Saturday, February 06, 2010
Sachs' idea of "subsidiarity" is not just a trendy infusion of a Brussels term into America, It is a retread of a bad idea that came out of the Nixon administration, Revenue Sharing. The federal government sent a portion of the states own money back to them to fund local pork, as chosen by the local politicians who supposedly had their collective ears to the ground about local needs. That is a hard position to maintain while also having your snout in the trough. The whole corrupt project took an axe to the Constitution.
Under the Articles of Confederation the taxes were all collected by the States and then forwarded to the National Government for Congress to disburse. That did not work so it was agreed that under the Constitution Congress could set up its own collection service. Remember that before the income tax the way that the government made money was largely from the collection of tariffs on imported goods. That was probably the most significant power that Congress took away from the States. The Customs Service was established under the second law passed by the new United States Congress.
The States gave up something important but kept a close eye on the new central government, partly through the Electoral College and the Senate. The idea that power would shift so dramatically that from having a weak central government that had to beg the States for money we would go to a system where the States were so weak that they would be reduced to mere vessels begging to be filled with Federal dollars may have occurred only in the Founders worst nightmares.
Subsidiarity is not Federalism because it reverses the flow of authority and instead of allocating limited but sufficient powers to the center and keeping the bulk of power close to the Sovereign people it delegates to the lower level those functions, but not necessarily the authority, not needed by the central government. Federalism is a limited centralizing of power to correct an ineffective system called Confederation. Subsidiarity is a limited diffusion of functions by the central authority within a system that is at heart still Fascism.