How Shall We Govern

Worthy of Note

How Shall We Govern
By Bob Hulteen

In Kevin Costner's new dystopic fantasy, The Postman, the future is bleak save for the responsible individualism of the director-star. With all sense of federalism ripped asunder, competing interests make life dangerous and dreary. But one heroic mail carrier rises up to confront the chaos. The threads of the social contract begin to be rewoven.

Those threads are truly being unwoven in our present. The current political climate encourages the devolution of the federal government by redistributing massive amounts of responsibility and power to smaller governmental subdivisions.

Good arguments, of course, can be made for this "reinvention." Massive bureaucracies operate on a scale that can dehumanize the individual.

Many in our society, from all across the political spectrum, are rushing to argue that the federal government is no longer the "forum" in which to deal with issues such as welfare and educational reform. And it is tempting to believe so.

In the early '80s, Canadian journalist Joel Garreau (of The Washington Post) made powerful arguments for a "fresh" look at national boundaries and decision-making processes in his The Nine Nations of North America (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1981). Garreau persuasively argued that, in truth, the borders of the North American continent are arbitrary and no longer represent reality. He showed that, for instance, solutions to energy shortages in the northeast regions of "The Foundry" and "New England"—where public transportation is a real option—made no sense in mid-America's "The Breadbasket" or "The Empty Quarter"—where distance precludes public transit. In this very large land, conflicting needs made public policy for the entire country impossible.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1998
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