| April 17, 2013

Looking to the states for answers

“Among the most serious threats to the continued health of the American republic is the extraordinarily low esteem in which the public holds the federal government,” The Washington Examiner recently editorialized.

And who can blame them when Congress and President Obama seem locked in perpetual partisan warfare, even as millions of Americans have given up on finding jobs, the economy bounces along in the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, and the national debt soars to previously unimagined heights.

What is to be done? A coalition of state-based conservative think tanks led by the Oklahoma-based Liberty Foundation is advancing an old idea that if implemented could revolutionize American governance. The idea is "competitive federalism," which the coalition defines as "the powerful harnessing of our tri-partite sovereignty system that allows states to compete with each other over a broad range of issues to provide citizens with the best value goods and services at the lowest cost." Think of the difference between having only one place to buy food versus having 50.

Constitutional law professor Andrew Spiropoulos certainly understands the importance of federalism. Indeed, he says it’s alive and well. “When I talk to conservatives who are discouraged about the political direction of the country,” writes Spiropoulos, who serves as OCPA’s Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow, “I argue that elite obsession with the federal government has masked the reality of what is going on in American politics.”

What has happened here in Oklahoma is happening in many states around the nation. Conservative and moderate voters who fear and loathe the president’s policies and worldview are electing conservative Republicans to state offices in unprecedented numbers. This expansion of control over governorships and state legislatures provides conservatives a historic opportunity to prove that their fellow citizens will fare better under conservative policies than the heretofore dominant liberal ones. If conservatives can build a successful model of governance founded on a limited and reformed government that fosters private enterprise and markets, protects the traditional family, and strengthens the institutions of civil society, popular satisfaction with their policies will lead to continued and deepened political success.

Oklahoma conservatives do not have to create these policies from scratch; we can learn from states that have already begun to construct this new policy paradigm. One of these states is Indiana, which has had the good fortune to be led by Mitch Daniels. Daniels [pictured above] is one of the most effective and innovative governors of recent decades.

I encourage you to read his entire column, “Looking to Indiana for a lesson,” here.

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