To Rule at Home: Abolishing Dillon’s Governmental Capitalism

I have often heard that capitalism is the best system and that if only the government had more capitalism and was more capitalistic, then it would be better. That is, unless the almighty and inscrutable invisible hand decides to move somewhere they don’t like. Then we need to regulate bathrooms and the like. I would say there is an exponential function whereat the level of fascist tendencies increases with every value of undesirable legislation passed by local governments.

It often puzzles me that political conservatives will be ready to lay down their lives–read: reputations and the assumption of their human decency–in mass exercises of defiance–read: petty Facebook squabbles and angry rants on call in talk shows–in order to argue against the federal government’s alleged intrusion into their personal lives, but not when they want the state to do the exact same thing to some local government they think is getting uppity.

Take the sanctuary city issue. In these cities, the local authorities have said they are not going to go around trying to find illegal aliens and not arrest the ones that they do find. Some will call this a flagrant disregard of federal law until you realize that local governments don’t have the jurisdiction to enforce federal law. All these cities have done is made it policy to let the feds take care of their own criminals and use their resources on other things like gang violence and such. To conservatives, this means we have to override all local autonomy as to how they allocate their local resources i.e. how they spend their tax payer dollars as the tax payer directs them and force them to enforce a body of law they have no legal authority to enforce without voluntarily joining a federal law enforcement program. My point is that even the proponents of local control and individualism turn into qausi-fascist when towns and cities they don’t live in don’t do what they want them to do.

At the local level where the state and the county/town/city/whatever are butting heads, it gets even worse and the squabbles are even more partisan. What’s more, it inhibits the local government’s ability to provide services and perform in a manner consistent with their particular circumstances. The top down approach that conservatives say is nothing but socialism is exactly the model that is created effectively under Dillon’s Rule. The whole state gets the same, meager services for the sake of Richmond preserving its power. In fact, of the states that have Dillon’s Rule, Virginia is one of the most strict. This means that if Prince William or Sussex Counties have an idea for a better way to manage their food assistance programs, the General Assembly has to expressly give them permission.

In other words, Dillon’s Rule in Virginia stifles the creativity of the local governments to pursue solutions to problems in a manner better suited to their own circumstances in favor of a top down solution that fits most but not all. It is to be expected that the party that nearly nominated a Democratic Socialist as their presidential candidate would support such draconian rules. But the party of personal responsibility seems out of place in what seems to be individualism verses the state. When presented with the opportunity to inject the capitalist spirit by allowing local governments to develop in the way they see fit and share their creativity, the party of capitalism steps away with their blue brethren.

Now, certainly there cannot be absolute Home Rule; there must be some limitations placed on local governments. But the intervention of the state government is only going to mirror the relationship of the fed to the states. Increasingly, we have seen local issues be repressed by the states and the federal government coming down to support the locality, violating the ideals of federalism and states’ rights we hear so much about. Bathroom laws, cake makers, and other disputes that could simply be solved by having the states acknowledge more autonomy and a better ability to address grievances to their localities would likely lead to fewer interventions of the fed. But then the power to rule someone’s life from the capitol building in Richmond is not one, I think, will be given up easily.


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