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Posts Tagged ‘Dobbs v. Jackson’

To Avoid Civil War, Learn to Tolerate Different Laws in Different States

Posted by M. C. on July 3, 2022

Moreover, decentralizing abortion policy in this way actually works to defuse national conflict. This is becoming even more important as cultural divides in the United States are clearly accelerating and become more entrenched.

This is not a problem, however, if we relearn that rather than employ federal coercion to “solve” the world’s problems, it’s perhaps better to tolerate others doing things differently in other parts of the world. On the other hand, if Americans can’t shake the idea that the regime must force one way of life on everyone, we can expect national political divides to grow ever more bitter. 

https://mises.org/wire/avoid-civil-war-learn-tolerate-different-laws-different-states

Ryan McMaken

Most commentary on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—which overturns Roe v. Wade—has focused on the decision’s effect on the legality of abortion in various states. That’s an important issue. It may be, however, that the Dobbs decision’s effect on political decentralization in the United States is a far bigger deal.

After all, the ruling isn’t so much about abortion as it is about the federal government’s role in abortion. State governments are free to make abortion 100 percent legal within their own borders. Some states have already done so. The court’s ruling limits only the federal government’s prerogatives over abortion law, and this has the potential to lead to many other limitations on federal power as well. In this way, Dobbs is a victory for those seeking to limit federal power. 

The decentralization is all to the good, and there’s nothing novel about it. Historically, state laws in the US have varied broadly on a variety of topics from alcohol consumption to divorce. This was also true of abortion before Roe v. Wade

Moreover, decentralizing abortion policy in this way actually works to defuse national conflict. This is becoming even more important as cultural divides in the United States are clearly accelerating and become more entrenched. Rather than fight with increasing alarm and aggression over who controls the federal government—and thus who imposes the winner’s preferences on everyone else—people in different states will have more choices in choosing whether to live under proabortion or antiabortion regimes. In other words, decentralization forces policymakers to behave as they should in a confederation of states: they must tolerate people doing things differently across state lines.  This will be essential in avoiding disaster, and laissez-faire liberals (i.e., “classical liberals”) have long supported decentralization as a key in avoiding dangerous political conflicts. Ludwig von Mises, for example, supported decentralization because, as he put it, it “is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil … wars.”

The Impulse to Use Federal Power to Force Policy on Everyone

Law has never been uniform across state lines in the United States, although this was not for a lack of trying on the part of the federal government. As the power of the federal government grew throughout the twentieth century, the central government repeatedly sought to make policy uniform and put it under the control of federal courts and regulatory agencies. Prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion was a state and local matter only. Before the drug war, the federal government did not dictate to states what plants they should let their citizens consume. Before the Volstead Act, “dry” states and “wet” states had far different policies on alcohol sales. Some states had lenient divorce laws. Some did not. Some states allowed gambling. Even immigration was once the domain of state government. Although some federal law enforcement agents existed in the nineteenth century, “law and order” was overwhelmingly a state and local matter prior to the rise of agencies like the FBI. 

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