In the U.S., states have full authority over local government. Some states strictly centralize power and leave local government little to do. For instance, Hawaii has a single school district for the entire state, so that different localities cannot choose to spend different amounts on the government schools. Michigan effectively has a similar system, because … Continue reading How Decentralized Is Your State?
The Cato Institute has conducted a new poll of Americans' attitudes toward federalism. Apparently Americans have become much more favorable to federalism and decentralization over the past 40 years. The Cato Institute commissioned YouGov for the poll. They asked respondents questions about which level of government should have primary control over each issue area, using … Continue reading Changing American Views on Federalism
Since the Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish National Party has seen its membership treble and its poll ratings climb. This boost to pro-independence forces after their referendum failure departs from the script established in previous referendums on autonomy or independence. After the failed 1979 referendum on devolution (due to a turnout requirement - the measure … Continue reading Vote Labour, Get SNP?
A few takeaways from the 55-45% victory for No in the Scottish independence referendum: The polls overestimated support for independence, just as in the 1995 Quebec referendum. Secession from a well-established democracy is extremely difficult due to voters' risk-aversion and status quo bias. Scotland's right to decide elicited salutary promises of decentralization from the British … Continue reading Aftermath of the Scottish Referendum
As part of a new paper, I've been doing research on decentralization in Aceh, Indonesia. Bringing to a conclusion an approximately 20-year insurgency, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Indonesian government came together in a spirit of comity following the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami and signed a peace deal giving the region ample new autonomy. … Continue reading Don’t Lay Down Your Arms, Aceh Edition
Having finally turned the corner on a brutal, 11-day (and counting) cold, I feel up to getting back to my blogging routine. First up: a followup to last month's post, "Why So Little Decentralization?" To review, that post posed a puzzle (a problem for political scientists to ponder, you might say). The puzzle is this: … Continue reading Why So Little Decentralization? Part Two: Secession Prevention
Some of these developing countries are both huge and ethnically and regionally diverse, India and Indonesia most notably. One might think that these governments would have even more reason to decentralize than would the governments of comparatively homogeneous Western democracies. Therefore, the relative lack of decentralization in developing countries remains a puzzle.
I recently read Daniel Treisman's brilliant book, The Architecture of Government: Rethinking Political Decentralization. This book is particularly important for classical liberals who defend decentralization as an important institutional reform for promoting and protecting individual freedom. Treisman's thesis is essentially that decentralization is overrated. He doesn't argue that decentralization generally has bad consequences, even under … Continue reading Is Decentralization Overrated?
There are many angles to the ongoing protests in Istanbul and throughout Turkey, as there are to Turkish politics in general, but the one thing that struck me about this story when it first broke was: In what other country in the world would a national government have the power to decide whether a park … Continue reading Jacobin Turkey
In my last post on this topic, I described an ideal system of federalism and its advantages and disadvantages. One of the concerns that progressives often have about this kind of federalism, which I wish to take seriously, is that it will lead to a growing gap between the incomes of rich and poor regions … Continue reading Federalism & Inequality, Part Two
Once upon a time, local governments accounted for the lion's share of economic policy-making in the United States. Before World War I, not only was the federal government's economic policy-making activity strictly limited to areas such as international trade, management of federal lands, trust-busting, and food and drug regulation, but state governments themselves were also … Continue reading Who Killed Local Autonomy in the U.S.?
I am currently blogging from Roatán, Honduras, where I am participating in the "Future of Free Cities" conference, sponsored by Universidad Francisco Marroquín. The conference is about the economic and political preconditions for the establishment of free-enterprise zones in developing countries, as well as the internal governance of these territories. In his opening talk last … Continue reading The Future of Free Cities, Part 1
The latest Economist has an interesting feature on inequalities among regions within countries. The article compares countries on their ranges in GDP per head (the ratio of richest region to poorest). Thus, we get charts like the following: But range is an extremely crude concept for measuring inequality. In the U.S., the District of Columbia … Continue reading Regional Inequality
Why are citizens so disengaged from their local governments? Part of the problem is that local governments do so little. Another is that local electoral institutions seem to be designed so as to perpetuate conflicts of interest.
So what do we think about the district court ruling overturning California's same-sex marriage ban? To my knowledge, this is the first time a court has asserted a federal constitutional right to marriage. As a longtime supporter of getting government out of marriage licensing and of legal equality for same-sex and nonmonogamous relationships, I am … Continue reading A Constitutional Right to Marriage?
A bit late, but trying to keep this feature alive. Adam Smith. The Wealth of Nations. Vol II, Book 5, Chapter 1: "The abuses which sometimes creep into the local and provincial adminstration of a local and provincial revenue, how enormous soever they may appear, are in reality, however, almost always very trifling, in comparison of those … Continue reading Sunday Morning Quotation
It is probably fairly obvious to our readers that many (all?) of us here at Pileus support a more robust form of federalism (and decentralization) than we currently enjoy in the U.S. So it is with much chagrin that I relay news from this weekend that President Obama wants more federal dollars to bail out irreponsible supposedly … Continue reading More Money for the States?
In the 2005 case Gonzales v Raich, the Supreme Court pulled back on its federalism jurisprudence and ruled that the federal government may prosecute someone for growing marijuana at home for personal use under the authority of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which grants Congress the right to regulate commerce among the several … Continue reading Who’s Afraid of Fiscal Federalism?
Under certain conditions, decentralization can in and of itself represent an increase in freedom, even if government does not shrink as a consequence. Libertarians need not be complete anarchists, just radical decentralists.
Daniel McCarthy has some interesting thoughts on Phillip Blond's ideology "Red Toryism" in the latest American Conservative. Red Toryism sounds a bit like what James Q. Wilson and others have called "populism": an ideology favoring tight regulation of the market combined with conservatism on social issues. As something of a virtue libertarian, McCarthy actually has … Continue reading McCarthy on Red Toryism