The Foundation often gets inquiries on our position on local control from both sides of the political spectrum; we’ve even had a few recently. Quite often the questioner assumes we support local control, and wonders how we can then justify our position, for instance, of supporting state intervention in decisions made by city government.

Yet the Foundation never has taken the position that local control is better than state or federal control. For example, if a local government passes an ordinance keeping minorities from voting, we would say that it is quite proper for the state or federal government to step in to overrule the local government. Likewise, when a local government improperly takes private property we would support an interdiction from the Texas courts or Legislature regarding such activity.

This is because local control is not a first principle that we seek to defend. Instead our first principles are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property); or, in Foundation speak, liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. Thus there is no contradiction between our principles when take a position against a local government decision, for what we are saying is that this local government decision is not in line with liberty, etc.

We have three levels of government in this country–local, state, and federal. None alone are what we rely on to maintain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property). We rely on a balance of the three of them under our system of federalism for this. In fact, under this system, the state governments come first, not the local governments. We lose sight of this sometimes when we talk about the 10th Amendment case for restoring power back to the states. This doesn’t mean that we want to devolve power to the lowest level, it means we want to restore state sovereignty, per the constitution.

Cities don’t have the same claim against state government that state government has against the federal government. The states created both the federal government and local government. So cities, school districts, etc. only have the powers granted them under state constitutions and state laws. And the Foundation has no more interest in supporting hundreds of little tyrannical governments in Texas than we have in supporting one big tyrannical government in Washington, D.C.

Thus what is consistent with our pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property) is maintaining the interplay between all three levels of government that best achieves these ideals, remembering that the state government is the first of all governments in our system.