Joel Kotkin writes,
In an election cycle full of spittle and bile, arguably the greatest issue — the nature of governance and the role of citizens — has been all but ignored. Neither candidate for president has much feel for the old American notion of dispersed power. Instead each has his or her own plans for ever greater centralization.
This profound disregard for the restraints of federalism comes at a time when our economy is undergoing profound centralization. Regulatory and monetary policy has benefited those with access to the most capital, making this economy more concentrated than at any time in recent history. This is particularly true in the information sector, which is now dominated by a handful of firms able to devour any competitor without fear of anti-trust objections from Washington.
This centralization is not occurring by popular demand. By a wide margin — 64 percent to 26 percent, according to a 2015 poll — Americans say they feel “more progress” comes from the local level than the federal level. Majorities of all political affiliations and all demographic groups hold this same opinion.
The preference for localism also extends to attitudes toward state governments, many of which have grown more powerful and intrusive in recent years. Seventy-two percent of Americans, according to Gallup, trust their local governments more than they do their state institutions; even in California, the mecca for ever-expanding government, large majorities favor transferring tax dollars from Sacramento to the localities.
…The federal government, a source of pride in the days of the New Deal, the Second World War, the Cold War and the civil rights struggle, is now regarded by half of all Americans, according to Gallup, as “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” In 2003 only 30 percent of Americans felt that way. A recent survey conducted by Chapman University found that more Americans now have a greater fear of their own government than they do of outside threats.
…President Obama has become one of the most prolific authors of executive power in U.S. history. Critically, this has occurred in a time of relative peace and no compelling national emergency.
We need to forge a new path that empowers the grassroots economy and polity, and respects the diversity of contemporary America. We can’t expect that this movement will draw much interest from Washington institutions, which gorge on centralization, but it could be propelled by local communities and people who still believe in the decentralized democracy envisioned by the Founders.
Read more here.