Notwithstanding the partisan differences just described, something is going on today even among Democrats.
Having one solution for healthcare, the environment, education, job-creation, and the rest just does not work given the complex technology of modern times, Newsome argues, sounding much like the free-market economist F.A. Hayek. Of course, Newsome is correctly liberal on social policy; but recognizing differences on those policies is even more critical since the Gallup and Pew data demonstrate that people are even more divided over moral issues. One party or the other can force economic and social changes for a while–but at the expense of further fragmentation of our divided citizenry.
From Woodrow Wilson’s Congressional Government in 1885, to James MacGregor Burns’ Deadlock of Democracy in 1963, to Thomas E. Mann’s It’s Even Worse than It Looks today, we see that Progressives put at the top of their priorities ending government “deadlock” and adopting a consensus policy. As Wilson taught intellectuals, the reason Progressivism was frustrated here more than in Europe was the American government’s separation of powers. The solution was to grant more rational power to the executive and his bureaucratic experts. A century later, with a progressive president forcing through a rewrite of one-sixth of the economy without legislators being able to read the health bill beforehand, and ruling, as he says, with “pen and phone” by Executive Order, not only has nirvana still not arrived; the President’s popularity has sunk to historic lows, and the nation is more polarized than ever.
The Founders actually had the solution. There is a reason for the current deadlock. The Constitution set forth that the national government would only do a few things, as outlined in Article I, Section 8 and the Tenth Amendment, and that the states and people do the rest. The fact that the nation is divided but that folks with different views tend to congregate together demonstrates the continuing relevance of the Founders’ construction. The Progressives of Wilson’s time had it completely backwards. Rather than overriding the Constitutional separation of powers, the solution is to respect them by devolving programs and responsibility to the lowest levels, the federalist ones Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America recognized as the secret to our success.
Americans have been far ahead of their elected leaders in finding ways around progressive centralization, partially by living near folks who agree with them. The politicians merely need to follow the Constitution and let people govern themselves locally with their neighbors to escape the failure of forced progressive uniformity.
This commentary originally appeared at the Liberty Law Blog and is reprinted here with permission.
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