Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Exceptionalism and Localism

Great essay at FPR by Kenneth McIntyre - Exceptionalism and Localism. So good, in fact, I stole his title. :)

When I get to the end, this end, "In this view, there is no claim that local self-government will necessarily be virtuous or that it should be allowed carte blanche, but merely that the diffusion of power will lessen the possibility of governmental tyranny." after having read this (paragraph above) , "Though I have a great deal of sympathy for the republican defense of self-government, I think that the second argument for local autonomy is even stronger." I get a certain sense of cognitive dissonance. Social conservatives talk about obligations for individuals but autonomy for communities. Frankly, I don't get why communities of individuals should get autonomy if the individuals themselves do not.

In truth, what it points out is the confusion in the minds of many about just who has autonomy. I do, you do, she does, he does. Every other kind of autonomy is built upon that understanding, an understanding social conservatives seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge.



  1. My point was that I am actually in sympathy with localism because I think that it will protect individual autonomy by combatting the centralization of power, not that I think that local communities should be completely autonomous. I'm less of a 'social conservative' than many of the others who write at FPR.

    Ken McIntyre

  2. Ken, thank you for your comment.

    I think I understand your point, but I still take issue with it - local authority is important in some ways, yes, but it too needs constraints, the kinds of constraints that only a national power can provide.

    As in so many things, countervailing power is the Rx for balance.