Essential Liberty "Over the past half-century, Washington has insinuated itself into a thousand-and-one decisions that individuals or local governments are more than capable of making for themselves. Which medicines can you buy? How efficient should your light bulbs be? Can your children's school day begin with a prayer? Who qualifies for a mortgage? When do unemployment benefits run out? Can you pay an employee $5 an hour if that's what his labor is worth? Should abortions be restricted? Is health insurance optional? Do artists or farmers or broadcasters require subsidies? Are you in charge of your retirement income? In Federalist No. 45, James Madison emphasized that, under the Constitution, the powers of the federal government 'are few and defined,' while those left to state and local communities 'are numerous and indefinite.' For the first 150 years or so of US history that was largely the case. But New Deal and Great Society liberalism has turned the framers' careful arrangement inside out. Today, there is almost nothing in American life that Washington does not consider itself fit to regulate, control, ban, tax, or mandate. ... Has the staggering growth of the federal establishment made America a better, more humane, more optimistic place to live? Obviously it is possible to single out this or that law or regulation or expenditure and show that it has been beneficial. Not even the most ardent libertarian disputes the need for federal governance of inherently national matters -- and the Constitution itself makes clear that Washington has a role to play in guaranteeing civic equality and political liberty. Yet in crucial ways, the flow of power upward to the federal government has impoverished American culture and weakened civic society." --columnist Jeff Jacoby

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