Anti-federalists views misguided, hypocritical

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It could be argued that the famed honor duel gone awry between Federalist Alexander Hamilton and Anti-Federalist Aaron Burr gave birth to the modern “states rights vs. federal power” argument through the barrel of a pistol.

Exploding out of a flash and a cloud of angry smoke are all of the talking points we know so well: from Second Amendment rights, to disagreements over gay marriage, to the “you didn’t build that” horse to which I hope to give a long-overdue coup de grace.

In many ways, this same argument was played out vicariously through the Civil War, but the conclusion was not that the Union victory solidified the moral rightness of federalism by defeating the South.

Rather, the conclusion was simply that the North won.

For years, anti-federal or even completely anti-government sentiment has festered and it is now very much at the forefront of our political lives.

I suppose it is a mark of progress that we are fighting the current battle with words instead of weapons, but the end result has been about as constructive as William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Today, the mainstream argument about this subject is being played out in the financial world. I can distinctly remember a picture that circulated around Facebook during the 2012 presidential campaign in which a small business owner stands by his street sign which reads, “I built this myself, you can kiss my [expletive] Obama.”

Presumably, the owner was referring to a speech President Obama made on the campaign trail in which he uttered the phrase that would become so routinely misinterpreted: “You didn’t build that.”

President Obama was referring to the fact that all successful businesspersons benefit from the system, therefore they are not solely responsible for that success.

The anti-federalists in this scenario would argue that the federal government has no right to regulate their businesses, because their rules are overly complex, wasteful or costly.

However, even if the current state of our federal government is inefficient, it is certainly better than having no federal government at all.

There is no denying that we all have benefited, benefit or will benefit from federal programs and entities such as social security, power grids, water systems, student financial aid, medicare and natural gas pipe networks.

It is asinine and ideologically dishonest to cherry-pick the problems of the federal government without also mentioning the massive extent to which every one of us benefits from it; as if the sum of the federal government is an inefficient mess, and that’s all.

Yes, there are problems within the federal government, but few of us would even be here in college were it not for federal student aid, and so many of us would find it impossible to afford medical paraphernalia were it not for Medicare.

If someone dislikes the inefficiency of the federal government, that person would do well to express their displeasure by voting corrupt, useless career politicians out of office instead of aimlessly complaining that the federal government doesn’t have the efficiency of much smaller bodies of governance, because even in a perfect world, there’s no way it could.

There’s a reason we have a Constitution and a centralized federal government. It’s because prizing states’ rights over the supremacy of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation did not work.

If there were a country in which a federal government did not exist, perhaps critics of federal power would be happier there.

But all nations have realized the imperative of strong federal power, so no such country exists. No attempts to deceive people by reducing all things federal to socialism, no demagoguery of three-cornered malcontents nor any amount of hating the inefficiency of the federal government will change the fact that we need it to help govern our society.

Improvements to it can, should and need to be made, but as an institution, it is necessary, inefficient or not.

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