Washington, The States, And The People

by Conor Friedersdorf

Alex Knapp has some interesting historical notes on federalism in his latest effort to blog Liberty And Tyranny. He also writes this:

I actually don’t think that state and local government reflect their local constituents better. The fact of the matter is, people don’t really care much about local governments except when they’re screwing something up. I guarantee if you stopped 30 random people on the street in a normal sized suburb, they wouldn’t be able to name their mayor, City Councilmen for their district, or their State Representative. I’ll bet they CAN name the mayor of the nearest big city; the name of their governor, and the name of the President.

That last part is true. But local government does reflect prevailing local preferences a lot better than does the federal government. When I lived in Park Slope, I couldn't have told you the name of the people on my community board. But I'll bet a majority of them were in favor of mandatory recycling, as did most of my neighbors.

And I'll hazard that's a lot less common in the City Councils of the Sun Belt's exurbs, even though the people there have no idea who represents them in local government.

If something were to go wrong in that exurb, a concerned citizen could climb into his car, drive  to City Hall on a Wednesday night, stand up before a local access television camera, and explain to the mayor and everyone watching the exact nature of the problem. It's no wonder the response is often better than dealing with the feds. Most people underestimate how much change they can effect at the local level.