I was considering posting this in the Philosophy S.E., to ask if this was an example of The Middle Ground Fallacy, but then realized that my context is entirely political.

Much of federal politics in the U.S. today seems to involve the two major parties taking turns undoing the "work" of the previous administration in a seemingly endless exchange of retaliation.

Since 1950, the majority party has only maintained control for at most three terms, and despite the core philosophical differences between each party, there are many common elements that citizens find dissatisfying (Congress as a whole for example):

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Work done at the University of Toronto found strong correlations between personality traits and political affiliation. And as Jonathan Haidt often points out, citing Jon Stuart Mill, those with whom we disagree are often caricatured and misrepresented. This is because without engaging in deep and meaningful debate, most people start from an emotional premise (based on their temperament) and engage in confirmation bias with post hoc rationalizations in order to defend the emotional premise.

I'm familiar with Federalist arguments for a strong national economy and military, but when it comes to social programs, the prosecution of those who commit victimless crimes, surveillance, taxation, education, currency, etc., would many of the growing tensions between parties be ameliorated if people were allowed to vote with their feet in hundreds of locations instead of merely 50 states? The states themselves are typically controlled by the same two party system and do not offer much outside the status quo.

My pessimistic assumption is that average person is too ignorant or lazy to realize their own irrational condition and subconsciously crave state control, believing that one day their party will reign forever.

TL;DR If we know that people differ in temperament, and most wish to live in environments where state control does not dictate their behavior and forcibly redistribute their resources into programs they abhor, why is secession or at least smaller, autonomous localities not proposed as a solution in mainstream political discourse?

  • "Much of federal politics in the U.S. today seems to involve the two major parties taking turns undoing the "work" of the previous administration in a seemingly endless exchange of retaliation." This kind of political conduct is actually quite rare. The current administration in the U.S. is a rare exception to political norms that leave major legislation by previous administrations in place, and even this administration failed in its attempt to repeal Obamacare. – ohwilleke Apr 30 '18 at 6:49

Localization of government control is a partial solution and already provides some ability for Americans to choose the kind of government they want.

However in a country where free trade and free movement of people between different parts of the country is protected by the Constitution, there will always be issues where the behavior of one local government has effects on the ability of people in other areas to govern themselves.

For example:

  • District A wants gun control so that only the police have guns and criminals have a hard time acquiring them. District B wants freedom and protection from government oppression. Result:Criminals go to District B to buy their guns and take them to District A where they know all their law-abiding victims are unarmed.

  • District A wants Universal Health Care, high levels of Welfare, and high taxes on the rich to to support these programs. District B doesn't want the government taking the fruit of people's hard work and giving it to others. Result: rich people move to district B and poor people move to district A so that District A is unable to afford the Universal Health Care and Welfare.

  • District A wants strict air pollution controls. District B wants cheaper manufacturing. Result: factories move from District A to District B and air pollution blows around and pollutes both districts.

Some issues can be handled locally. If District A wants a well-funded fire department and District B prefers to save money but let some buildings burn, neither district's decision will have a large impact on the other district.

So localization can help with many issues but not all issues.


Firstly it should be observed that the united states has a collections of semi-autonomous states that carry out functions at a local level and distribute the powers as they see fit. Most of these states are governed by governors and have a state legislature that align (at least broadly) with either of the two parties.

What you seem to be proposing is further localising control. So the question is how local does it have to get before members stop aligning themselves with political parties. I don't have an answer to this but i can say that in the UK the penetration of political parties is right down to the parish level where most councillors are also members of a political party. How significant simply being a member of a party is somewhat unclear. It is possible that if the areas seeded they would form their own distinct parties or if the areas were small enough perhaps politicians would work independently of parties.

Why is extreme localisation not proposed as a solution in "mainstream discourse"?

A major issue with this is that even if practical it might not solve the dissatisfaction you mention. Difficulties/dissatisfaction with one organisation may transfer onto the the local body that takes on that function (e.g. dissatisfaction with congress may be transferred to a dissatisfaction with the new ruling council)

  • Power - more localisation reduces the power of central state ( that currently holds the power). The state and those that run it will not want to lose this power
  • Practicality - Achieving localisation in this way would require massive work to be put into disentangling everything and ensuring that each autonomous area could function independently
    • Each area would need to be able to provide or be able to source from somewhere all resources required to be truly independent this would include generating power
    • All centralised functions including for example financial regulation would need to be run by someone the more independent the more likely that their aims and objectives will not align and agreement on such matter may not be possible.
  • Identity - Many people may feel that they identify with the core values/culture and don't therefore need government functions more localised
  • NIMBYism - A significant issue with localisation is NIMBYism. After all it's nice to ask the local people but what happens when they say No! and then the next locality says no! well someone needs to decide where that power station goes or where those trains lines get built
  • Efficiency - Having a high level organisation with power is efficient having an organisation with power and budget to do things gets things done much easier and quicker than giving the same budget to lots of different bodies and getting them to agree to do some (presumably without outside persuasion as the high level body isn't there to make those plans anymore)
  • The big picture - lots of small localised bodies will start to look at what they can do in their area with their budget, it will be a lot harder to get them to contribute to the big picture especially if they are fully independent. We can observe this between current nation states (e.g. over climate change)

TLDR Localisation poses many problems and the level of localisation required to remove the issue related to party politics/current government structure is likely to lead to more problems than it solves. Additionally, it can't be assumed that similar dissatisfaction will not transfer onto or also be instilled by more local organisations.

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