Localism is defined as local government handling the local responsibilities and revenue through locally elected public officeholders. Localism is a principle foundational feature of what became The American System. Localism is a key component in the decentralization of authority, guarding against despotic control from more centralized governmental entities, and against restrictions or mandates that may attempt to be issued by higher levels of government. In the United States Constitution the Federal Government has been granted no powers over local issues, leaving the discretion over local issues to local governments. When localism is properly followed, communities historically tend to operate more smoothly, successfully, and with a membership that is more active in civic duties. Local government thrives when it operates individually with no threat of overreach by another governmental body perceived.
In today’s society controversy over issues like local law enforcement policies, local land development, internal improvement policies and activities, election manners and procedures, and school curricula agitate communities across the country. Some communities have voted to disallow Critical Race Theory in their schools, while others have elected to rename schools named for historic figures, or pull down statues and other historical markers that do not fit the narrative of the loudest protest group pounding their fists on governmental desks and daises demanding that they “get their way.”
Localism often includes democratic formats including ballot initiatives, petition drives, and townhall meetings. Issues that affect the electorate on all sides of the political aisle have spurned intense interest in local government, largely because in the modern political climate, voters realize that local politics can profoundly affect one’s immediate quality of life.
More important than individual local votes and cultural trends is a concept often forgotten, or ignored as an archaic and obscure aspect of American political culture. Localism has a crucial effect on the culture, and the other components of the American System, because politics resides downstream from the culture. Localism serves as a critical indicator regarding where the culture might reside on the scale as compared to The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God (Rule of Law, as presented by the Declaration of Independence). In short, while we scream for our representatives to operate in favor of our political demands, the primary duty of officeholders, whether they be local, or members of other governmental bodies, is to serve the rule of law.
The rule of law is often interpreted in a manner that is tied to the culture, which is driven by local policies and tendencies. The whims of culture can have an incredibly powerful effect on the grand scheme of things. Officeholders begin their careers at the local level, trained by the local culture, and guided by local influences. If the culture has abandoned the rule of law as prescribed by virtuous ideals then the lack of ethical and upright standards will simply multiply as that official moves up through the levels of government.
A virtuous cultural foundation at the local level ensures a better opportunity for a virtuous government at higher levels. Corruption, deceit, and viciousness in our culture and local governmental offices leads to a corrupt, deceitful, and despotic government at the upper levels.
Localism is the foundation from which our entire culture and political system begins. A firm foundation provides a firm culture and government. A shaky foundation leaves all other parts of the American System at risk to collapse should the culture falter, and the government abandon the rule of law.