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Macro and Micro Government Power

Michael Williams posted about his opinion on whether local governments should have the right to fine people for unkempt yards. And while, I think that a lot of these city ordinances are getting out of hand, I generally agree with him.

Simply put I like to divide the government into Macro- and Micro-level roles. The Macro-government is the federal government. The micro-government is typified by cities and towns.

the level of control they should be allowed to exert is directly related to the level at which they govern. The feds should be primarily worried about military, economy, and interstate relations. Their concern should be about the larger issues that truly effect our nation as a whole.

Cities can worry about such things as lawn length, dog licenses and neighbor relations. While I think that their should be some very significant checks on many of these ordinances, there is some room for them to consider such laws.

Another level that could be considered is Mid-level government. Counties and States have a concern for more mid-level laws like education and roads. Again we are looking at those items that fall between the federal government purview and the local government.

That is a very oversimplification of things. But I have been wanting to post about this for a while, so I appreciate the unintended encouragement from Michael Williams.

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5 comments to Macro and Micro Government Power

  • LaVarr Webb of Utah Policy Daily regularly asserts that it would be best for each type of government action to be pushed to the lowest level at which it could be effective. I would go even further to say that there are many actions to be pushed out of the realm of government altogether.

    It is odd that during an age where businesses have increasingly flattened and decentralized, government has done just the opposite. Part of this is because we have come to see our cheif executive position as some kind of magical demigod that is nearly all powerful. We expect him to be responsible for all kinds of things that the Founders never intended. This necessarily requires us to transfer power equal to the responsibility expected.

    Thus, government power accrues in general, and then it is increasingly centralized in the federal head. Since it is not possible for the central authority to successfully perform all of the tasks we require of him, the people’s level of satisfaction and trust of government has steadily declined. Yet Americans seem to increasingly want more government ‘solutions.’

    It’s an odd paradox, but we’re getting what we want. We’re getting what we deserve.

  • Scott,
    Yes, I agree with you and Mr. Webb. We do need to push things down to the lowest level possible. One of those levels being the individual. Religion is just one example of something that should be left to the lowest level (the family and individual).

    And yes, we seem to be giving up our freedoms to let someone else do it. I am not sure if it is laziness, apathy, or ignorance (or a combination of those and more), but we are getting what we deserve.

  • I’ve been thinking about the sorts of city ordinances you’re talking about here. I’ve wondered whether they are an inappropriate encroachment on our liberty. I’m somewhat ambivalent.

    On the one hand, I feel like I ought to be able to do anything I want with my own property. If I own it, I should be able to control it. On the other hand, I can easily see limits to this sort of liberty. Nobody ought to be able to build a nuclear power plant on their quarter-acre home lot.

    If I have a trashy property, and it drives down the value of neighboring homes, could I be required to pay those home owners the difference? You could argue that by my actions, I’ve taken something of value from them. By this reasoning, city ordinances that prohibit unsightly properties could be similar in nature to ordinances that prohibit theft.

    I’m not totally convinced by that line of reasoning, but it is food for thought.

  • Bradley,
    You give some good explanations why I think that it is okay to have such ordinances, but why it really needs to be held in check.

    I am okay with some of the ordinances that now exist. But I want to have the right to have NO trees in my front yard if I don’t want them. I want to have the right to have a wood fence and not a vinyl fence, if I so choose. These types of laws become infringements on my rights. I understand laws that require me to have my lawn trimmed, and no cars on blocks for longer than 7 days, etc. But don’t tell me how to groom my yard.

  • It is one thing to define an acceptable level of care. It is quite another to regulate what residents are required to purchase and install.

    We have some very good libertarian minded folks in my city. They send out a monthly newspaper to all of the city’s residents. They pay for it with advertising space. A few years ago, they argued for total private property rights. They argued that zoning is an inappropriate way of restricting personal freedom.

    There is no question that zoning has sometimes been used inappropriately to control choices. But these people wanted voters to make zoning illegal. In the end, about 23% of the voters supported the anti-zoning measure. Over the next several months, the newspaper regularly lambasted the city’s voters, calling them evil for wanting to control their neighbors.

    But people didn’t buy it. The fact is that we tend to have no problem with most zoning because it is simply codifying what is already considered acceptable. But these kinds of property regulations do require strict oversight, lest they get carried away and begin codifying matters that politicians think are desirable, but that are not already generally acceptable.

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