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Can the concept of federalism be saved?

Is respect for the Constitution waning? And thus the country?

That seems to be the conclusion of several observers.

Daniel Hannan in his new book, “The New Road to Serfdom,” whose title appears to be a tip of the hat to F.A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” makes the case that America is becoming less free and the world will be the worst for it.

In the introduction to the book the British conservative writes, “American self-belief is on the wane. No longer are the political structures designed by the heroes of Philadelphia automatically regarded as guarantees of liberty. America is becoming less American, by which I mean less independent, less prosperous, and less free.

“The character of the United States, more than any other country on earth, is bound up with its institutions. The U.S. Constitution was both a product and a protector of American optimism. When one is disregarded, the other dwindles.”

Michael D. Tanner of the Cato Institute, author of “Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution,” suggests that Democrats now think the Constitution is weird, recalling Nancy Pelosi’s incredulous “Are you serious?” when asked if ObamaCare was constitutional and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s affirmation that Congress could pass a law requiring everyone to eat a daily ration of fruits and vegetables.

“The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have adopted a view of virtually unlimited government power that is clearly contrary to the Founders’ vision of a constitutionally limited government,” Tanner writes. “In their vision, government roams the countryside fixing problems — any problems. Having trouble paying your mortgage? Don’t worry, the federal government will help you. Your local school not doing a good job? The federal government will be there to help. Don’t have health insurance? The federal government will make you buy it. As Rep. Pete Stark (D., Calif.) told constituents, the federal government can do most anything.’

It can “do” most anything, but can it accomplish anything? The war on poverty, lost. The war against drugs, lost. Improving education with a federal Department of Education, failed. War on terrorism via Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, questionable. Cradle to grave welfare, corrupting. Another day older and deeper in debt, $13 trillion in debt that is.

There is also the question of power, that intoxicating beverage.

Hayek in "The Road to Serfdom" in 1944 wrote, “Our generation has forgotten that the system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of ‘society’ as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us. In the hands of private individuals, what is called economic power can be an instrument of coercion, but it is never control over the whole life of a person. But when economic power is centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery.”

In a podcast at Cato.org, Hannan states that the Founders established a federalist system, but that like all systems, power tends to gravitate toward the center over time. “They deliberately invested supreme power in the states, and that system worked incredibly well until the 20th century.” But then came the New Deal, and the still newer deal.

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