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

Posted: Sep 04, 2014 5:00 PM

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

And while it is true that Democrats are more favorable to the federal government than Republicans are, Democrats still prefer their own local government to the federal government.

Gallup also finds that distrust in the federal government is at all time highs, although trust in state and local governments has dipped too recently (but they are still viewed much more positively).

Either way, when put head to head on fundamental issues like education and the economy, the vast majority of Americans trust their local leaders more than their federal ones.

Of course, there are some bad local governments that govern poorly That is probably why only 28 percent of the people of Illinois trust their state government

But the federal government has its problems too. Foer tries to sweep these under the rug reasoning:

The national government, after all, has a less than impeccable record, especially during wartime, when it produces the likes of the Patriot Act or worse. Yet its abuses, unlike those of its smaller counterparts, tend to quickly emerge into public view, as they did with the National Security Agency scandal. They are raked over by a feisty national press, interrogated by congressional committees, and reviewed by layers of courts.

Which is nice, but the VA has had well publicized problems for decades and yet the federal government hasn't been able to fix them. And despite all the press the NSA has received, Americans don't seem to think that problem has been fixed either. A majority of Americans now view the federal government as a threat to their personal rights and freedoms. Oh, and more Americans also now believe the federal government has too much power than ever

One reason American might have warmer feelings about their state and local governments is that they can always leave if they don't like them. Did your reform candidate in California lose? You can always move to Nevada, or Texas.

Americans simply do not have this option when it comes to the federal government. If the federal government fails, or is abusive, there is nowhere Americans can exit to, unless they want to stop being Americans.

That is why the federal government will always be the biggest threat to American liberty.