Has The Time for Federalism Ended?


As a response to a link I tweeted (this) comparing “Obamacare” to “Romneycare” (which was designed to show the striking similarities, and hilight the inconsistency in Romney’s position against the ACA), Adam responded:

“Not fair comparison, bec one was fed law and one was state law. Always was (was) arg that states can do what feds can’t.”

Now, setting aside that that still makes Romney a hypocrite, because he’d have Federal legislation banning gay marriage (supporting DOMA) but yet would preserve states right w/r/t health care.  Eh?

Anyway, that got me thinking about something that’s been brewing in my mind for quite a while: has the Federalist system of government in America run its course?

I understand the need or benefit of having local government run local concerns.  And I understand the benefit of having easily distinguishable units for the purposes of deciding representation in national government.

Yet…the idea that states are separate and independent governing bodies makes no sense in today’s world.  Things have changed drastically since the founding of the country.  Forget travel across state lines (Pennoyer v. Neff, anyone?) and interstate commerce…I can cross a DOZEN state lines the course of a few hours, not to mention communicate instantly with multiple people in every state at the SAME TIME without moving (TV, Radio, Twitter, etc.).  It’s not just that the rules have changed…it’s a completely different game now.

Should the person living in Hoboken, who commutes into NYC for work every day, really need to be governed by two separate state governments?  Is that genuinely the interest being protected.  That person is as much a New Yorker as a New Jerseyan, affected by NY law in a real way…yet he can’t vote for NY policy or governance.  I understand there are going to be cases in any system where people aren’t properly accounted for.  But in a system of regional governance that isn’t determined by random state lines, it’s less likely.

But even more so: we have the federal government, which, because we’re so close and connected, pretty much governs most things.  There shouldn’t be a fight over who gets to legislate marriage or health care.  Is the idea of marriage or health care different for me than it is for people living in New Jersey?  Should there be separate rules for the two of us?  We’re both American.

And I understand, yes, the consitution reserves rights for the states and you have to respect that.  First of all, I don’t respect the governance of dead men over the living.  A document written hundreds of years ought not control my life today.  That’s why I’m a Jeffersonian and believe in a living constitution.  But that’s a red herring.  Because for the purposes of this post it’s irrelevant.  I’m talking about what’s legal or in the Constitution, I’m trying to have a philisophical thought experiment here.  Has the reality that made Federalism a viable government model passed?  I think so.


2 responses to “Has The Time for Federalism Ended?

  1. Cross-posted where?

    • To a private blog I share with some anono-philic, publicity-phobic friends, to use as a twitter-overflow for longer discussions. Hence the generic (without a link).

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