Dear Portland, It's Not America's Job to Solve Your Problems
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In response to my article last week opposing the use of federal soldiers and federal agents on the streets of American cities, my inbox and the article's comment section filled up with readers claiming that it most certainly is the job of the US federal government to step in and take control of US cities against the will of the state and local governments.
These interventionists have lots of reasons for their federalization of local law enforcement:
- "The author is not realising the seriousness of the communist insurgency under way."
- Federal intervention is unjustified "except in cases where the local elected officials refuse to do what they had taken an oath to do."
- "The people are under the protection of the Constitution, thus during insurrections the president has the duty to mobilize to restore order."
- "Oregon state and Portland city governments either or both can't or don't want to stop violent protests with destruction of public and private properties. Therefore federal government needs to intervene to restore the order, normal functioning of city businesses and government offices."
Many of these readers attempt to make claims about constitutional authority, such as the meaningless claim that "the people are under the protection of the Constitution"—whatever that means—and that therefore the feds can do whatever they want to "restore order." Other claims are just vague legal assertions about how the president can send in troops wherever local officials aren't doing what "we" want them to do.
To this I would only restate that the entire historical and legal context of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the American Revolution is one of preventing distant national powers from sending in their agents, bureaucrats, and troops to carry out federal prerogatives.
But even if the current US Constitution did authorize federal takeovers of local police—which it doesn't—then the Constitution ought to be ignored, because constitutional authority is inferior to the larger moral principle of subsidiary, self-determination, and local control.
As with all things, the Constitution is only useful and worthy of being quoted when it limits federal power. When it doesn't do so, it should be ignored. The Constitution is not some holy writ. It's useful when it attempts to limit federal power, and worthless when it doesn't.
In this case, the Constitution is on the right side: it limits federal intervention in these cases. But if it weren't on our side, then it would be wrong. Stated simply, here is the basic principle at hand: as an American taxpayer who lives many hundreds of miles from Portland, it's not my job to solve Portland's problems.
To business owners and others who live in Oregon and Portland and who are being negatively affected by the riots there, I'm sorry you continue to choose to live in a poorly run state where the political leaders are craven socialists who kowtow to the mob. I highly recommend you consider moving away or expending your own time and energy to do something about it. I'm sorry you didn't see the writing on the wall years ago as the voters put into power—again and again—left-wing demagogues. You decided to stick around. But it's not now the job of Americans in other places to bail you out.
I fully encourage you to organize a local militia, a local political movement, recall effort, or some other strategy to deal with it. But Americans have plenty of their own problems in their own cities. We have our own crime problems and our own problems with corrupt politicians to deal with it. I'm sorry that residents of Portland and Oregon appear to be especially inept in this regard, but neither the Constitution nor common sense dictates that it's our job to swoop in and save Portland from itself, especially when the local majority is apparently fine with the situation.
There are a lot of poorly run cities in America. Like Baltimore, for instance, where the homicide rate is ten times the national rate. It’s not the job of the American taxpayer to solve Baltimore's problems either.
I know that some readers fancy themselves the only ones who truly appreciate the fullness of the "communist insurgency under way." In their minds, the federal government cannot possibly be given too much power, so long as that power is used to crush the commies. Anyone who insists on limiting federal power is thus "naïve." Yet it is these nonnaïve people who want to grant even greater power to a federal establishment that clearly views the American people as the enemy. These federal agencies are the ones who have relentlessly conspired to remove the current democratically elected president because he was not to their liking. These are the bureaucrats who let 9/11 happen, and then got raises afterward. These are the federal hacks who massacred women and children at Waco and at Ruby Ridge. These are the people who wanted the Patriot Act so they could spy on every American.
Back in the 1990s, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre referred to federal agents as "armed terrorists dressed in Ninja black…jack-booted thugs armed to the teeth who break down doors, open fire with automatic weapons and kill law-abiding citizens."
While I’m no particular fan of LaPierre or the NRA, he was right. Wanting to limit the power of these feds is hardly the naïve position.