Monday, May 02, 2005

Federalism

The argument for federalism would seem to be: people have a limited ability to know; good policy requires significant amounts of knowledge of the specifics of the community in which it is to be enacted; the larger the government unit, the less likely it is to know and be sensitive to those specifics; therefore it is best if policy/law happens at the more local level. There is the corollary argument about power: power should be exercised close to where it came from to maximize accountibility. In theory there is nothing objectionable about these two points -- the only question would be to what extent does local variation for different policy issues matter(for example, does the optimal curriculum really vary from state to state or school district to school district? And is the variation we observe reflective of these legitimate differences?). Taking this seriously would require that states be redistricted occasionally to keep them approximately the same size so that lawmakers are equally close to where policy is enacted (wouldn't want Wyoming to be better governed than California), though there would be the concern about loss of tacit knowledge upon doing so.

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