Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Devolution Is Our Friend

Devolution hits the Wall Street Journal:

Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society.

I think the easiest push in this direction is to get a state, any state to voluntarily break itself up into smaller pieces. California ranks high on the list because they could start a ballot initiative in the face of the current regime's bankruptcy.

This idea is reminding me of research I came across long ago suggesting the legislative houses (whether parliament or congress) are only effective at populations numbered in the thousands. I'll be more specific when I find the source again, but I remember thinking there should be a few in this city, but meanwhile we've got one making a right mess while ostensibly attempting to serve 300 million people across an awful lot of real estate.

In the case of the state and federal governments, we see an economy of influence has taken over the culture in a way that it simply couldn't in an institution serving a smaller group of voters. We can see this by looking at the stated ways we are supposed to do things versus the 'friend of a friend' way that actually works. People can't help but prioritize issues based on relationships- in many ways helpful on a small scale, but dangerous when the range of power is large. Washington D.C. is awash with money being spent seeking relationships with your representatives precisely because a little money spent dazzling them pays off so well.

But keep the size of the voting base and the state small, and the representative will have the actual names and hot-button issues of his voters in his head. Meanwhile the lobbyists end up out of business because businesses will notice it makes more sense using their capital to do business instead of sending lobbyists all over creation to gain political favor.

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