Opinion | Kim McGahey: We must return power to local governments
Conservative Common Sense
One of the foundations of a conservative philosophy is the belief that big government is bad government. Our Founding Fathers established a country based on a new principle that the people could and should govern themselves and did not need a monarch or a dictator ruling over them.
Power derived from the people was an untried concept in human history. All civilizations and societies prior to our Declaration of Independence saw power and control emanate from the top down. A ruling individual or aristocratic class determined how the masses should live and had ultimate responsibility over their daily lives.
This autocracy worked well as long as the uneducated masses were content to be dominated by elites that repressed their God-given individual rights. But our founders envisioned a system of government that turned that historic model of governance upside down. The founders created a government of the people, by the people and for the people with power coming from the bottom up. The power was derived from the people and the government was in place to serve them.
For the past 245 years, our great country has relied on this self-government model to keep power as close to the people as possible. This has meant the most effective public policy decisions have been made mostly at the local level. Town councils, city boards, county commissions and state legislatures were the decision-making bodies that provided the most responsive representation for the people because those were the entities that were closest to the people.
An Inherent fear of a strong overpowering national government like the King of England exerted over the colonies was at the core of the debate that ultimately produced our U.S. Constitution in 1789. The Federalist Papers written by James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton succinctly outlined the brilliant new concept of a federal republic that would maintain power from the bottom up, yet provide protection and guidance from the top down.
But somewhere in the recent history of the United States, that finely tuned balance of power between local and national elected bodies began to change and has resulted in the complete imbalance we have today where the people are subservient to the government. Over time, the slow but steady ebb of reliance on a national government to solve our daily problems has eroded our individual independence and replaced it with an unhealthy collective dependence.
As a result, we no longer look to our local representatives for traditional solutions as often as we look to the national government for those answers. Everything from the rubber washers in our shower heads to the kinds of cars we drive is now mandated by a gigantic maze of suffocating federal regulations, laws and policies. Whenever there is a problem with a stop sign or a neighbor’s behavior, we immediately look to the federal government for the solution. “We the people” have almost entirely abandoned the decision-making bodies closest to us. President Ronald Reagan said it clearly, “Government is not the solution, it’s the problem.”
This abdication of local power and personal responsibility is apparent in every community, including Summit County. The recent coronaphobia crisis is a perfect example of local representatives forfeiting their rightful power to make public policy decisions directly affecting the local population.
Summit County commissioners know our community’s needs best because they were elected by county voters. Those duly elected commissioners have the responsibility to make public policy decisions that are best for the local constituents. Our commissioners have an obligation and a duty to act as a fiduciary on behalf of the people, not relinquish that authority to the state of Colorado or the federal government. But that’s exactly what has happened.
It takes courage to make decisions about opening our schools full time, allowing our businesses to operate at 100%, and to guarantee civil liberties like rights of assembly, free speech and religion. These freedoms all should be constantly reinforced at the local level by our Summit County commissioners. We should not be held hostage by the one-size-fits-all policies of our governor or unelected federal bureaucratic tyrants. Sadly, we are being controlled and manipulated by the latter.
The Summit County commissioners have the power and the authority from “we the people” to govern locally. We must demand that our commissioners use that authority wisely and courageously to immediately reaffirm and secure Summit County’s independence from an oppressive authoritarian regime being forced upon us from the top down.
Kim McGahey’s column “Conservative Common Sense” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. McGahey is a real estate broker, tea party activist and Republican candidate. He has lived in Breckenridge since 1978. Contact him at email@example.com.
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