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Old 05-24-2010, 09:09 PM   #1
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Default The War of Ideology Between the City States

The War of Ideology Between the City States
By Bill Frezza

Economic boycotts are an American tradition going back to the revolution. Frustrated colonists not only boycotted British goods but enforced their boycott using violence, not just against British merchants and royal tax collectors but against neighbors that didn't share their views. Shop windows were broken, homes were trashed, and tar and feathers were in the air.

Are we going to see this happen again between American cities and states?

The federalist system developed by the founders established each state as a laboratory for democracy, overseen by a federal government whose powers were strictly limited and carefully enumerated. Among these federal powers were controlling the process whereby immigrants became citizens and proscribing state laws that would impede interstate commerce. The states were left the civil powers to police their jurisdictions as they saw fit, each meeting the particular needs of their people.

It's hard to find an example of where this system has broken down more thoroughly than immigration policy. Mired in irreconcilable partisanship, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to update our immigration laws to deal with current realities. Kowtowing to third world leaders, the administration has lost both the will and the ability to enforce laws already on the books. States have begun willy-nilly either granting many rights of citizenship to undocumented immigrants or passing laws that make it easier to identify them and kick them out. And most alarmingly, social activists are using the levers of democracy to punish citizens in other states whose laws they disagree with.

How much lower can democracy sink?

It's one thing when fruit loop communities like Berkeley pass laws theatrically proclaiming their towns nuclear free. But when major cities like Los Angeles begin abrogating contracts with private companies just because they are headquartered in Arizona the total breakdown of the federalist system becomes painfully obvious. Emerging in its place is a system of unbridled tribalism defined not by kinship but by ideology.

When these factions get their hands on the levers of power, even at the municipal level, tribal leaders apparently see no limits on their ability to righteously lash out and tell distant people how to live. And why not? Ever since we abandoned limits on government power enshrined in the constitution haven't we been educated to believe that it's the government's job to make all good things mandatory and all bad things forbidden - here, there and everywhere? And with no fixed principles to guide us, isn't the majority the final arbiter of what is good and what is bad? The LA city council voted 13 to 1 to boycott bad Arizona. The people have spoken!

To a large extent, individuals and private organizations still retain the right to give their business to anyone they see fit. But under what governing principle can blue cities start boycotting red states that, say, forbid gay marriage while red cities boycott blue states that ban handguns? What's to stop cities from refusing entry to trucks that have license plates from states whose laws they don't like? How about "sending a message" by threatening to cut off commerce with other states if their citizens vote for the "wrong" presidential candidate? Where does it end?

Tea Party candidate Rand Paul generated all sorts of media consternation when he implied that while government agencies shouldn't be allowed to discriminate based on race, color, creed, or national origin private organizations and businesses should be allowed to enjoy freedom of association, as wrongheaded as their choices might be. You could just hear the delighted "gotchas" as Rand danced on the third rail. Yet where was the outrage when the Los Angeles city council voted to deny civil rights to Arizonians based solely on their place of origin? Is this the same dysfunctional city that is frantically seeking a bailout for its spendthrift ways? Do you think they will refuse to take federal money if it's tainted with taxes collected in Arizona?

In the midst of this chaos is the President of the Unites States asking people to cool down their rhetoric and show some respect for diverse views on this complex issue? Do you see the party that controls both houses of Congress redoubling its efforts to get the Federal Government to step up to the responsibility of fixing immigration policy, a responsibility that Congress rightly owns? Do you see the attorney general lecturing city councils that group punishment is a recognized abuse of human rights and discrimination based on state of origin is unconstitutional? Nope. Instead partisan minions are fanning out to denounce laws they haven't even read brazenly leveraging sympathetic media toadies to fire up their base as the Progressive movement heads into an election season they fear might deliver ... change.

Bill Frezza is a partner at Adams Capital Management, an early-stage venture capital firm. He can be reached at bill@vereverus.com. If you would like to subscribe to his weekly column, drop a note to publisher@vereverus.com.
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Old 05-25-2010, 06:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: The War of Ideology Between the City States

Good post. To answer the question, this is why the Federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce. Unfortunately, they have abused the term over the years and have lost sight of what it actually meant.
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