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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Borg Collective Faces Resistance from Within

I usually think of Utahans (Utahites?) as authoritarian pod people, thanks to the prominence of anal-rententive Nazis like Orrin Hatch. But now I'm pleasantly surprised.

The Republican-dominated Utah legislature passed a bill recently that orders state officials to ignore provisions of a federal law that conflict with Utah's education goals or that requires state financing.

The bill, say some critics, is the most explicit legislative challenge to the federal law by a state, and its passage marked the failure of a lengthy lobbying effort against it by the Bush administration....

Utah’s action is not simply grandstanding. The feds have made known that this temerity will cost Utahans between $750 million and a cool $1 billion in federal education funds.

That last bit, about them actually giving up the money, is especially heartening.

Back when the alleged "small government" Republican Revolution began in 1995, following the passage of the so-called Contract With America, one of its central themes was the "New Federalism." The New Federalism, like most small government rhetoric emanating from the GOP establishment, was largely a sham. In practice, it meant an end to "unfunded mandates" and a little more administrative autonomy in spending federal grants-in-aid (except when the neocons wanted to use federal money to impose socially conservative policies on the states, of course). My response at the time was that they should simply stop providing grants-in-aid for purposes not enumerated in Article I, Section 8, cut federal taxes by an equal amount (preferably by raising the personal exemption), and let the states fund their own spending programs. But "Tenth Amendment Movement" people like Ben Nelson of Nebraska certainly weren't having any of that nonsense, and neither were the "devolutionist" GOP Congressmen. (Looking at troglodytes like Tom Delay, I have to wonder if they didn't mean something else by "devolution.")

It's kinda funny, in a sick sort of way. One of the main grievances that pushed Massachusetts into revolution 200-odd years ago was that the Brits insisted on collecting taxes in the colonies and then spending the money to fund colonial government, as a way of reducing their indendence. The colonial governor and judges in Massachusetts would receive their pay from Parliament rather than from the Massachusetts legislature. Likewise, thanks to grants-in-aid, today the average state's agencies gets about a fifth of the money it spends from Washington. Not only does that 20% tie down significantly more money, what with matching funds and strings attached; but many state constitutions actually empower agencies to accept money from the feds and spend it without any appropriation by the state legislature. They have effectively alienated the power of the purse and allowed their own executive agencies to become adminstrative arms of the imperial center.

The patriots of Massachusetts, on the other hand, were smart enough to understand that whoever pays the piper calls the tune. They weren't objecting to "unfunded mandates"; rather, they demanded an end to the funding.


Blogger Unknown said...

In fact the original idea of many of the "anti-federalist" (who were actually the real federalists) Founders was for the National Government to receive all its money, or almost all, from the states.

April 29, 2005 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's exactly how the Articles worked. It was a disaster for the national government, but arguably would have been a better guard of liberty over the long term.

- Josh

April 30, 2005 10:49 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

A lot of revisionists, like Merrill Jensen, argued that it worked pretty well--the "crisis" of the 1780s was largely from the Federalist POV. A number of states, like Pennsylvania, had assumed the federal debt of their citizens, and the interstate trade wars were being resolved by separate compacts. I was also surprised to hear from a Georgist recently that under the Articles the federal government collected a land value tax--maybe in the Northwest, I'm not sure of the particulars.

May 01, 2005 4:14 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I didn't get that last part quite right; here it is, from Dan Sullivan:

"The United States was to levy a tax, not on individual property holders, but on each state, based on its aggregate land value. The assumption was that each state would levy a similar tax on each county, and so on down to the individual. In this way, the individual would never have to face a federal tax agent directly, and if the federal government did not have the full support of the states, it could not bully them as easily as it could bully individuals."

May 01, 2005 4:17 AM  

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