The creators of America’s system of governance recognized that different people want different things. They not only ensconced this philosophically in the “pursuit of happiness” understanding, but practically in their creation of a federalist system, where different states could function in different ways, subject only to protections for rights that they correctly deemed universal and inalienable, and under a relatively loose umbrella of common interests and rules.

This system allowed a New York industrialist and a Georgia farmer to live in the same country, but manage their politics in significantly different ways. It’s a system that has been copied many times over.

Somewhere along the way (about a century ago), the idea of states working each in its own way started giving ground to one that granted more power to the Federal government, which would impose single, less-tailored rule sets across the entire nation. That shift of power away from the States has continued, mostly unabated, through to today, and we witness, especially from the Left, even- and ever-more desire to impose blanket policies and rules on everyone. That the Left faces resistance from the Right on these policies and rules is a source of great consternation and anger to both, and this resistance slows the Left’s progress towards those policies and rules.

There’s an interesting dissonance therein. Our Federalist system offers those who want to live a certain way the option to move to places that better align with their desires, and indeed we see those sorts of migrations all the time. Thus, it would best suit people who embrace progressive values to concentrate themselves in places that already reflect those values and choices (ditto for conservatives, of course). See something you like in the policies of California? Move there. See something you like in the policies of Utah? Move there. And, in doing so, you help achieve more of what you like, by contributing your voice and vote to the majority that make those places so.

The dissonance lies in the national-level focus the Left has in its policy demands. More can certainly be achieved at the state and local level, by concentrating efforts there, encouraging immigration to those places, and prompting emigration by those who have different values, than by pursuing policies for the entire nation, and having to face the resistance of those who disagree and who can’t “go elsewhere.” In other words, if you want to make a better society, do so in particular states. If you’re right, as you certainly believe you are, making those places better will attract more people to them, like-minded people, and make it even easier to make more changes of the good sort. You won’t face nearly as much resistance as you currently do.

Liberals should be as federalist and states-rights-minded as conservatives and libertarians. Why, then, is this not so? Why does the Left put so much effort into imposing its policies on people who don’t like those policies? Why does it increase its difficulty, and reduce its success, by insisting on policy battles with the benighted not-Left?

Could it be that the Left’s desire to improve the lives of its adherents is secondary to the desire to control and subjugate those who disagree? Is the real priority control, rather than betterment? The first response will be about protecting the poor, but that’s as easily managed by throwing the states’ doors open for those who wish to move there as it is in trying to force the resistant to behave differently. The second response will be about protecting the rights of the oppressed, but, again, invite them to your meccas, instead of fighting futile fights in hostile territory. Believe me, no one in those areas is going to force someone to stay where he doesn’t wish to.

It’s hard to conclude otherwise. Any rational assessment comes to the same answer: the priority is to impose one’s viewpoint on others, not make things better for others. If one cannot convince, then one seeks to coerce. It’s born of a presumption of superiority, as in “we know better, and those who won’t concede that we do don’t deserve to be treated as equals.” It’s grossly offensive, and for that reason it’ll be vehemently denied (with obligatory slurs and insults), but that doesn’t make it untrue. Otherwise, we’d see a whole lot more progressives embracing states’ rights (which they do, selectively and hypocritically, when the opposition’s in power).

If you want to be a true progressive, you should embrace federalism: a small and weak central government, and a lot more power at the state level. You can get a whole lot more of how you want things to be that way.

Unless, what you really want is to squash your opponents. If so, at least be honest about it.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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