Reduce state sovereignty to improve governance

Let me ask a question, can you name an instance where the states in opposition to the federal government were on the right side of history?  On a more mundane level, there are obviously huge inequalities in the quality of government between states.  Look at Kansas which has turned farcical under the poor management of Brownback.  Look at all the Republican states that refused Medicaid expansion, which ended up costing them money!

If we just abandoned this idea of state sovereignty we could drastically improve the quality of services in many poor areas (usually Republican-controlled) and reduce inequality stemming from arbitrary state borders.  The biggest sham is the idea of state block grants usually proposed by Republicans.  This, as far as I am aware, has never worked. States find ways to spend it on what they want or do so poorly.  See the sorry state of TANF  in Red states.

For instance here are some low hanging fruits if we got rid of this ridiculous notion:

  1. Health care.  Medicaid expansion should be mandatory It is ridiculous that anyone can refuse this, on either fiscal or moral grounds.  This is free and it helps the poor, especially poor children.  Even better we should just combine everything into one federal program and provided basic healthcare to all.
  2. Schools.  Currently schools are mostly financed by local property taxes.  This means schools in rich areas get more money when their students are probably going to do well regardless.  This is completely backwards.  Federal funding of schools would more equitable.  Furthermore, why are we not just having the government provide free open source textbooks for every subject written by experts?  This would save so much money and ensure a baseline level of quality of materials.  But no, we have to appease the idiots that are still horrified that evolution is taught in school.
  3. Taxes.  Many states are engaged in a race to the bottom offering staggering tax breaks to lure businesses.  This is a beggar thy neighbor policy at best and a beggar thyself policy in many cases.  If most of the tax base was at the federal level it would be much harder to get away with this.  Also, state taxes are regressive in general, while federal taxes are usually progressive.  We  can hope that a shift to federal tax collection would make a more progressive tax burden.
  4. Unemployment insurance and other welfare programs are a mess of state and federal programs.  I already mentioned the sorry state of TANF in many states, but it’s indicative of other programs neglected by states not very interested in providing for their poor.  And again, the poor are mostly concentrated in conservative states where these programs are skimpy.  Apart from reducing administrative overhead, federal consolidation of these programs would eliminate much of the wide disparity in the generosity of welfare among states.



Killing Baby Hitler

This philosophical time travel dilemma has come up frequently recently, even Jeb Bush was asked about it.  For those unfamiliar with the Baby Hitler problem, it basically asks the question: if you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you do it and would it be morally righteous?

The problem here is that it has become a proxy for stopping WW2 and the Holocaust and if that were the case then the choice is obvious.  But we don’t know that is the case, maybe there is some kind of Zeitgeist that would ensure that roughly the same sequence of events occurs.  And then maybe Hitler’s replacement is more effective and holds off on attacking Russia until he has subjugated the U.K. and the Third Reich becomes real and with it the concomitant decrease in the goodness of the world.

Unfortunately, this inability to determine the full consequences of our actions plays havoc with any attempt to ascribe morality to our actions.  Maybe some Roman raider is faced with the choice of killing a young woman and ends up sparing her.  This woman is the distant ancestor of Hitler.  Are all of the people that Hitler murdered on that raider’s head as well?  This despite choosing the more immediately moral choice.  It presents a dour nihilism that would seem to prevent any action on the basis that you could be killing millions in the far future by drinking that coffee in the morning.  You never know.

Maybe we should only consider the consequences of our actions out to the boundary of our ability to extrapolate the future?  However, that means that the morality of an action is determined at some level by the person faced with the choice.  If they are smarter or more informed then they can make better and more far reaching predictions.  Then we have to ask how good we are at making predictions and assigning probabilities to various outcomes.  This is impossible to verify, particularly at the decision point.  Therefore, it comes down to the whims and personality of the person.

This leaves us with an untenable moral philosophy whereby good intentions are enough.  I am sure Hitler believed the world would be better without any Jews, but I think we can all agree that genocide is evil.  How can we possibly save any conception of morality?  I don’t know and neither does philosophy.

This is where religion steps in saying that only a supreme omniscient being can extract us from this moral muddle.  But then I have to ask how God does not fall prey to the same issues, why is his moral judgement invulnerable?