Michael Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg has a good article up about sovereignty and scope of governance. The scope of governance should decline as you add numbers of people governed rather than increase as it so often does. The individual should make the vast majority of decisions, the federal level almost none. Because your relationship to governance becomes less voluntary as it scales up, the higher the political unit the less authority it should have.
Today’s post will outline a framework through which I’ve come to view politics, as well as life in general. It will identify and examine various units of sovereignty as they exist in the contemporary U.S., since that’s the political system I’m most familiar with. Nevertheless, the overall framework should prove useful to people living all over the world.
Let’s start from the beginning. The most basic and meaningful unit of sovereignty is the individual, followed by the family, the municipality/county, the state (California, New York, Texas, etc) and finally the federal government (Washington D.C.). It’s my view that within a healthy society the scope of governance should decline as you add more and more individuals to the mix. It’s at the most basic unit of sovereignty (the individual), where authority over most of life’s decisions should reside. This runs the gamut from the really big decisions, such as what sort of work to do, who to marry, what religion (if any) to believe in; to the completely mundane, such as what to eat for breakfast.
As a person starts to add more members to their daily life in the form of a family (spouse and children), a wide range of complexities are added to the equation which call for a more expansive approach to individual agency. You suddenly find yourself sharing an intimate existence with people who are not you, and who’ll invariably have conflicting views on a wide variety of subjects, both significant and trivial. Compromise becomes necessary in the pursuit of a harmonious coexistence amongst spouses, as well as within the larger family unit, and you start to relinquish a certain degree of individual sovereignty.
It’s important to note that the creation of a family by consenting adults tends to be a voluntary choice by which individuals agree to put some of their more selfish proclivities to the side in order to create a cohesive, expansive unit. Since the decision to form a family is in most cases voluntary, the decision to relinquish some measure of individual sovereignty is likewise voluntary. While it’s not romantic to consider the transition from an individual-centric lifestyle to a family-focused one in the context of politics and governance, it can be quite helpful.
After the family, the next major unit of sovereignty is found at the municipal or county level. At this stage, a significantly larger number of humans have been added to the structure, ranging from thousands to millions depending on where you live. Unless you reside in the smallest of towns, this unit will consist of countless people you don’t personally know and never will. Nevertheless, a common geography will almost always lead to some level of coordination and decision-making for stuff that applies to and affects the larger unit.
What this means in practice should be determined by those living in the communities themselves. As anyone who’s travelled extensively around the U.S. knows, distinct cities and counties tend to have very different vibes and attitudes about all sorts of life issues, and in some cases counties bordering one another even within the same state demonstrate dramatic differences. It’s important to accept this as perfectly normal and healthy, just as two neighboring families can have distinct views on all sorts of issues and still get along just fine. Each family runs their affairs as they deem appropriate…