Everything that can be run more effectively by state and local government we shall turn over to state and local government, along with the funding sources to pay for it. We are going to put an end to the money merry-go-round, where our money becomes Washington’s money, to be spent by states and cities exactly the way the federal bureaucrats tell us it has to be spent.

—Ronald Reagan. Presidential nomination acceptance speech, Republican National Convention, Detroit, July 17, 1980.

The federal government’s oversight of state governments should be limited to prosecuting corruption among state and local officials. If a state has a bad government, then generally speaking its citizens should suffer. It is by suffering that an electorate is roused to change its laws or its leaders. This mechanism is undermined when the federal government makes earmarked grants to the state governments. These bribes are a usurpation of the independence of state government. First the federal government levies heavy taxes on the people—thereby displacing the capacity of the states to levy enough taxes for their own needs. Then it uses that revenue to bribe the states into ignoring the wishes of their electorates and instead spending the money in the way the federal government decrees. Thus, it can be seen that every cent of revenue raised by the federal government in excess of its own requirements for its legitimate functions is subversive of the sovereignty of the states and therefore democracy.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove