keep government in check.
Samuel Adams probably summed it up best:
“All might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought”