Acton Institute Powerblog

Hodgepodge is Good

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Silla Brush penned an interesting little piece in the latest U.S. News and World Report, using the Massachusetts health care bill as a springboard to a wider observation of policy innovation at the level of state government. Leaving aside what any of us may think about any of the initiatives mentioned (they mostly represent bigger government), the observation is a good one.

But then this:

When the feds stall, leave it to the states. The result may be a hodgepodge. But maybe, just maybe, some of the best ideas will find their way to Washington.

This is a manifestation of just the wrong sort of mentality. Brush views the states as laboratories where legislator-scientists impatient with the pace of change at the federal level experiment with policy ideas. Once the states, with their hodgepodge laws, have worked out the best one, the feds can take it and make it universal.

No, our end-goal should be the hodgepodge, not national uniformity. Various states have various sorts of industry, resources, populations, and cultures. Their different needs and values can be expressed through differing policy approaches to questions such as health care, wages, and the environment (with, of course, certain responsibilities reserved to the national government, per the Constitution). That’s the genius of the federal system. Let’s not view the states as launching pads for national policy; let’s allow the states to make policy and leave it at that.

Kevin Schmiesing Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., is a research fellow for the research department at the Acton Institute. He is a frequent writer on Catholic social thought and economics, is the author of American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895-1955 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2002) and is most recently the author of Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II (Lexington Books, 2004). Dr. Schmiesing holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in history from Franciscan University ofSteubenville. Author of Within the Market Strife and American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895—1955 (2002), he serves as Book Review Editor for the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also executive director of CatholicHistory.net.

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