There is an ancient principle to which our Founding Fathers were fiercely dedicated: subsidiarity. Which is simply the notion that people tend to know how to govern their own affairs. What you can handle locally should be handled locally, not by a far-away ruling class.
The sole purpose of government, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure certain unalienable rights. When government grows beyond this scope, not only is it a usurpation of power and our liberty compromised, it is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.
What the Founding Fathers gave us is a recipe not only for freedom, but for flourishing. The same common-sense principle applies to, say, household management. You don’t ask your Homeowners Association what you should make for dinner.
When decisions and power are centralized, the republic withers. This is why our Founders inserted so many checks and balances into the federal Constitution and why they knew the federal government must have clear, defined limits. They were right.
And the same can be said for the state and local governments.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the great 19th century observer of American democracy, praised the way that Americans formed societies and groups and corporations to get things done. It was these groups, independent of government, that enabled Americans to manage their own affairs.
We, at the Madison Liberty Institute, tend to believe decisions are best made closest to home. A clear understanding of the jurisdiction and governing authority of each level of government is essential to be able to “erect barriers at the constitutional line.” We must empower local, state, and national leaders to preserve and maintain the healthy tension that was designed to exist between the various levels and branches of government, as well as the people.