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Podcast: Cities vs. Your Civil Liberties

November 22, 2019

It’s one of the most disturbing – and least talked about – political trends of late: cities are increasingly expanding their powers at the expense of their citizens’ liberties. To talk about this growth in local regulation – and how state lawmakers can curb overreaching local regulators– I joined Caleb Brownat the Cato Daily Podcast

Few people pay much attention to local regulation, but it’s where some of the most substantial infringements on liberty occur. Local governments exist to deliver services that would otherwise be inefficient for the state government to provide, such as local budgets, police departments and water and sewerservices. Increasingly, however, we see cities micromanaging every aspect of their citizens’ lives – and in the process, intruding on individual liberty to an alarming degree. 

On the podcast, we talk about some of the most egregious examples: how cities are deciding what guests we can invite into our private homes, how we can use our cars to give people a rideto the airport, whether we can run our own businesses, and when and how we can speak out about political issues. These are the types of government overreach that conservative legislators fight tooth-and-nail when they’re proposed in DC or the statehouse. But these same legislators who want to protect individual liberty turn a blind eye when those intrusions occur at the local level. Why?

Many of these legislators have succumb to the myth that cities have the power to make these decisions, just as the states have the authority to make many decisions independently of the federal government. But unlike the relationship between the states and federal government, where the former retain inherent powers that the latter cannot usurp, local governments are creations of the state. That means that cities should be governed as extensions of the state – when they abuse their powers, the state should and can step in to protect people’s rights.

That’s the problem with “local control” – it’s still control. The most “local” decision is the decision made by the individual, and that’s the localism that liberty-loving legislators should be intent on protecting. State legislators have a duty to ensure local governments focus on their most vital jobs without undermining our freedom.

Local power, state power – none of it is an end in itself, but a means to an end of protecting liberty. Rather than being concerned about where the control is based, state lawmakers should be thinking about the best means to safeguard freedom. And sometimes, that means cracking down on local overreach.



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