28 Principles of Liberty: Principle 21 – Strong Local Self-government is the Keystone to Preserving Human Freedom

Principle 21

“Strong Local Self-government is the Keystone to Preserving Human Freedom”

by: Charity Angel

Political power automatically tries to gravitate towards centralization, the purpose of the US Constitution is to prevent that from happening. Centralization of political power ALWAYS destroys liberty by removing the decision-making function from the people on the local level to the officers of the central government.

When this occurs, the people start to lose the spirit of voluntarism and the will to solve their own problems. They also cease to be involved in community affairs.

This contrasts with the New England town spirit where every person had a voice and a vote. How different from the Anglo-Saxon tribal meetings, where the people were considered sovereign and every man took pride in participating. And even more, how different from ancient Israel where the families of the people were governed in multitudes of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands, where problems were solved on the levels where those problem originated. This is what the Founders considered the golden key to preserving liberty.

Thomas Jefferson said “These wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government, and for its perservation.

Jefferson was anxious to have America revive the customs of their Anglo-Saxon ancestors, including strong local self-government. Historian Richard Frothingham has pointed out that in ancient England there were political and territorial divisions that were similar to that of Ancient Israel. “Tythings, hundreds. burghs, counties and shires”, in which the body of inhabitants had a voice in managing their own affairs. That was until that ruling classes were installed in its place, undermining the ancient freedom of the municipalities.

Even as this situation arose, in the backs of the minds of the people, they remembered the the right of freemen of the past, and thought that it was something that might be brought about again.

And this is exactly what happened as Englishmen pulled away from the mother country and migrated to America. The assemblies reappeared, and old rights were once again enjoyed. As they wrote their laws, they were determined to protect the freedom of the individual and provide for a healthy local government. Only those things that which related to the interest of the entire commonwealth were delegated to central government.

James Madison emphasized the necessity to reserve all possible authority in the states and the people. The Constitution delegates to the federal government on that which involves the whole people as a nation. He wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former (federal powers) will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce….The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

Thomas Jefferson emphasized that if the oncoming generations continued the Constitutional pattern, the federal government would be small and cohesive and would serve and an inexpensive operation because of the limited problems which would be assigned to it. He wrote, “The true theory of our Constitution is sure the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, ans let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.”

A WARNING from John Fiske:

“If the day should ever arrive when the people of the different parts of our country shall allow their local affairs to be administered by prefects sent from Washington, and then the self-government of the states shall have been so far lost as that of the departments of France, or even so closely limited as that of the counties of England, on that day the political career of the American people will have been robbed of its most interesting and valuable features, and the usefulness of this nation will be lamentably impaired.”

The 28 Principles of Liberty are adapted from W. Cleon Skousen's Book 'The 5000 Year Leap' and are brought to you by Fragrant Smoke.


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