Giuliani’s fake federalism

This doesn’t happen often, but I’m with Marc Ambinder.

Federalism is a technique of political organization, not a free-standing moral principle. “That ought to be decided locally” is not an adequate answer to the question “What’s your position about X?” unless the right thing to do about X genuinely varies from place to place. And even then, you ought to say why: Montana is less crowded than Manhattan, and needs fewer noise-restriction laws.

When X is a matter of simple right and wrong, then it may still be right to say “X ought to be decided locally,” or “The Constitution assigns the decision about X to the states,” but that alone is not enough. You also ought to say where you stand personally. The Constitution leaves most of the criminal law to the states; but if a state chose to decriminalize child-molesting, I’d expect public officials everywhere to join with citizens in denouncing that as a wrong choice.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: