The second difference is relational. Federal power is impersonal, uniform, abstract and rule-oriented. Local power is personalistic, relational, affectionate, irregular and based on a shared history of reciprocity and trust. A national system rewards rational intelligence. A local system requires emotional intelligence, too.
Change in a localist world often looks like a renewal of old forms, which were often more intimate and personalistic than the technocratic structures of the past 50 years. Localism stands for the idea that there is no one set of solutions to diverse national problems. Instead, it brings conservatives and liberals together around the thought that people are happiest when their lives are enmeshed in caring face-to-face relationships, building their communities together.
If American history has taught us anything, it’s that political conflict at the state and local level is unpossible.
One odd thing about this column, though, is that the discussion is purely abstract, with a dearth of concrete examples. I’m not sure why. Prejudice against federal power has led to upholding some of the most precious and closely held rights: the slaveholder’s right to take his property into territories, the right of states to disenfranchise voters, the right of sugar companies to control 98% of the national market without running afoul of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the right of companies to use child labor and ship the resulting goods across state lines, the right of people without health insurance to suffer, be bankrupted, or die. Why not mention all of these wonderful benefits rather than speaking solely in windy abstractions?