"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hooray for Federalism!

Alexis de Tocqueville

Amidst the political and media hysterics, it's helpful to remember that the government is not really shut down at all, even at the federal level--many of its functions remain intact. Move importantly, thanks to the genius of our federal system, the impact to the daily life of most Americans has not been particularly noticeable. To see just how little has changed outside of the Beltway, here's a partial listing of public services that will continue to function in the rest of the nation:

Sanitation and Environment:

Clean water will still flow to your house. Trash and recycling will still be collected. The streets and sidewalks will still be kept clean. Sewage will still be treated. State and local emission controls will still remain in effect. State and local laws will still protect streams and rivers from dumping and runoff. Natural resources will be protected.

Health and Safety:

Criminal laws will be enforced. Police, fire, and EMS will still respond to 911. State and local health departments will still offer immunizations and free clinics for the poor. Inspectors will still ensure proper food preparation. Hospitals will still admit patients in the emergency room. Fire marshals will still inspect public buildings.


Public and private universities will still have classes. Elementary and secondary schools will remain open. School busses will run. Libraries will let you check out a book or browse the internet for free. State, local, and privately-funded museums, zoos, aquariums, and bird sanctuaries will remain open to the public.


Traffic lights will still function. Street lamps will still light. State and local police will still enforce traffic laws. Road signs and markings will be maintained. Construction of roads and bridges will continue. Highway and bridge tolls will be collected. Public transit will still run. Driver's licenses will still be issued. Traffic cameras will still monitor for backups--and red-light runners.


Sales taxes will still be collected. Fuel pumps will still be inspected. Telecommunications will still be regulated. Electricity will still be delivered. Liquor licenses will still be issued. Barbers and cosmetologists will still be certified. Zoning and building permits will still be issued. Minimum wage will still be enforced. Contracts, deeds, titles, articles of incorporation, and other public records will remain accessible and in full force.

Quality of Life:

State and local parks, forests, and game lands will remain open. Hunting and fishing licenses will still be issued. State and local first responders will still provide security at sporting and entertainment events. Tourism and neighborhood committees will still work to attract visitors and residents.

And there's so much more. Tocqueville would be proud! As he wrote:

In great centralized nations the legislator is obliged to give a character of uniformity to the laws, which does not always suit the diversity of customs and of districts; as he takes no cognizance of special cases, he can only proceed upon general principles; and the population are obliged to conform to the requirements of the laws, since legislation cannot adapt itself to the exigencies and the customs of the population, which is a great cause of trouble and misery. This disadvantage does not exist in confederations; Congress regulates the principal measures of the national government, and all the details of the administration are reserved to the provincial legislatures. One can hardly imagine how much this division of sovereignty contributes to the well-being of each of the states that compose the Union. In these small communities, which are never agitated by the desire of aggrandizement or the care of self-defense, all public authority and private energy are turned towards internal improvements. The central government of each state, which is in immediate relationship with the citizens, is daily apprised of the wants that arise in society; and new projects are proposed every year, which are discussed at town meetings or by the legislature, and which are transmitted by the press to stimulate the zeal and to excite the interest of the citizens. This spirit of improvement is constantly alive in the American republics, without compromising their tranquillity; the ambition of power yields to the less refined and less dangerous desire for well- being. It is generally believed in America that the existence and the permanence of the republican form of government in the New World depend upon the existence and the duration of the federal system; and it is not unusual to attribute a large share of the misfortunes that have befallen the new states of South America to the injudicious erection of great republics instead of a divided and confederate sovereignty.