X Close

How free should US states be? Americans have grown apart

Why not let states diverge on gun control? Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


October 24, 2022   6 mins

Years ago, I visited America’s most dignified factory. A place of noise, dust and heaving trucks. And yet of higher purpose. Granite Industries of Vermont is a principal maker and supplier of headstones for the government.

The factory workers constructed and inscribed the black granite for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. They created a national monument at Arlington for the Pentagon victims of the September 11 attacks, and they did the same for the heart-stopping 9/11 monument to New York City. They do it too for individual men and women who have been killed in action. When I was there, the Iraq war was raging and they were busy.

Two things struck me about Granite Industries and its place in US life. The first was how remote America’s beating heart can be. Vermont is mainly forest. In winter, it glistens in gorgeous silence as the snows come and go. This company plays a central part in American life and yet exists in an unexplored, unpopulated corner of the nation.

The second thing was how corners of the nation can be not just unexplored but genuinely separate from the rest. Yes, America is a collection of states, and yes, the constitution does not refer to a single nation. But the lived experience of these facts is still somewhat alien to those of us who come from centralised nations, and frankly alien to some Americans, particularly on the Left, who have convinced themselves in recent decades that the Unum is more important than the pluribus.

It’s a fascinating fact that the very same people who value diversity seem not to be keen on it in an area of American life where it has traditionally existed: the relationship between the states and the central federal government. There is evidence aplenty that this diversity is growing to an extent that is unavoidable, occasionally dangerous, but in some ways positive.

To state the obvious first: American states are hugely different even in areas where the geography, the weather, the feel to a visiting Martian, might be similar. Vermont and New Hampshire are good examples. When I drove to see the headstones that day, we crossed from New Hampshire. There’s a sign, “Welcome to Vermont” — but there doesn’t have to be. The last thing you see on the New Hampshire side of the interstate is a Walmart and dozens of other large stores and car parks and accompanying tat.

Then just trees. This is because New Hampshire has no sales tax. So no big stores see the point of basing themselves on the Vermont side of the border where you have to pay a hefty 6% on anything you buy. In theory Vermonters have to declare stuff they bring home but, well, that’s in theory.

There is otherwise little difference between the states — both mainly trees perched on granite. But New Hampshire is a proto-libertarian paradise whose state motto is “Live Free or Die” (there used to be a Free State Project that tried to get libertarians to live there) and Vermont is one of the most taxed and regulated states in the Union whose most famous politician is a self-described socialist, Bernie Sanders.

Good luck to them both. That’s the kind of difference that all America can cope with, even celebrate. What happens now though if the differences become even wider and extend into areas of life that touch everyone?

One of the greatest political victories of recent times in America was that of the Federalist Society founded at Yale Law School in 1982. Its aim was “checking federal power, protecting individual liberty and interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning” — in other words, upholding the legal concept of “originalism”. It set about its business of changing the judiciary and advancing its own members with gusto and guile and, via the Supreme Court justice picks of Donald Trump, has won its battle, indeed for a generation, won its war.

But coverage of the victory has concentrated on the wrong aspects of that core mission statement. Yes, originalism and individual liberty have consequences for law, but what of the first part, the checking of federal power?

This is what the court has begun to do and this is what might change America: de-nationalise it to an extent that goes far beyond the odd tax difference. The court may pull it apart or allow it to come apart gradually, but either way points to a new dispensation with some basic rights that all Americans can enjoy, but not nearly so many of them.

It’s worth stressing that the nationalisation of so much of American life was a bipartisan affair even if the Republicans rhetorically railed against it. The prominence of business regulatory issues on the GOP’s agenda meant that in some areas they were the keenest of federal regulators. Large companies tend to prefer comprehensive standards to a hodgepodge of local rules. But now of course the party has largely said goodbye to big business and howdy to the mom-and-pop world of low tax and local regulation. This change allows state control to be a genuine aim.

Individual states will be where the action is in this new world. The end of Roe v. Wade made no difference to the rights of women to have abortions in those states that want those rights protected. Indeed, in Kansas it may well have reinvigorated a local sense of the importance that abortion should remain legal. But what the court undoubtedly did is check federal power.

The idea of national progress — an idea that extends back to FDR and the New Deal — may well be coming to an end. American history is rightly seen as a series of broad periods of consensus with one party or tendency in overall power. The most recent is the post-war welfare state, which not only improved the lives of Americans in material ways but also gave them the right to a decent life. This helped to forge a sense of national destiny, as such rights must be for everyone or else they don’t count as rights. That is what is threatened now. How odd if Trump — flawed in so many ways — goes down in history as the bringer of such profound change.

Of course, there are dangers. “States’ rights” used to mean rights for racists: a rallying cry for the slave-owning South. Might it again? Might states that don’t care much for national democracy go their own way? In Arizona, the Republican candidates for Governor and Secretary of State are both refusing to commit to accepting potential defeat in the midterm elections next month. They seem to be suggesting that Arizona opts out of democracy as it is currently understood. In the event of them winning office, it is difficult to see Arizona accepting anything other than a Republican victory at the next presidential election.

Unilateral secession is not permitted of course under the post-Civil War settlement. But what about plain rogue-ness? The Supreme Court is about to hear a case that would give added power over federal elections to state legislatures and might encourage them to refuse to certify results they didn’t like. It’s freedom for states to be sure, but is it democracy?

None of those threats is easily dismissed. But nor should the potential upside be ignored in a situation where — as a matter of simply empirical fact — Americans have grown apart and done so with some enthusiasm on both sides. Some will see federalism as a rescue mechanism: a multi-speed America where California can press ahead on climate change, Florida can cut tax on business, some states can decriminalise marijuana and some not. In the battle over trans rights some might favour natal females, perhaps in girl’s sport, and some might back the rights of trans women. Choices, choices, choices. Above all this becomes an America where you might want to do something, ban something, enforce something, but in my state we tell you to sling your hook. And the Supreme Court backs me.

America is huge. You can get a U-Haul truck and move. Millions do. You can also write home from where you have gone and tell folks how much better things are where you live. If you are convincing, they may press for change where they are too.

In 1968, Vermont became the first state in the continental USA to ban advertising billboards. You need a clear view of the trees, they decided. Some thought it was the beginning of communism, and would soon beenforced nationwide. In the end a couple of other tree-filled states joined in, but most of America is still a billboard heaven.

The point is this: you have no right to billboard-free life in America. But you do have a right to live in a state that bans them. If you feel strongly about universal billboard rights you are going to hate this: but you might have to live with it, and in time you’ll settle down.

The midterm elections next month will lead — via Democratic Party losses in the House and possibly the Senate — to more talk of the end of American democracy. Election deniers will be on the march. Yet although America is indeed troubled, there are still options short of conflict. Perhaps that’s the way to see the new federalism: as balm, in troubled times.


Justin Webb presents the Americast podcast and Today on Radio Four. His Panorama documentary “Trump the Sequel”, is available now on  Iplayer

JustinOnWeb

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

80 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peter Johnson
PJ
Peter Johnson
1 year ago

The author shows the typical bias in that somehow the Democrats losing would be a threat to democracy. In my opinion the Democrats with their mail in ballots and unattended drop boxes and no ID voting are the threat. However I think the author’s conclusion is correct. A looser confederation could save the US from civil conflict. People can self sort by jurisdiction and everyone can be reasonably happy. In Canada where I live the same trend is occurring with the three Prairie Provinces refusing to enforce new federal gun rules and threatening to arrest federal employees who trespass on private land (to test for nitrogen levels). Unfortunately federal powers in Canada are much stronger so we can’t really have the US solution.

David Yetter
DY
David Yetter
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Indeed, I’m not sure why a reporter for the BBC should have imbibed the attitude (I suppose Labour leaning folk just accept what American Democrats say), but as I have repeatedly opined in many fora, when an American Democrats say “democracy” (esp. preceded by “our”), they do not mean rule by the δῆμος, they mean rule by Democrats.
Any who doubt this should consider not only the objection to voting security measures as “threats to democracy” (as if somehow Norway, France, Mexico, Iceland and a host of other nations which require voter ID and/or voting in person are undemocratic), but also the absurdity of the American media (which skews heavily Democrat) and some Democrat politicians declaring that returning the regulation of abortion to the elected legislatures of the several states, rather than having a national standard (of non-regulation) mandated by unelected judges was a “threat to democracy” or “undemocratic”. This makes sense if one glosses their meaning as I suggested, as most of the legislatures of the several states are controlled by Republicans, but otherwise is a complete non-sequitur.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Yetter
Russ W
RW
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  David Yetter

Here here. Well said!

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago

”Of course, there are dangers. “States’ rights” used to mean rights for racists: a rallying cry for the slave-owning South.”

Thanks for this gratuitous bit of Racist Branding.

Justin Webb presents Radio 4’s Today programme and was previously the BBC’s North America Editor”

Oh…. I get it……..

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Is what Justin wrote not true?

Gary Cruse
GC
Gary Cruse
1 year ago

No, it is not. The enumerated Constitutional powers leave all other to the states. Federal government blasted through those barriers long ago, and Dubya Bush, by pushing Gonzales v Raich, blew down any remaining check of federal overreach. States’ Rights is a drive to re-establish local control. Otherwise the Republic is dead, long live the nation-state. Slandering believers in the Republic as it was established with the racist shibboleth comes from the same people who see Voter ID as voter suppression, something I don’t think Europeans would agree with, either.

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Gary, places like Alabamba and Mississippi were bywords for racism. Can we agree that there was substantial, systemic racism in those Southern states? And that when they resisted having changes forced on them, particularly by presidents Kennedy & Johnson, one of the arguments they tried to use to resist federal interference was ‘state’s rights’. That’s all that Justin Webb wrote in the quote, and it seems correct to me.

Andy O'Gorman
AO
Andy O'Gorman
1 year ago

“There was” – past tense! Nearly 70 years ago.

Robert Kaye
RK
Robert Kaye
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

And he said “used to” – past tense.

laurence scaduto
LS
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

Neither Mr. Webb’s essay nor Mr.Hamilton’s comment go beyond that past tense. In fact it’s interesting to see the changes that have taken place.
There’s been, in recent years, a large influx of Black people moving to Southern states (along with everyone else). When I speak with (Black) friends about it they say it’s a “nicer, less hurried, more affordable” place to live. They talk about where their grandma used to live. They don’t say anything about racism.
But White friends who have moved south always complain about how biggoted the culture is. So who knows?

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago

Pure propaganda. The majority of Americans then supported State’s rights. They had an entire universe of reason. You are attempting to conflate the fact that in some political talk some people may have meant that with the national attitude. That is a racist viewpoint.

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago

Not particularly. It’s simply Northern revisionism.

Cathy Carron
CC
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Web’s ‘Southern’ comment refers to an almost 200 year old ‘artifact’. In ways, it’s gratuitous and repulsive. His topic is interesting but would have been far more Illuminating had it not been argued with a bias.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

I could be wrong, but I believe the point he was trying to make was that if you have states with such vastly different laws and attitudes such as the historical example he mentioned, then surely at some point the USA ceases to be a single country?
If every state has total freedom to go its own way, with local politicians having as much power as national ones then what is there to hold the country together long term?

Gary Cruse
GC
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

A spirit of nationalism is the glue holding a disparate country together. Where is all the clamoring for diversity at the highest levels?

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

But how long can a spirit of nationalism prevail if every state is living completely different lives?

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That’s the argument presented by every wannabe totalitarian in America’s history. It is merely hypothetical, a political talking point boogeyman.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

Why is it hypothetical? If the states drift ever further apart, with no common laws or attitudes to bind them together, what’s to eventually stop them going the way of the Balkans?

Cathy Carron
CC
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Fact: every state does have a ‘different culture’. This has made us an interesting country. Homogeneity would be boring. Fact: Democrat leadership has tamped down ‘patriotism’ and nationalism. Ironically, they constantly strive to bring us a one-world Utopianism, yet at the same time that party slices and dices and panders to specific segments of the electorate, making an citizen’s head spin.

Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Great points but I disagree about homogeneity. Common dominant culture and values make citizens feel secure.

Wim de Vriend
WD
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That’s a ridiculous overstatement — a misrepresentation of the facts, for sure. In every state you will find lots of flag-waving, people pledging allegiance to the flag, etcetera. “Living completely different lives” — have you ever been to America?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And what eventuates is balkanisation, which you don’t hear about so much but was once a subject of conversation in the US.

Jeremy Bray
JB
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

We see the same balkanising tendency in Sturgeon’s National Socialist government in Scotland where different outcomes financed by financial transfers from England tear at the unity of the UK.

laurence scaduto
LS
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And if that were what the people realy wanted why would it be wrong? Is there (has there ever been?) something sacred about the borders of a nation? Do the benefits of scale outwiegh the desires of the people?

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago

I never said it would be wrong, my point was that if Americans want the USA to stay as one entity then you can’t have different areas drifting ever further apart

Deborah H
DH
Deborah H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

what holds the EU together? How different is Poland from Italy?

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Deborah H

What holds the EU together is mostly German money and the fact the countries involved still call themselves sovereign nations, even if they do slowly lose their powers to the bloc

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yup in those days it was the rights of man and slavery that made the state application of some national laws problematic; these days it’s women’s rights, gay marriage and self ID trans people that are the issue.

We’re going to hit the same problem in the U.K. if the SNP government makes gender self ID permissible in Scotland.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

LOL it’s not like it was a disaster before all the federal meddling. The fed should provide for national defense and a few things related to commerce but mostly let the states run themselves as they did at the start.

Matt Hindman
MH
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

This is like the fourth time in my life when the Democrats have rediscovered their love of Federalism and coincidentally, they have all coincided with a loss of their political power.
Funny enough, you can thank the Anti-Federalist Papers for why the United States has Federalism and a Bill of Rights.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Hindman
Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Astute observation. The totalitarian playbook never changes, it is always about deception.

Hugh Bryant
HB
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

If we knew what is the best way to run a school or a hospital or an urban transportation system or a radio station then it would make sense to run them all in the same way.

But we don’t so it doesn’t.

Quite pleasing to read someone from the BBC acknowledging that monolithic systems are not always the answer. Once he’s ready to accept that they are never the answer we’ll really be getting somewhere.

Andrew Wise
AW
Andrew Wise
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

If we knew what is the best way to run a school or a hospital or an urban transportation system or a radio station then it would make sense to run them all in the same way.

Exactly what’s wrong with socialist Britain today – we do
(fortunately some radio escaped, but the state broadcaster has the dominant budget & presence)

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Not to mention that humans do not even agree what “best” means. Totalitarians always give the same answer: Central Control! In all of history, the only ones who ever benefited from that answer are the totalitarians.

laurence scaduto
LS
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

And large corporations.

Doug Pingel
DP
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Did you deliberately leave out – NHS (Shush!)

Terry M
TM
Terry M
1 year ago

The Supreme Court is about to hear a case that would give added power over federal elections to state legislatures and might encourage them to refuse to certify results they didn’t like. It’s freedom for states to be sure, but is it democracy?
Let’s hope the Supreme Court follows the Constitution rather than caving into fear-mongering, as the author has. Democracy doesn’t exist in the USA, we are a constitutional republic, and glad of it.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 2:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

Article IV Section 4 guarantees us a right to “a Republican form of government.” That means (among other things) free and fair elections, and by simple extension it conveys to us a “right to know” (ie an obligation for government to prove each election legitimate, no matter what ways and methods the State employs).
As in so many other issues, the Constitution provides the answers which seem so elusive. Any State election process which cannot or does not produce proof of legitimacy, isn’t, and their election results should be declared null and void.
That alone would invalidate virtually every Blue State’s election laws, as they are insufficiently secure (by design) to provide such proof.

Sisyphus Jones
SJ
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

The most recent [period of consensus] is the post-war welfare state, which not only improved the lives of Americans in material ways but also gave them the right to a decent life. This helped to forge a sense of national destiny, as such rights must be for everyone or else they don’t count as rights. That is what is threatened now.

The welfare state has done what a century of Jim Crow was unable to do: destroy the black family. The welfare state pays black people to be poor and black mothers to have children out of wedlock. The lawlessness and violence in our inner-cities, where black men are more likely to go to prison than graduate from college, can be directly linked to fatherless homes which are the result of perverse incentives baked into the welfare state cake. Any BBC pundit tempted to write about America should first live in Memphis for six months.

Jeff Cunningham
JC
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Sisyphus Jones

I was thinking about replying to that and you saved me the trouble. The about-face in the previous slow steady progress among the majority of Blacks in this country that occurred after the sixties through the subsequent destruction of their families due to Welfare is horrible to dwell on. Then to see someone laud this in a country whose airwaves and medical system have both been socialized is beyond (my) words. The welfare state didn’t “improve lives”, it destroyed families and spawned generations leading marginalized, zombie lives.

There is an analogy here with the COVID shutdowns. Sure, some lives were saved. But at what cost? How many more lives are now blighted?

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

 “States’ rights” used to mean rights for racists: a rallying cry for the slave-owning South.”
*ahem* Slave-owning Democrats.

michael harris
MH
michael harris
1 year ago

Alison, you must realise that since LBJ’s ‘betrayal of the South’ the roles of the two parties have exactly switched.
The Republicans, the former hated ‘party of Lincoln’ have become the friends of the old Southerners.
The Democrats who previously overthrew Reconstruction retreated to the industrial North, supported the sons and grandsons of slaves and became ideologically homogeneous (to the left).
The Republicans took over political power in the ex slave States. This was the entire purpose of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’.
Equating the Democrat party today (for all its horrors) with the pre Nixon Democrat party is a sleazy trick.

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Ridiculous old myth designed to absolve Democrats of their historic and ongoing racism.

Linda Hutchinson
LH
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

Not a myth. I don’t think a present day political party should be held responsible for what was done in the past by the party, (different people) any more than I think a present population of a nation should be held responsible for what was done by that nation in the past (different people, again). However, failures and wrongs aught to be acknowledged.

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Absolutely a myth, and the current Democrat Party is as racist as it always was.

Samuel Ross
SR
Samuel Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

So, Clinton, Obama, and Biden are all Republicans? You’re not making sense, pal. When was this mythical “switch”?

Eric Olsen
EO
Eric Olsen
1 year ago

Democrats denied the humanity of blacks in order to enslave them. Democrats today deny the humanity of unborn children, even to the moment of birth (and beyond). An unborn scream of pain during a “reproductive right” procedure is a silent scream because that baby is not human. So Democrats are consistent on the value of human life.

Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Olsen

In order to enslave them? They were sold by Africans who conquered their tribes as were many other people in other countries back from time immemorial.

Andy O'Gorman
AO
Andy O'Gorman
1 year ago

If the Democrats mange to swindle another election, there will be another revolution – not a civil war.

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

There will be nothing “civil” about it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johnathan Galt
Peter Johnson
PJ
Peter Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

I think that is what people don’t understand. The status quo can’t hold much longer.

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

Look in the mirror for the swindler, or rather the swindled. All three branches of govt, all security services, all countries, 80 court cases, agree that Biden won fairly and that Trump is the dissembler. One of the more obvious things to see, in a complex world. I wonder how y’all going to explain to your grandchildren that you were taken in by the word of a lying narcissist – some of his words anyway, as he is on record as admitting his defeat, and that he was going to fight it anyway. Grafting and grifting, the secret of his success in business and in politics.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dominic A
Andy O'Gorman
AO
Andy O'Gorman
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

And my aunty is my uncle – she at least has balls!
You are just quoting the MSM and there are many ways to steal an election. One is by not letting the truth be know about a candidate’s nefarious son. Had that been given the deserved airtime Biden would not be occupying the Oval Office – because that is all he does.
And was never a Trump supporter and still not.

Steve Cobb
SC
Steve Cobb
1 year ago

“there used to be a Free State Project that tried to get libertarians to live there”
I used to be in charge of the FSP‘s publicity. A decade ago your statement would have made me cry, but now it evoked a belly laugh. How could you say such a thing just two weeks before the midterm elections?! Have you really never heard of PorcFest (“libertarian Burning Man”), the biggest libertarian event in the world? You’ll have to wait until June for that, but if brave the winter you could check out the smaller NH Liberty Forum.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Cobb
Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Cobb

Hey, just want to say thanks for putting all those quarters in my meters on Central Square!

Steve Cobb
SC
Steve Cobb
1 year ago

Ah, the Robin Hood campaign. Those were the Keeneiacs. Not quite my faction, but I’ll pass it on!

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Cobb
James H Johnson
JJ
James H Johnson
1 year ago

The original idea was brilliant and simple. A federal government to provide services for the common good; defense, currency, post office, diplomacy etc. The rest was left to the people of the states with the expectation local needs, customs and preferences be considered, America is a vast country. It only makes sense that Wyoming, a state of less that a million people would have vastly different needs than major population states such as New York or California.

Sam McGowan
SM
Sam McGowan
1 year ago

What Europeans fail to realize is that Europe’s nation/states are little bitty compared to most American states – Vermont and New Hampshire, along with Rhode Island are exceptions. The entirety of England would fit inside Alabama and all of Western Europe would fit inside the Northeast – which would fit in Texas with (a lot) of room to spare. No, “states rights” was NOT a cry of “racists (a term popularized by Trotzky), it was a cry for the rights of states as stipulated in the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Still, it is an overall decent article.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam McGowan

Interesting that you fail to realise that the size of states is almost irrelevant to the establishment of cultural differences. A mere 2 day tour can encompass several of these itty bitty European states and make these differences clear, even to big country Americans.

Simon James
SJ
Simon James
1 year ago

Even in centralised nations hope for the future of politics and for social and cultural flourishing looks increasingly like devolution of power and more local decision making. Why should the people of Brighton and Penzance be made to align their views and their behaviour on potentially divisive social issues? An increasingly diverse and inclusive national outlook made sense when it was about welcoming more and more people from the margins into the big tent, but the big tent is gone. America looks like it has the worst case of this amongst developed nations but in the UK and even in England you need magical thinking to believe that a leader is going to emerge who unites the country.

John 0
J
John 0
1 year ago

The big issues are not between people in different states, there is good will there. The problem is we are seeing governments push well beyond constitutional limits, including health mandates, surveillance, censorship, propaganda, and money printing.

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  John 0

War on drugs.
Coup attempt.
Banning abortion.
Iraq war 2.
Watergate.
Vietnam war & draft
McCarthy witch hunts.
Internment of Japanese Americans.
Racial segregation.

It’s not new that US Governments have a ‘flexible’ interpretation of the Constitution.

Methadras Aszlosis
MA
Methadras Aszlosis
1 year ago

States’ rights” used to mean rights for racists: a rallying cry for the slave-owning South.”
Are you f*****g joking? States’ rights as enumerated by the 10th amendment were neither a rallying cry for racists or any other such nonsensical dirge. Since during the time of the confederacy, they had an absolute right to govern themselves outside of Federal purview for anything that wasn’t enumerated in the Constitution. Yes, the Constitution has a supremacy clause in it, but if it ran afoul of the 10th Amendment then there were processes in place to adjudicate any disagreements.
But to use it as a way to race bait is a stupendous farce and is utterly indicative of the typical European snobbery and smarm that many of you guys hold in assumption to American jurist prudence. In short, this was a moronic attempt at trying to lambast the US for its once-slavery roots, which by the way, you utterly neglect in mentioning how Europe was the granddaddy of slavery in the late middle-ages prior to the founding of the colonies in the 16th century.
Also, the US is a Constitutional representative republic. It is not a democracy, so let me disabuse you of that idiotic notion that you and the rest of the lamenting leftists and democrats squeal at every opportunity that doesn’t get their way.

Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago

Slavery was not unusual in most countries from what I’ve read.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Unilateral secession is not permitted of course under the post-Civil War settlement.”
Prior to the civil war, was unilateral secession covered in the constitution and was it permissible, and if so, did the confederacy just go about it the wrong way?
I hadn’t realised that unilateral secession was impossible under any circumstances – why did people use to talk about California seceding? Given the USA’s support of sub-national independence movements across the world , it seems rather paradoxical and extreme that a state can’t secede.

Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

If I remember correctly they changed it after the war because at the time most people believed that they did have the right to do it.

Brian Villanueva
BV
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

This is nothing but standard, secular liberalism in that it’s entirely procedural and free of moral content. “Some states can protect natal females, others will embrace trans rights”, “some states will permit abortions, others will prohibit them”… as though these are simply dinner menu options and not core theological questions about the nature of man and of human life. And how does such a framework deal with issues like globalization, immigration, trade policy, national defense, exporting wokeness, etc.

Procedural liberalism is dying for a reason: it talks incessantly about the myriad of ways man CAN live but resists any attempt to say how man OUGHT to live. Progressive wokeness is rising in part because it gives people a purpose and defines standards for how a “good” man ought to live: defer to BIPOCs, celebrate all sexual choices, treat people as emblems of their intersectional group, etc… It’s a warped morality, but it is a set of MORAL ideas, and as Victor Frankl said, “man can survive any how if he has a why” to live. Man craves the exact think secular liberalism won’t provide: standards. Abstract proceduralism can’t compete with that.

A society built on nothing but “my rights end at your nose” sounds good, but it’s not stable. It devolves into an ever larger state policing an ever increasing number of conflicts between rights and noses, all in the name of “freedom”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
Elizabeth dSJ
ED
Elizabeth dSJ
1 year ago

The only way to turn back Federalism would be to repeal the 14th Amendment which is a scared relic second only to Emma Lazarus’ poem for liberals and Marxists of all stripes.

Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Elizabeth dSJ

This exactly.

Jim Haggerty
JH
Jim Haggerty
1 year ago

Midterm elections will lead… to more talk of the end of American Democracy. A fitting synopsis of how far afield we have gotten. I don’t think the Country survives in its current form without a greater focus on the States…Possibly even more of an equalized taxing ability. Neither side values the other any more and nothing lasts forever. The growth of the Federal Govt and subsequent power focus shift has created an untenable conflict

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“Of course, there are dangers. “States’ rights” used to mean rights for racists: a rallying cry for the slave-owning South. Might it again?”

That’s the problem. What will a majority of Americans see as ‘basic human rights’ that they would like to see enforced in some states? In Australia, the states depend on the federal government for money. Is it the same in the U.S.? That’s a power that can be used by a federal government to ‘persuade’ states to conform to the majority national standard.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Except during Covid the states somehow got to call the shots. And the states seem to have realised that they can push and pull the Federal Government as it suits.

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Well, state or federal, the health bureaucrats all seemed to recommend the same approach, and the politicians didn’t dare to disagree.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Health bureaucrats are not government. And don’t forget that closed borders were a state matter.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Andrew Holmes
AH
Andrew Holmes
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Reviews of Dr Brix’s memoir raises the question as to whether health bureaucrats were indeed the government.

Johnathan Galt
JG
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Which is how it should be. This is the United States, not the Empire of States.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“In Australia, the states depend on the federal government for money.”
Thats not entirely accurate. The states receive something like 45% of their revenue from the Federal Government.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I’d say that makes them fairly dependent, seeing as almost half their budget comes from the national government

Hardee Hodges
HH
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

The battle between power sharing between states and the federal government has raged since the USA was founded. Somehow for 200 years+ people have muddled through with the sway of the political pendulum. Many assert FDR’s expansion of the commerce clause via a forced court decision was quite wrong in reducing state’s rights. (The term state’s rights was in use well before it associated with racists).
The key ability now becoming obvious is the vote by feet. Many tired of a given state’s operations are moving including many businesses. If they feel overtaxed they can act. One party rule states where the pendulum never swings are likely to suffer as they should because the voter franchise has been lost in a 50/50 nation.
We can hope this period of intense partisanship and inability to compromise will grind to an end. It has done so in the past as the fringes anger the voter. With luck, the system will correct itself. But if people become corrupt, without honor, the experiment will end and the USA will become another failed nation.

Paula G
PG
Paula G
1 year ago

Citations, please. The Arizona Republicans are already saying they won’t accept the results of the election?