Local control? I prefer freedom

Parrish Miller Articles

While the notion of “local control” was originally seen as a way to limit the power and intrusion of government, today it is as likely to be touted by advocates of bigger government and less freedom as it is to be supported by traditional conservatives. If anything, the trend has actually reversed, and today, it is often state governments that are overriding local ordinances in the name of preserving liberty rather than local governments defending freedom against state or federal overreach.

Several examples of such state-level defense of liberty exist in Idaho. The most well-known is probably Idaho’s preemption statute in relation to firearms. Section 18-3302J, Idaho Code, states that “except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city, agency, board or any other political subdivision of this state may adopt or enforce any law, rule, regulation, or ordinance which regulates in any manner the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying or storage of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition.”

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Another example is what will soon be Chapter 37, Title 49, Idaho Code, which allows transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber to operate in spite of local opposition. The new code—just recently enacted—states that “no municipality or other local entity may impose a tax on, or require a license for, a TNC, a TNC driver, or a vehicle used by a TNC driver where such tax or licenses relates to providing TNC services, or subject a TNC to the municipality or other local entity’s rate, entry, operational or other requirements.”

Other states have passed additional such preemptions including a law against local municipalities expanding so-called anti-discrimination ordinances—really anti-freedom of association ordinances—in Arkansas and a law against local minimum wage hikes in Oklahoma. Similar laws could be necessary in Idaho, especially because cities such as McCall and Coeur d’Alene are already actively pushing for local laws to increase the minimum wage.

There are many reasons why state-level preemptions against local infringements on human freedom are desirable. Local laws can prevent individuals from making their own choices about who to hire or what pay rate to accept for a job, and having different hiring or wage standards inside states can create havoc for companies. Preventing local counties or cities from imposing local sales or income taxes, for example, creates a much more stable business climate.

There are also plenty of historical examples of “local control” at both the state and local level being used to violate individual rights. From state religious mandates to laws against owning guns, interracial marriage and burning the flag, the Supreme Court has frequently stepped in to protect people from state and local tyranny. Both federal and state courts have been guilty of overstepping their authority and constricting freedom on numerous occasions as well, however; so it is certainly not the case that one level of government is always correct.

Ultimately, the goal in all cases must be to protect the freedom of individuals and businesses to exist, prosper, and engage in commerce and other voluntary actions without undue regulation or interference from government at any level. Government is force, and where that force can be limited, those who favor freedom must support such limitations, regardless of the source from which they may arise.

The Idaho Legislature has already shown a willingness to step in and pass laws to prevent cities and counties from limiting our gun rights and denying people the right to earn a living by being an Uber driver. There is much more to be done. Idahoans need to be protected from the havoc and instability of liberal enclaves jacking up the minimum wage—as has already happened in San Francisco and SeaTac, Washington—and we also need to preempt local laws which limit our ability to operate home businesses, fix our cars, paint our houses, or smoke on our own property.

While increased “local control” may sound good in theory, defending and expanding freedom should always be our number one priority, and if that means using state preemption to combat local tyranny, so be it. As Lord Acton said, “Liberty is not a means to a political end. It is itself the highest political end.”