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States Rights - Dilbert Blog

States Rights

I’m wondering if supporters of a strict interpretation of States Rights in the U.S. are anti-science. In other words, if you believe a state can make better decisions for its residents than the federal government, what evidence do you have to support that view? Is it possible to compare the performance of a state against the performance of the federal government for the topics that are relevant to the issue of States Rights? Probably not. In that case, how does a rational person form an opinion on States Rights?

I understand the common sense argument in favor of States Rights. If a state is different from the rest of the country in a particular way, the state can design laws that fit its circumstances and desires without federal interference. It makes sense when I write it down, but where’s the data to back up this assumed advantage of state decision-making? And is there no downside, such as a higher likelihood of corruption on the state level?

I live in California. If you put me in a room with one other resident of California and one resident from another state, both selected randomly, which one would I have more in common with? I have no idea.

And how well do people judge what is good for them? If most of the residents of one state want Plan A, and the residents of another state want Plan B, how do we know for sure that they wouldn’t both be better off with one plan or the other? There’s no objective way to know.

A lot has changed since the Constitution of the United States was written. A system that made sense when the union was brittle (see Civil War), and untested, and lightly populated, might not make sense in the age of the Internet.

It seems to me that the burden of proof is never on the people who are enjoying the status quo. The people who want change have the burden of demonstrating the advantage of their proposed plan. So let’s do that today. If you have an argument supporting a stronger version of States Rights than we typically experience in the United States today, what is your argument?

And let’s ignore for today the question of what the Founding Fathers intended, and what the Constitution actually says. I’m just asking what makes sense today.

Update: Here are a few comments about your comments:

1. The federal government is not prohibited from testing ideas in particular places before deciding on a wider roll out. We don’t need fifty test labs for every topic, especially since many of the tests will fail. And left to their own devices, states will stick with their own failed systems for too long.

2. States would be better than the federal government in matching laws and budgets to the specific demands of its citizens, but what evidence do we have that people demand the right things? If one state has dumber voters than average, for example, are they better off getting what they ask for, or better off doing what the larger country decides makes sense?