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Dismantling the Federal State
And Replacing it with the Constitution and freedom.

by James Leroy Wilson
February 10, 2005

Mike Thomson replied to my last column:

A question, JLW: Suppose wisdom was to break out all over and the 265 million of us who reside in the geographic region known as the United States decided we didn't want government anymore. How would we go about dismantling it and what kind of system would replace it?

Well, I doubt it would be so sudden. But if there was such unanimity, then the transitions could be worked through. But first, let me clarify that I wrote that we would want to dismantle the federal government, not necessarily government per se. I normally intermix the words “government” and “State” as if they had identical meanings. I would clarify that a federal system such as the one the Constitution prescribes is a federal government. What we have, today, is a federal State, and this is what we ought to dismantle.

“Government” refers to problems that come with association, with community. Locally, it refers to individuals and land-rights usage, for the most part. Nationally, it refers to problems common to all states and between each state.

A small-s “state” refers to the government of our states. A State, however, refers to regimentation, and conformity. It is a system in which ambition - the fame, glory, and riches of the rulers - is the reason for the system, and the politicization of all of life is the means and end. The State is a form of government that doesn’t peacefully address common community problems, such as pollution, or impossibly muddy streets, and derelicts and criminals. No, the State is a system in which the few are enriched and empowered by promoting fear and issuing threats against the people.

The federal State’s policy is always over-reaction, such as our responses, foreign and domestic, to 9-11. One scandal in a business leads to a tangled web of new legislation that for all businesses to increase their legal expenses. The State exploits popular fears and prejudices as it launches crusades against marijuana and profanity on television. None of this makes us safe, or wealthier, or better people.

I am not asking to dismantle state and local government. I’m for restoring the federal government, as outlined by the Constitution, which means dismantling much of the federal State.

But what would we replace it with?

Well, what really needs replacing, seriously? A Congress that has let itself be lied to time and again to “authorize” the President to “use force,” that is, make war, will be replaced by one holding the President accountable by facts. A President who provides false information to Congress to persuade it to Constitutionally declare war, is a President worthy of impeachment. Unconstitutional wars would be replaced only by Constitutional, and probably, far fewer wars.

And, if this “wisdom” really does come upon us, we’d reject the laughable myth that we’d be speaking Japanese west of the Rockies and German east of them if we didn’t join World War II, and we’d realize that no country has, or could ever, posed a threat to us if we did not at first pose a threat to them. So we’d have neutrality instead of empire, peace instead of war.

A federal State that counts how many fat kids or smokers there are, would be replaced by a federal government that doesn’t. One that throws people into prison for using the “wrong” kinds of drugs will be replaced by one that doesn’t. Most federal criminal laws would be repealed, as the states are responsible for investigating and punishing criminals. Over-inflated government contracts with major corporations, and other forms of corporate welfare, would end, replaced by freer market competition that gives smaller enterprises a chance. Agriculture subsidies would be replaced by less expensive food for the poor.

Yes, there will be hard transition problems, especially with Social Security, Medicare, other welfare programs, tax policies, and monetary policy. There aren’t any “common sense” solutions to phase out something that many people have grown dependent on. So I won’t say, “It’s easy. Go back to the Gold Standard, let everyone back out of Social Security and receive what they’re due, and abolish unemployment insurance and the income tax.” We would do this, but the transition wouldn’t be easy or satisfactory for all. Phase-outs of certain programs would take a number of years.

How, then, would people be protected from poverty when tragedy strikes? If insurance companies are not to be trusted, at least not wholly, and the State is out of the picture, mutual aid societies would likely re-appear: fraternal, professional, ethnic, or religious societies that charged premiums and paid out disability, unemployment, and old-age benefits. And without the federal regulatory state breathing down its neck, health care would operate on free-market principles and both costs and prices would plummet. Schools would return to state and local control, with no federal funding or oversight, both of which, over the past 40 years, correlate with America’s drastic decline in educational performance.

It was still just a century ago that most people’s only involvement with the federal government was with the post office. The rejoinder is, yes, but life was much harder back then, summed up by a much lower life expectancy. True, but that was because we didn’t yet have the benefits of modern industry and medicine. We do not need the State to enjoy and improve on these today. Nor do we need it to guarantee or manage our savings or other private affairs.

It is unlikely that this would all happen at once, but we still can try to dismantle the federal State one step at a time.

About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson runs the Independent Country blog (

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