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Objectivists and Federalism

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I've noted before how many libertarians and Objectivists simply seem unable to appreciate the virtues of our federalist system; and that this is rejected implicitly when libertarians use "the government" to refer to both state and federal government (see Libertarian Centralists; The problem with "government": The rejection of federalism by libertarian centralists; Objectivists on Kelo).

A curious letter to the editor in the March 2007 issue of The New Individualist (an Objectivist magazine that is interesting, punchy, well-written, and continues to improve and expand) helps to illustrate this. In "Back to Basics," Darrick Dean writes: "The [Republican] party needs to embrace the fact that the Constitution's primary purpose is the restrain the federal government." So far, so good. Then, "Power needs to be returned ot the States where it belongs. Instead of wasting time with flag and marriage amendments, it's time to rein in the federal government." Wow, I'm thinking--is this really an Objectivist writing this? Maybe they are starting to appreciate federalism after all.

But then Dean proposes:

The Constitution should be amended to eliminate private property seizures by any government entity with the intent to give it to another private company ... or person. ... The Constitution should be amended to block any judge from overturning legislation enacted by a majority vote of the people in any state. ... The Constitution should be amended to abolish the IRS ... [and] also abolish property taxes as a legal means for taxation in this country. The government should have no claim on your private property. Nor should it be able to tax your home ad infinitum. [italics added]

Did one person write the first part, and another the second? Again: the use of "the government" to cover both state and federal governments in the scope of prohibitions of the (federal) Constitution, despite the initial recognition that the Constitution's main purpose is to restrain the feds and that we need to return power to the States.


Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.