In the run-up to the earthshaking vote by which British decided to leave the European Union, many British voters expressed the thought, "I want my country back!" Commentators and newspaper writers who had long ago decided that the day of nation-states was over ridiculed the idea that Britain could return to its independent past, but in the end, the "Leave" view won, albeit narrowly.
We at Scragged have argued long and loud for the advantages of "subsidiarity," that is, the idea that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level of government. This is because we believe that local voters in any civilized country understand their own local interests better than anyone in the regional capital and far better than anyone in the far-off national capital. Our Founders felt the same and designed our country to function on that premise, and it worked very well for a long time.
Today, alas, our ruling elites don't trust the peasants. Instead they've made it plain that they believe they should tell us what to do, backed by fines and even jail time if we don't agree. This is every bit as true of the EUreaucrats as it is of our own.
Margaret Thatcher, who was known as the "Iron Lady" while she was Prime Minister of England, made one historic mistake which contributed to today's "Brexit": she famously reduced the spending power of British town councils and concentrated power in the London bureaucracy. Town councils lost control of their public housing projects, their schools, zoning regulations, and much else.
It was bad enough moving this power to central London, but as the EU accumulated more and more regulatory power, power moved from far-off London to even-farther-off Brussels, which might as well be in a different galaxy as far as voters being able to influence the laws and regulations which controlled their lives was concerned. This was wonderful for power-hungry elites who regard the peasants' concerns with contempt but brought woe and frustration to the lower levels of government and the citizens whom they attempted to serve.
In short, the EU's "ever-closer union" had made the British government far less responsive to the needs of its citizens. As any rational person should have expected but the elites somehow didn't, powerless ordinary folk resented this.
America made a similar mistake to Thatcher's in 1913 when we changed the Constitution so that Senators are elected instead of being appointed by state legislatures. Our Founders had a healthy fear of the federal government. They realized that only governments have the power and resources needed to limit other governments. Getting agreement on adopting the Constitution was difficult because the colonial governments didn't want the centralized federal government threatening their powers.
The Senate was a compromise which was created explicitly to represent the interests of the state governments in opposition to the federal government. The colonial governments agreed that if laws had to be passed both by the House of Representatives, whose members were elected by the people, and by the Senate, whose members were appointed by state governments, the federal government wouldn't be able to take too much power from the state governments or lord it over the people. Thus was born our form of government, which Benjamin Franklin described as, "A republic - if you can keep it."
We kept it until 1913. Once Senators were elected by the popular vote instead of state legislatures, they lost interest in protecting state government power. They learned to seek re-election by giving voters benefits in return for their votes.
This doomed the American experiment because it turned America into a democracy. As our Founders well knew, no democracy survives once voters realize that they can vote themselves benefits from the Treasury. Direct election of Senators eliminated our Founders' effective brake on this corrosive practice.
To name but one example of the effect, once Senators no longer represented state governments, they happily passed "unfunded mandates" which required states to give money to voters. Under the earlier system, any Senator who supported an "unfunded mandate" would have been turfed out by the legislature who'd appointed him or her, no matter how badly the Representatives wanted to spend state-controlled tax money buying votes.
As Adam Smith put it, "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation," but our federal government's power immediately started to increase and the power of states and of citizens to decrease. It took most of a century for the Federal government to get involved in such local matters as what schools must serve students at lunchtime, in specifying which bathrooms students should use, or overriding zoning regulations in favor of low-income housing, but the process has been unstoppable.
Today, there is serious talk in Washington of eliminating the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of freedom of speech, as well as the Second Amendment which guarantees the right to carry guns. If this were ever put to the vote of the people, the "get rid of" side would be lucky to reach double digits, yet our elites have decided that we have more rights than we really need. They're slowly taking our rights away, for our own good, of course.
Joining the EU brought similar changes to Britain, and it happened much faster than in the US. Although many British voters didn't mind their loss of sovereignty and wanted to "Remain" in the EU, a small majority of British were fed up with the EU's overweening, untouchable bureaucracy and its "open borders" follies. The Leave party carried the day.
Changing the US Constitution is a lot harder than winning a referendum, which was all the British Leave faction needed. Unless we return to our Founders' wisdom and make it possible for state governments to check the power of the federal government, however, we'll have no individual rights left. We have been warned.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.