For July 10: Federal vs. State vs. Local

There’s been a lot of discussion in Maine (and Blue Hill) about “local sovereignty.” The proponents have argued that local residents are better positioned than Washington (or Augusta) legislators and bureaucrats to form sensible judgments about, for example, the safety of locally produced food. (Keeping in mind that there are also Federal and Maine regulations governing the same.)

So, the question for next week’s discussion is: Which activities should be provided by (or regulated by):

  • The Federal government
  • The State governments
  • Local governments

Rather than enumerating the myriad services and activities to be regulated, of course, it may be more fruitful to think more abstractly about what common characteristics might cause a given activity to fall into one of the three (or four, if we want to consider County government as well) buckets.

Among the core issues to consider are:

  • Which entity(ies) should provide/regulate education?
  • Health care?
  • Social programs (for the needy, for the elderly)?
  • National defense?
  • Food safety?
  • Criminal law enforcement?

So, brush up on your Federalist Papers and be ready to go on Monday. If you need help getting started, here’s a link to Wikipedia on Federalism in the United States.

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