Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Today is a little lesson in American Government. Think of it as the band playing on while the ship sinks. When a city government cannot address something as simple as bulk trash pickup while a hurricane is approaching, it is fair to say the ship is sinking.

During the Bush/Gore election debacle people complained about how they hate the Electoral College. If you remember the Electoral College is the body which in fact votes for president. Every state based on the number in their congressional delegation gets so many electoral votes. Whichever candidate earns the most electoral votes wins the election. Because of the Electoral College the candidate with the most votes nationally could actually loose the election. We saw this in the Bush/Gore election. While it is not good for the people’s perception of the system when the candidate who wins the popular vote loses the election, the Electoral College is nonetheless an important component of our decentralized system of government.

Very few people realize that had the majority of the people in New Hampshire voted for Gore, Bush never would have been president. All of New England voted for Gore. In fact all of the North East, save New Hampshire, voted for Gore. This is the power the Founding Fathers intended each individual state to have. Without this power by each individual state, the Founding Fathers never would have been able to unite the 13 colonies. Without the power the Electoral College gives each individual state and in particular small states, states like California, New York, Texas and Florida, would be able to decide every election without the will of the people mattering in States like Montana or New Hampshire. The Electoral College actually makes the United States stronger by making every state relevant to the process.

Where decentralized government actually makes government stronger is in the power of the individual states to have their own public policy, within the constraints of the Constitution. The states, and in fact individual communities, get to experiment within their own states or communities with public policy.

Right now locally there has been discussion about the county or the city going to a four day work week. The entire state government of Utah is now experimenting with the four day work week. Utah will either succeed or fail at this experiment. If they succeed, other states or communities like Cameron County will look to the Utah model and duplicate it with some limited modifications for their own communities. The innovation in government which will come out the Utah experiment, will become possible policy in Cameron County.

Small communities all over the US are now experimenting with new forms of electricity. I was reading how a small community invested in wind energy. Their windmills not only generate enough energy for their community, but also enough for surrounding communities. This small community is actually selling their windmill generating energy to electric companies which then in turn sells it to other communities. In time other communities will look at this model for public energy and duplicate it. This is yet another example of how an experiment in one community can become public policy in many communities. The examples are endless.

Brownsville actually has an example of such an experiment. The Weir Project is an example of a community experimenting with a solution to border security. If Brownsville succeeds, other communities like El Paso may consider making the border a commercialized river walk.
Nothing but a lack of vision prevents the BPUB from seeking a federal licence to grow hemp in the LRGV and then converting it into biofuel for the electric plants which feed our electrical needs. Unfortunately, I doubt very much anyone on the BPUB understands well enough how government operates to be able to make these type decisions.

The hypocrisy of many Republicans who claim to be conservatives who favor limited government can be seen in their crusade to nationalize the issue of gay marriage so as to deny states like California and Massachusetts the ability to experiment with it. When so called conservatives seek to destroy the greatest strength we have in our political system (state’s rights which promote innovative public policy) so as to accomplish a social policy, you know they do not have the best interests of the American people at heart.

This balance in power between the states and federal government is probably the most important check the people have on both the state and federal governments. It saddens me that government instructors at both the highschool level and college level rarely teach this part of the constitution. The American liberal, who we all know I call apologists for the failed capitalist system, gets jittery when having to even accept this balance of power exists. In their mind they can only accomplish their goals with an all powerful central government. Inasmuch as the American liberal remains the dominant voice of instruction at our universities, it is no wonder this balance of power is not taught to our children, or our children’s teachers.

When I taught at Houston Community College, I spent a lot of time on this subject. To keep the subject relevant to my students I would use car insurance, drinking, or renting a car, as examples of where states were actually affording 18 year olds equal rights. They understood that if the policy of lower insurance rates worked in Minnesota it could mean lower insurance rates for them in Texas. It kept their interest. Whenever possible I always tried to make what I was teaching relevant to the 18 year olds.

I know these little lessons bore people, but my goal is to try and get people to start thinking. This balance of power does not end with the battle between the states and federal government. T. Boone Pickens has raised the prospect that the government may now have to start competing with benevolent billionaires trying to do for our communities what the government has failed to do. Fortunately our system of government promotes this kind of private sector innovation. If T. Boone Pickens succeeds, without the mythical checks and balances allegedly found in the democratic process, he will have accomplished more for the people in public policy in terms of energy independence than the Congress or any state government.

No comments: