On Localized Not Nationalized Responsibility

“People are given to thinking and speaking of the national Government as “the Government.” They demand more from it than it was ever intended to provide; and yet in the same breath they complain that federal authority is stretching itself over areas which do not concern it. On one side, there are demands for more amendments to the Constitution. On the other, there is too much opposition to those that already exist.

“Without doubt, the reason for increasing demands on the federal Government is that the states have not discharged their full duties. Some have done better and some have done worse, but as a whole they have not done all they should. So demand has grown up for a greater concentration of powers in the federal government. If we will fairly consider it, we must conclude that the remedy would be worse than the disease. What we need is not more federal government, but better local government. Yet many people who would agree to this have large responsibility for the lapses of local authority.

“From every position of consistency with our system, more centralization ought to be avoided. The states would protest, promptly enough, anything savoring of federal usurpation. Their protection will lie in discharging the full obligations that have been imposed on them. Once the evasion of local responsibilities becomes a habit there is no knowing how far the consequences may reach. Every step in such a progression will be unfortunate alike for states and nation. The country needs, in grappling with the manifold problems of these times, all the courage, intelligence, training, and skill that can be enlisted…” — Calvin Coolidge, Arlington Amphitheater, May 30, 1925

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