Monday, March 19, 2012

Uniformity, by Fabian Bedne

Councilman Fabian Bedne
Immediately after declaring our American independence, the struggle began regarding the proper balance of power between the states and the federal government. This struggle also happened in Latin America. In Argentina there were many wars fought over this very issue and, over time, the federal government became very strong. This resulted in the federal government having the most power to collect and decide how to spend the tax revenues.

Unfortunately, the subsequent (and huge) accumulation of power and wealth in the capitol city of Buenos Aires occurred at the expense of Argentina’s various provinces and cities. This ultimately created a situation where approximately 50% of Argentina’s 40 million inhabitants now live in or around the federal capital of the country. Though Buenos Aires itself enjoys most benefits and comforts of a modern city, if you drive 100 miles out you will find many little towns with open sewage and unpaved roads. Recently Argentina has realized the negative impact of this and has been working at making adjustments.

The preferred pastime of the Argentines is to try and figure out why a country like Argentina, which was the 8th wealthiest country 100 years ago, is now so far behind. They like to compare their country to the USA and ponder the stark differences. They just can’t figure out the why the differences are so dramatic.

Photo by ::: M @ X :::. Licensed via Creative Commons.
It took me a year after moving to the USA to get it. I used to live in Columbus, Ohio and the program with which I was associated wanted to show us the real USA. So, I was invited to Appalachia, spent the night with an Amish Family, visited many small towns and always would get in trouble for asking if the water out of the faucet was good to drink. You see, in Latin America that is an important question. In the USA however, that is almost an insult as local communities have the means to make sure their water is safe. We created a system here in America that is in equilibrium; federal issues are handled at the federal government level and state issues are dealt at the state government level. Just as important, local issues are managed by local governments. This is possible because each of these respective levels of government has its own source of tax revenues, which truly empowers the various levels of government to deal with issues as they see fit.

I understand why some of our State Legislators say that the conversation about the proper balance of power is only between the states and the federal government. But by limiting the conversation to only those two levels of government however, they take a huge risk. Our system works because somehow we have managed to spread out power. To try and concentrate power in this way, all in the name of uniformity, is a very dangerous path that, as I described above, will have a very negative impact on our local communities. Cities across Tennessee have declared concern for legislations that will limit the ability of local officials to do what they were voted into office to accomplish.

Uniformity, when taken to extremes, is what you will find in countries like Cuba or Iran. We benefit every day by empowering local communities to make local decisions. Let’s remember that the water across America is safe to drink and there is a reason for that. Local government makes this and other things possible which should never be taken for granted.

Fabian Bedne represents District 31 on the Metro Council.

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