Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Local Governments

The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that the foundation for protecting individual freedoms is strong local self-government. All individuals have a circle of influence, and the strongest influence is from the people we know best. Thus, we are apt to know better the people who live in our own towns, cities, and states than someone across the nation. We can keep our local governments strong by electing people whom we know to have strong moral values.

W. Cleon Skousen wrote, "Political power automatically gravitates toward the center, and the purpose of the Constitution is to prevent that from happening. The centralization of political power always destroys liberty by removing the decision-making function from the people on the local level and transferring it to the officers of the central government. This process gradually benumbs the spirit of `voluntarism' among the people, and they lose the will to solve their own problems. They also cease to be involved in community affairs. They seek the anonymity of oblivion in the seething crowds of the city and often degenerate into faceless automatons who have neither a voice nor a vote."

Self-government works because problems are best solved at the level where they originate. Problems in a family are best solved by members of a family working together. If a problem originates on a neighborhood level, neighbors working together can best solve the problem. If there are problems in education, the solution should come from a source close to the students. This principle also applies to states. The Constitution gave the federal government the responsibilities that the states could not handle as well - such as defense. It also kept for the states the responsibilities best done locally such as education and police departments.

The Founders understood the need to protect the freedom of the individuals as well as to encourage strong local self-government. Thomas Jefferson explained, "The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to [perform best]. Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the state governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward [township] direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics, from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man's farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or the aristocrats of a Venetian senate." (Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 14:421.)

The Founders wanted the federal government to remain small in order that the power would remain with the people. Strong local self-government is the process through which freedom is preserved for individuals.

Ideas and quotes for this post are from The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen, pp 169-172.

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