Column: A solution to secession fever — federalism
So what’s a solution? Let the central government do the things that only central governments can do — national defense, regulation of trade to keep the provinces from engaging in economic warfare with one another, protection of basic civil rights — and then let the provinces go their own way in most other issues. Don’t like the way things are run where you are? Move to a province that’s more to your taste. Meanwhile, approaches that work in individual provinces can, after some experimentation, be adopted by the central government, thus lowering the risk of adopting untested policies at the national level. You get the benefits of secession without seceding.
Sound good? It should. It’s called federalism, and it’s the approach chosen by the United States when it adopted the Constitution in 1789. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
It’s a nice plan. Beats secession. Maybe we should give it another try.
I’d take it, but we won’t get real federalism for the same reason we won’t get secession, because when secession was factored out as a legitimate solution in April 1865, the Federal government had no more incentive to obey the Tenth Amendment. Without the ability to secede, state governments lost their leverage to make the Federal government abide by the Tenth.
Our only real chance is the Hunter Wallace plan: Convince left wingers in the northeast and west coast that keeping us chained into the union is interfering with their drive to utopia.