Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Can Conservative Incrementalism Work?

For a long time, on a national level, we conservatives have had one option in the general election, the lesser of two evils.  The centralization and expansion of power at the federal level has continued, sometimes slower, sometimes faster, but it keeps going in the same direction.  About the most “extreme” thing a federal candidate is going to suggest is holding the line and eliminating deficit spending.  The idea of reducing the reach of the central government, of eliminating agencies and departments will be met with an all-out propaganda campaign in the media attacking the proponent of such an outlandish and totalitarian scheme as uncaring, cruel, and a bullwhip-wielding overseer for corporate slavers. 

It may be impossible to roll back the federal government incrementally through electing “conservative” candidates.  However, some commentators, bloggers, and pundits have been talking about a concept that is already working successfully.  Strangely enough it is the more liberal states that are showing us the way in legalizing marijuana contrary to federal law.  Some states, like Missouri, are also legislatively attacking enforcement of more restrictive federal firearms laws, as we’ve talked about in the past. 

This is how libertarian/conservative incrementalism could work.  At the state and local level, we can elect sheriffs, mayors, school board members, state legislators and governors who are willing to defy federal mandates.  The feds’ ability to enforce their own laws could be severely hampered by the refusal of state and local governments to cooperate.   I could even imagine federal courts and judges discovering that their orders, when ignored, were unenforceable.  The federal government might withhold money from states as punishment.  States, in response, might offer protection to their citizens and businesses that refused to pay their federal taxes.

You could picture a kind of civil war and secession without all the gunfire.  I don’t think the feds would want a shooting war. 

I don’t think we can do this tomorrow.  That’s where the incrementalism comes in.  We will have to make the argument for the supremacy of state and local governments over the long haul and grab small victories wherever we can, but I think that might be a way to get back to the Founders’ vision.  

UPDATE --  After writing this, I ran across this post on Sarah Hoyt's blog from Bill Reader

Likewise, the slum revolts and regional uprisings that, in aggregate, put paid to the Roman Empire, were certainly not the result of masterful tactics. Rather, those revolting recognized that Rome had lost sufficient belief in its own culture to fight to uphold it; had in any case mostly lost the capacity to impose culture in its wholesale importation of anybody and everybody; and probably was afraid of said anybody and everybody because it spent so much bread-and-circus money trying to appease them. Rome had an unparalleled army, but no clear target, only the most bare-bones idea of when to use it, and increasingly limited resources to maintain it.

Though he is talking about the Attack of the Social Justice Warriors, the concept is the same.  More and more, though the feds will still have the ability to come after us, they will lack the will.

And while I'm at it, Ace reinforces with Charles Murray.


  1. Yes, Fred Reed had an essay on the very thing recently. His prediction was a bit more anarchistic but, basically the idea was to ignore the Feds. I would like to see a mass movement for taxpayers to take a couple more deductions on our tax forms -to be paid later, of course, to starve the beast. But everyone would think, "Great idea, you first."

    If only a presidential candidate would propose that...

  2. Yes, Fred's was more demographically oriented, too.

    On the tax idea, the bankruptcy of the federal government -- whether it ever actually comes to a head as a sovereign debt crisis or or not -- might drive a change in attitude by the states. If the dollar loses reserve status, and commodities start getting priced in renminbis or something, could states start using the international currency to pay their bills? If the economic United States broke down, what would hold us together at this point?

  3. Can't hurt. And it may be the only way to stop a total breakdown.

    I know lots of conservatives are of a mind to speed up the destruction so we can start over, but without good local govt. who is to say we would ever get back to what our Founders began on a federal level?
    How would that work?
    Most Americans don't even know what our Founders did, let alone how to get there after federal bankruptcy and collapse.

    However, if some states, or perhaps even counties were in the same template of liberty the disaster would be at least mitigated and there would be a foundation to build on, but probably not in every state.

    And what of the deep blue states that refuse to learn? Would they be taken over by stable states or become giant ghetto's of anarchy?
    Hard to say, but I would much rather be in a red state when everything hits the fan.

  4. I get pretty aggravated and tired of waiting for things to change, but if we kick the chocks out, it's a long way to the bottom of the hill.

    There are a lot of patriot types that are oriented toward a military solution. I don't see that ending well.

    You're right in that we no longer have a broad base that understands how the system is supposed to work on any level.

    The blue states are blue because of urban areas. There are parts of northern California, eastern Washington, upstate New York, western Virginia, western Pennsylvania, etc., that are held hostage by "democracy". In blue states, people have to go to the county. Good point.