Letter: Federalism and COVID-19
The COVID-19 problem has brought up the issue of what level of government should set rules and standards for activities like business, gatherings and recreation.
After blustering a while about how he is the one in charge, President Trump has pulled back and pretty much left it to the states to handle the details about regulating those matters. Trying to have a single set of rules for New York, Iowa and Colorado is impracticable.
Jared Polis and other state governors are finding out how hard it is to deal with the competing interests of health and people’s activities. Trying to have a single set of rules for metro Denver, ski country and out on the plains is also impracticable.
This shows the benefit of leaving decisions in such matters to the level closest to the people. That’s hard enough, with demonstrators clamoring for various changes in the rules. But it’s better than prescriptions from a centralized source.
What Washington and Denver can do is offer advice based on what the experts say; but even then, there are often conflicting views. So the central government can act as an information clearinghouse, and let the lower levels decide what works for them. It isn’t perfect, but it’s probably as good a process as we can come up with.
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All this shows the wisdom of the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that those powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.