Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Insane Rant On State's Right

I'm working on reposting the massive archive of old emails I have to this blog so that everyone (read me) can read them.  Usually I've been back dating them to whenever they were originally posted, but when I see one I think is particularity important I'll post it on the front page with a note.

This is the first such email.  It's an attempt to argue for strong States vs a strong Federal government.  I wrote it on Tuesday, May 29, 2007.

I've now shifted focus to further trying to convince you in favor of State's rights.

Your main objection seems to be that arbitrary districts have different (arbitrary) differences in the laws that govern them.  This creates confusion.

My counter to this is what I've already said, you will always have these arbitrary differences at some level.  Whether it be country, state, county, city, or individual.  The US is a bigger country than most, most countries are comparable to our states.  Most people don't leave their state often.  Even with a relatively small state like NJ we rarely go outside (please ignore your daily commute outside NJ [actually this ties in to my other idea that NJ should be split and given to PA and NY, the whole state thing works much better if the states are true representations of the culture in it.]).  I don't see a whole lot of confusion about the differences in laws between state borders now.  Most people understand that stuff is different between states, but the major stuff is the same.  You know that if you kill some one in Philly that's probably not going to fly.  The "well I'm from NJ, I don't know your laws" defense isn't going to work.  The only real laws that differ from state to state are stuff that's obvious (speed limits), or stuff that only really effects residents, not visitors.

There is always going to be confusion over laws, at least as long as they are written by lawyers (our other topic).  No one knows the laws, and the laws they do know are just the urban legend version of them.  If you want to find out the law you are going to have to do research, and that research will simply be in your state law.  If there was one federal law you'd still need to look it up/consult a lawyer.  You could argue that it would be easier to look up, but that's just not true.  The states are perfectly capable of making a website with digital version of every law, as is the federal government.  Try to find any law today, federal or state, you probably won't be able to.  It has nothing to do with federal vs. state, and everything to do with the people in government being old cooks with no concept of the modern world.

It seems to me that your desire for one set of laws to rule them all, is more of a subconscious organization thing.  Despite the fact that in practice it would yield little benefit, and certainly less benefit than the protection offered by the state system.

You also argued that 1 main debate over something is better than 50 small ones.  I think this is also false.  1 debate across the whole country, over anything of any importance will likely result in stalemate.  The only way to get around the stalemate is massive compromises by both sides.  This results in neither side being happy, and for no reason.  If things had been settled at the more local state level there would be much less compromise needed, since there'd be much more agreement within the state.

As an example look at abortion.  At the federal level there will always be a debate, and 50% of the country will always be unhappy.  If it were left to the states to decide there'd be a large number of states where the side was pretty much unquestionable (on both sides of the issue).  There would be no need for the debate there, and most the people in the state would be happy.  A few states would be mixed, but the debates would be a much smaller scale, and you'd have less people who were diehard on either side, there'd be more chance of coming to an honest resolution.

So now as summary of the benefits of state rights.  I've come to the conclusion that the best realistic government to have in power is the ineffective one.  The less laws they pass the better.  Whatever party controls congress I want the other to have the presidency (like now).  When things are like this they are able to pass less stuff that we don't want.  When one group controls them both they will all vote the same, no matter how terrible the law is in their personal eyes.  However, before you claim that my argument is silly since I'm basically arguing for an anarchist government by default, but with lot's of waste spending canceling itself out.  The two opposing party setup works because they still are there to handle crisis, or pass legit laws.  Realistically any modern civ can't function without government.

A government is an entity, just like a business or any other group.  Any entity will have money, and control over certain things, and will form a chain of command (who's in charge).  Any entity will try to use its resources to further aid its self preservation.  Since it's also made up by individuals the people in it will also exploit it for their own good.  This all leads to corruption (along with distance from capital and number of cities, but we can at least counter that with the Forbidden Palace).  Summed up well with the old "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".  The more power any entity has the more corrupt it will be, and the more able it will be to further grab power.  It's a self fueling problem (aka positive feedback loop).  I think this paragraph has been really key.  It may be obvious, but really it's an important fact.

The beauty of the original constitution was the protection against this.  The "checks and balances" (TM) we all learned about in civics class are a great way of slowing the process.  The problem is that unforeseen events will happen, and these allow the government to grab a bit more power.  One classic example of this was the Civil war.  You may or may not know that I'm pretty anti Lincoln.  He took one of the largest and earliest (although certainly not the first, no point in going into things like the Whiskey Rebellion), steps from our states which use a federal government for their common good, to a federal government which has administrative state districts.  Now how he should of handled a pretty crazy situation I won't pretend to know, and if he purposely (and evilly) made the federal government stronger I won't guess.  The point is he did it.  I guess a question is whether there are things that are so obviously morally wrong (slavery) that they justify a loss of protection from corruption of government.  I'd personally have to say no.  Slavery is pretty shitty, but it's been happening for thousands of years, and around that time it was pretty much doomed.  Slavery could probably have been peacefully abolished by 1900.  Maybe not, but the Civil war was about a lot more than slavery, and if that really had been Lincoln's sole concern (it wasn't, many examples including the fact that he only "freed" the slaves in any state which had succeeded from the Union, and obviously any state that had seceded wasn't listening to him, so he freed no one.), he could have probably settled it without any of the south seceding.

Anyway I went to lunch and came back, so excuse me if this seems a bit disjointed here.  The fact that the federal government will try to gain power and then abuse it for more power is a fact.  It doesn't require any "evil" people, or really any sort of conscious effort to happen.  It's just a result of how things work.  The solution is to slow this down as much as possible (to believe it could be stopped from happening forever would be naïve), by putting as many road blocks in the way as possible.  It takes 75% to amend the constitution, which is nuts, and frankly I'm surprised it's ever been done.  There are 3 branches of government, and they are (should be) all equally powerful, any 2 has the power to override the other.  Those are the 2 main road blocks to an over grown federal government.

Since this is a federation of states all federal power derives from willing states.  The federal government is a voluntary government allowed by the states for the betterment of them all.  There are some things which can be done better by it, than by the states independently.  You argued that laws in general are one of these things, but I hope my above rebutted that (I know it didn't).

You may now be saying, ok so the federal government will tend to become corrupt if left unchecked, well what about the states, won't they just become corrupt as well?  Well yes, however they will also tend to become less corrupt simply because there is less money and power.  The main difference however is that there are 50 states, all with approximately equal power.  If one state started to become too powerful, the others would be there to stop it.  It'd be much too difficult for any state (even a super state like CA which is more powerful than most countries) to pose a legit threat to the others.

The benefit of states with different versions of laws all being member of a common nation is that if your state starts go in a direction you don't like you can vote with your wallet and move.  It's funny because despite the fact that you can actually vote to elect people I think that people would actually be more inclined to move out of the state than try to vote in people to change it.  The less people you have in your state the less taxes you collect.

Some laws make more sense in different areas of the country.  Our country has vast differences both in the geography and the demographics.  NY, CA, Montana, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa are all in the same country, yet think about how different they are.  What works in one may not be best for the other.  Some states border water, some have rivers, some are plains, some mountains, some warm, some cold, some border other countries, some have tiny mostly rural populations, some large urban populations, different types of industry.  As an example a national speed limit of 55 makes sense in NJ (well not really, but more sense than other places) where it's super high population density, and traffic density, but makes no sense in New Mexico, where it's just flat open land.  Let whatever towns or cities in NM make a lower max speed, but NM as a whole should decide its own max speed (which presumably would be much higher than 55).

Thus if you don't like NJ's stance on whatever you can move to PA.  PA gets more tax money, NJ less, and if enough people feel the way you do NJ will start to notice the trend.  If there are plenty of people with the opposite view to you who will stay in NJ, so what, you still get to live in PA where things are the way you think they should be.  After a while the different ways of doing things will start show as the better ways of doing things.  After PA gets rid of any laws on possessing less than x amount of drugs they will either fall into a drug crazed anarchy or they will have tons less people in their prisons, and more money for other stuff, with no noticeable effect on the population due to the increased drugs.  Other reasonable states will see the light and change as well.  Sure crazy diehard states will hang on to whatever they believe in, but the people there will want to, and they will be happy.  After a while it will be obvious that one way is superior and all the states will have to come around to it.

In summary, giving the states the ability to make their own laws gives the people living in the US a choice as to which state feels closest to the way they feel on the things that matter to them.  The added complication of 50 different version in practice will be slight.  Major things will be uniform, and the things that aren't won't matter to people just traveling through the state or visiting.  People will move to where the laws reflect how they feel, and those states will see the benefit of having sensible laws.  Crazy states that base their laws on fiction written 2000 years ago will see that perhaps fairy tales aren't the best base for a system of laws.  Taking power from the federal government and giving it to the states will prevent the federal government from getting too strong, while the other states check each other.

Here are some Slashdot posts which I feel are relevant:

After all, it defeats the point if one can't move away from states with bad policies and into states with good policies.

It also removes a useful remedial effect: States with bad policies would see a population (and revenue) drop, while states with good policies would see gains. This would tend to send a wake up call to the worse states, which would act, based on economic pressure, to adjust the bad policies to be more in line with what people actually want. The more homogenous the states are, the less leverage the citizens have. Voting with your wallet (and your feet) is a great way to say "no thanks, buddy" to politicians that are out of control. With the feds running everything (and they pretty much are trying to), the differences erode and the citizen's power to force change with their feet/wallet erodes at the same time.


Most people aren't going to change states because of their state's policies. Also, environmental issues of one state effect the environment in other states.

Taking this idea even further, would you be pissed if you were a landowner and your next door neighbor decided to build a power plant and a toxic waste dump on his property? Clearly anyone who doesn't like it should leave his property. But you are on a different property.

(I've included this one to be fair, and as devils advocate, and you.  To this I say, perhaps environmental issues would be a federal issue, it does effect all states, so it makes sense.  That said whenever a power is given to the federal government you must be careful to limit it, and restrict it.  You must try to prevent them from using it to force their will on the states.  As for the claim that people wouldn't move, I think they would.  It's just a matter of how strongly they feel about the issue.  If NJ makes a law that you don't like, but you don't really care about you won't move.  But if NJ mandates that everyone wear ID badges at all times you'd probably move [or at least it'd be one more factor {note I know your stance on mandatory wearing of ID badges}])


"Don't you think the duplication of bureaucracy among the states is a waste of taxpayer money?"

No. For instance, what works for New York State, a verdant, wet and well populated region, will not work for Montana; we have other environmental issues. Socially, we're also different: Actions taken legally in Connecticut (for instance, that the state can steal your property under eminent domain for the basically evil purpose of getting more tax revenue out of it), are 100% illegal in Montana for the specific reason that we have our own bureaucracy and they aren't quite as batshit insane as those legislators abusing the citizens of Connecticut. Texans can't sell sex toys (poor bastards), but we can. In some states, atheists can't hold public office. Unbelievable, but 100% true. Please keep both the feds and your own state's ideas far, far, away - really, if you want these laws, by all means, but keep them to yourselves. I'm sure you don't want our idea of what is good law forced on you, either. People significantly differ in outlook by region for both social and practical geographical reasons.

State's rights are critically important, likewise it is important that we stop the feds from illegitimately taking over everything they put their nasty little fingers on. Take a look at what they've done with the commerce clause if you want to see just how out of their tiny little minds they are.


Those laws are on the books, but I doubt they'd pass constitutional muster. Of course, that provision won't be tested anytime soon because of this poll:

Gallup. 2/9-11. Adults. MoE 3% (no trend lines)
If your party nominated a well-qualified Candidate For WH '08 who was _, would you vote for that person?

Yes No
Catholic 95% 4%
Black 94 5
Jewish 92 7
A woman 88 11
Hispanic 87 12
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42
A homosexual 55 43
An atheist 45 53

Remember, even if you're well qualified, if you don't believe in the man in the sky, you aren't going to win an election.

(Off topic, and I think I've sent this poll to you before, but it is nuts.  Over half the country wouldn't vote for someone who didn't believe in god, more than a gay guy or a 72 year old, insane.)


Actually, there's both view on both sides of the political spectrum. Some conservatives want big government (as the current administration does), while other conservatives want small government (libertarians). Effectively, big government = federal rule, and small government = states rights.

Liberals are the same way - there are those who want the federal government to stay out of their lives and primarily be involved in regulating businesses, dealing with other countries, etc. Then there are the liberals who want the "mommy society", as a previous poster put it - i.e. the federal government regulating everything that could conceivably be considered harmful in any way.


Sure, every democrat has to sell his sole during primaries.

They sell the bottom of their feet? I thought most Democrat candidates were a bit off, but that's just weird.


Ron Paul is different. Check his congressional voting record. Go on. I dare you. It doesn't even slightly resemble any Demopublican or Republicrat you could possibly name. Then check his web site for his stated positions, and compare them to his voting record. You're in for a heck of a surprise. The man isn't evil at all. I don't agree with every position he holds, but the vast majority, I do. Furthermore, they actually are his positions and he actually votes his positions. It'd be a total mindf*ck to have a politician in the white house who made every effort to be reasonable, honest, and true to the constitutional basis of their job. Go on, check him out. I know you haven't, because even if you completely disagreed with the man, you'd never compare him to the run of the mill candidate. You'd have to disagree with him for entirely new reasons. :)


I agree completely, even though I'm supporting Ron Paul.

I'm not a libertarian at the state level. I'm a pretty radical socialist. If Ron Paul was running for my state rep or governor, I wouldn't give him the time of day. I'd be looking for someone to the left of Kucinich (if there is such a thing).

I'm a libertarian at the federal level because forcing my ideas on to the people of all 50 states is a bad way to get things done. You and I could be happy in our liberal paradise with our socialized medicine, $10/hr minimum wage, decent public schools, etc. The fine people in Utah wouldn't.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, the "red states" are a net negative on the treasury (they take in more federal money than they dole out in taxes). They're always trying to shove religion down our throat as well. Cut them loose and let them turn their population into a bunch of idiot hicks that can't get a job. We'll do just fine without them TYVM.

Let the politicians in the shitty states screw up their own states AND NOTHING MORE


A thing to note on Ron Paul, too, is that he is one of the few who voted against the Patriot Act and against Internet regulation. A few other nice things about him:

Paul unites opposition to the war and the police state at home across the entire political spectrum...

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul's Record
He has never voted to raise taxes.
He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
He has never taken a government-paid junket.
He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
He voted against the Patriot Act.
He voted against regulating the Internet.
He voted against the Iraq war.

He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.


If Elected I promise:
1) Decriminalize most crimes except for the really bad ones (Murder, rape, robbery, etc) and institute a policy of impaling for the rest of them. Worked for Vlad. I'd be Greyfox the impaler.

2) Mandatory reversible sterilization for all children at puberty.
3) Breeding license. It's harder to buy a gun or a car than it is to have a child. We'll have a test to insure that the Wrong Sorts don't breed.

4) Forced breeding but
5) Child rearing is a very difficult task and parents are far too busy these days. Therefore all children will be confiscated at birth and raised in sanitary state run facilities.

6) Not only will gay marriage be legal, it will be mandatory for all people who don't hold breeding licenses.
7) All organized religion will be abolished and a mandatory state run one involving Smurfs will be put into place.
8) Mandatory Samurai honor code for corporate executives and public officials. Bring shame to your office, commit sepuku.


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