Decentralization Is A Step Toward Self-Determination

"Uniformity" Is No Virtue

Nonetheless, one recent commenter at mises.org argues local autonomy is unacceptable because travelers ought not have to deal with a patchwork of different legal regimes:

[In Wisconsin] I drive 40 miles to work and 40 back. I pass through at least 8 different towns on the way. If every town had different gun laws, my freedom to protect myself [with legal concealed weapons] would be compromised or curtailed altogether.

The conclusion we are presumably supposed to draw is that some centralized political authority must intervene to ensure uniformity among laws, presumably in a way that protects the rights of residents. Of course, this sort of reasoning also takes the naïve view that in this case, the central government will implement laws that favor the legality of concealed weapons. Experience suggests this is a rather fanciful notion, and we can see the benefits of local control if we consider the case of a state that takes an unfavorable view toward firearms.

Consider New York State, for example, where the government heavily restricts the use and ownership of firearms. It is likely that many towns and cities in the northern and western part of the state would prefer to allow more freedom in firearms usage were local control allowed by the state. If these local communities had the ability to ignore state edicts on firearms, at least the residents in those communities would have greater freedom with firearms. As it is, the presence of a strong centralized state government ensures these freedoms are heavily curtailed everywhere within the state. Thus, the overall amount of freedom is greater in a scenario with decentralized political power.

The argument that laws ought to be uniform is equally suspect when dealing with passing across state borders. For example, consider a commuter who must drive from southern Maine to the northern end of the Boston metro area. This is a trip of only about eighty miles but requires the commuter to travel through three states. Two of these states tend to be permissive on guns—Maine and New Hampshire—but Massachusetts tends to heavily restrict firearms usage and ownership.

If uniformity in law is important, then we must therefore insist that the federal government intervene to ensure that we aren’t inconvenienced by the fact gun laws change every time we cross state lines. 

But, of course, we know how well that would work out. Inviting federal lawmakers to "protect rights" or make gun laws “uniform” would almost certainly result in far more restriction than is currently the state in many states. Unfortunately, “uniformity” across state lines tends to favor the areas with the most restrictive mandates.

The Problem with Asking Higher Levels of Government to Protect Our Rights

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