Americans Rightly View the Federal Government as the Greatest Threat to Their Liberty

An excellent post by Conn Carroll at Townhall:

The New Republic‘s Franklin Foer wants you to believe that local governments, not the federal government, are the greatest threat to your liberty. Foer writes:

The libertarian’s jeremiads about creeping tyranny often seem the ravings of a paranoid. Then along comes Ferguson to confirm the dark warnings: Warrior cops stalk suburban streets, dressed in Desert Storm green and wielding automatic weapons aimed to fire. They detain journalists, hurl smoke bombs into unarmed crowds, and bury incriminating details.

Centuries ago, in the age of monarchs, the preservation of liberty required constraining the power of the central state. In our era, protecting rights requires the opposite. Only a strong federal government can curb the autocratic tendencies burbling across the country. Libertarians worry about the threat of local tyrants, too, but only abstractly. In practice, they remain so fixated on the perils of Washington that they rigidly insist on devolving power down to states, cities, and towns—the very places where their nightmares are springing to life.

Foer does makes some decent points in between these opening and closing paragraphs, but none are as clear cut as he lets on:

  • Thanks to ideological sorting, more localities are controlled by one party (although the examples he uses of recent local government corruption – New Jersey and Virginia – are both purple states on the local level).
  • There are fewer professional journalists covering local public policy issues (but there are many more amateurs using social media to inform their peers).
  • Americans know less about their local government than they do the federal government (although American knowledge about the federal government is nothing to brag about).
  • And minorities are more vulnerable from local majorities than national ones (but African-American voting turnout is up in the jurisdictions he complains about ,and illegal immigrants are free to move to sanctuary cities as they often do).

Whatever you think about Foer’s case, the American people don’t think much of it. They’ve been telling pollsters for years that they trust local governments far more than the they trust federal government, and that gap is only growing.

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