In the previous part of this series I noted that the US federal government has become the founding fathers worst nightmare; a huge tax-hungry beast that is involved in virtually all aspects of everyday life.
In this part, I'm going to describe the main opportunity that I think was lost by the subversion of the US constitution.
The main principle behind the US Constitution was that the individual states should control their own destinies and the federal government should be a weak entity that exists primarily to coordinate the states.
Federal income tax was initially zero, and the individual states raised taxes based on their own philosophies and requirements. If you didn't like the state that you lived in, you were free to move to another state. As Ronald Reagan once said, "you vote with your feet".
The beauty of this arrangement was that it allowed states to pursue their own philosophies of government with minimal federal interference. Theoretically, one state could have experimented with communism, another with socialism and yet another with libertarianism. If a state's system was successful, it would flourish and its residents would continue to live there. But if a state's system was unsuccessful, its residents could either vote the state government out of power or leave for another state.
If the US had stuck to the initial vision of its Constitution, we probably wouldn't have to argue about the theoretical benefits of, say, libertarianism, because at least one of the states would have tried it. The US could have been a petri dish of governmental systems where the best ones thrived and the worst ones were replaced.
But because we have a huge federal government that imposes its large taxes and regulations on all residents of all states, it's impossible for a state to experiment much because its hands are tied. Indeed, the federal government often bullies states into adopting particular regulations by threatening to cut off federal funding for, say, road building or schools. The founding fathers would have found this particularly repulsive because the federal government was not meant to be funding such things in the first place.
In conclusion, I think the worst effect of the expansion of the federal government is that it limits the ability of individual states to innovate and try better forms of government. This in turn reduces the choices for US citizens.
I would personally love to try living in a place that was libertarian. Then at least I would not have to hypothesize about its pros and cons; I could experience them for myself. Since such a state could never exist in the US given the power of the federal government, my hope is that a society of the future will give it a try.
Perhaps on Mars on the Moon?