Those of us who are skeptical of a large federal government usually prefer our public affairs to be conducted locally. Tyranny is tyrannical no matter the source, and we find that many local governments and their “cooperative” offspring are trampling our freedoms with the same level of gusto as “Big Brother.” Cities, villages, townships and counties have become obsessed with micro-managing many aspects of their constituents’ lives. Add to their growing interventionism the reality that many local governments find themselves in dire fiscal straits. My observation is not uniformly true. There are a number of local political entities who practice restraint, but their numbers are dwindling as urban, suburban and rural areas pattern themselves after one another.
The growing power grab by local government is exacerbated by another development….the proliferation of regional “authorities.” Local entities band together for oversight and services or form new governmental agencies to administer interests that cross political boundaries. Some examples might include a park district, water board or scenic river administrative unit. This expansion of government administrative authority may, at some level, appear to be a beneficial development for the citizens who are affected. Cost savings may occur because of consolidation of redundant services, yet the mere creation of a cross-boundary entity generates more power for the new agency. Though the regional administrative agencies lack legislative or executive power, they do employ varying elements of regulatory coercion. Some of the regional cooperatives can preempt personal property rights of citizens within their jurisdictions, and others can implement rules and regulations that require citizens’ compliance. There are agencies that oversee waterways and shorelines that are shared by various jurisdictions, and in some cases the cooperative district can restrict a property owners rights if the property abuts the water. In essence, this becomes a de facto eminent domain issue without compensation for the property owner.
One huge political benefit of the cooperative entities for local politicians is that they can figuratively “wash their hands” when a noxious ruling is promulgated by the regional authority. The buck doesn’t stop with the politician’s accountability. The buck becomes vaporized with no discernable accountability and no clear pathway for appeal. When a regional body implements an egregious ruling that negatively impacts citizens, the politicians can deny responsibility and deflect criticism. Typically the only remedy available for the aggrieved citizen is via the courts…a potentially costly and lengthy process.
When one examines the federal government and its misuse of power, the focus may be on the various agencies, departments and directorates that appear to operate with impunity as they trample the rights of citizens. The cooperative and regional alliances that many local governments have formed can function similarly to the federal bureaucracy with minimal accountability and limited restraint. From the perspective of a citizen, local government is more accessible and more responsive than are the federal or state governments. The model becomes distorted, however, when government at any level becomes too large and unwieldy. Big coercive government is the antithesis of freedom….no matter where it is, at home, in Columbus or in Washington D.C.