Friday, January 20, 2012

Federalism I can get behind

I spend a lot of time talking about the problems with states rights. But that is mostly a reaction to conservatives blindly calling for more states rights just because they don't like the federal gov't. When I do that I might make the mistake of appearing as though I don't think there is a role for states in terms of important policy that exists in other states or is also a federal issue in some sense. Republican governor of New Jersey demonstrates a way in which I think states have an important role:

[L]et us reclaim the lives of those drug offenders who have not committed a violent crime. By investing time and money in drug treatment – in an in-house, secure facility – rather than putting them in prison. Experience has shown that treating non-violent drug offenders is two-thirds less expensive than housing them in prison. And more importantly – as long as they have not violently victimized society – everyone deserves a second chance, because no life is disposable. I am not satisfied to have this as merely a pilot project; I am calling for a transformation of the way we deal with drug abuse and incarceration in every corner of New Jersey.

The federal gov't has terrible drug policies. And states like New Jersey have an opportunity to try and change that. Gay marriage is another issue where some states are implementing good policies that go against poor federal policies. I applaud these efforts and hope every state does the same. But one reason I always emphasize the importance of the federal gov't is that in the end, that is where the good policies have to end up. I just don't see how policies like marijuana legalization or gay marriage will make their way to every state. If they don't the federal gov't can solve that problem.

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