Jonah Goldberg
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One of my New Year's resolutions is to work harder to persuade ideological friends and foes alike that the way to reduce partisanship and maximize happiness in America is to embrace federalism -- the view that we should push as many decisions as possible to the lowest local level feasible.

Federalism reduces partisanship by shrinking the importance of the federal government. It increases happiness by maximizing the number of people who get to live the way they want to live.

Unfortunately, proponents of federalism tend to start the conversation with the really big issues: gay marriage, drugs, guns, abortion, etc.

I'm for making all of those things local issues wherever possible, too. But, admittedly, those questions are complicated or emotionally freighted. Some questions do cut to the heart of what it means to be an American.

But many don't. So let's start there.

For instance, consider the case of Ernest Hemingway's six-toed cats. According to legend, the writer was given a polydactyl (six-toed) feline named Snowball. Under a deadline, I could not determine whether Snowball was in fact male or female, but assuming he was a he, Snowball managed to overcome the limitations of his emasculating name to leave behind generations of progeny.

Snowball's six-toed descendants live on at the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year to see where Hemingway lived when he wrote "To Have and Have Not" and to see 50 or so cats of Snowballian lineage lounge about the grounds of the Spanish colonial.

The cats get weekly veterinary visits and regular belly-scratchings from tourists. The Hemingway Home website says that the cats even have a corporate sponsor, Pfizer, which provides free medicine for them. Most are spayed or neutered to keep the number of Snowball's descendants from snowballing.

The property has a high wall, but as cats are wont to do, they occasionally get out and wantonly rub up against the legs of passersby.

In short, the whole scene is one of sickening cuteness and laid-back charm, consecrated by time and local tradition.

And the federal government cannot abide that.

The Department of Agriculture insists that the cats, with their flagrant sidewalk-napping and unauthorized public self-grooming, must be regulated like lions or elephants or any other "animal exhibit." As a result, the owners of the museum must:

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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