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Liberating the States and Their People from Federal Grants: A Conversation with James Buckley

with James L. Buckley

Now comes the great James Buckley to Liberty Law Talk to discuss his new book Saving Congress from Itself that argues federal grants-in-aid exemplify the obstacles currently posed to constitutional government. The key to our constitutional health must involve, Buckley declares, the elimination of these programs. The issue is more than just the overwhelming spending, which has soared from $24.1 billion in 1970 to approximately $640.8 billion in 2015. Buckley and I also discuss the obvious constitutional problems, namely, that through the so-called spending power Congress can impose laws on states that it otherwise possesses no constitutional authority to enact and enforce.

As Michael Greve has consistently noted in this space, state governments find it virtually impossible to leave federal grant money on the table, strings attached notwithstanding. Their loss, ultimately, is the ability of their citizens to freely govern themselves. However, the loss of self government is both local and national, as members of Congress divert their attention from the more pressing objectives of national government. They find it easier and more advantageous to manage the federal government on behalf of local concerns and interests that are served by grant programs.

The conceit of federal spending in the form of grants to states and localities is that Congress and federal agencies are better positioned to shape local priorities than the actual authorities elected for that very purpose. In this manner, centralization–the central mistake of the twentieth century–and its belief in experts ruling with and through knowledge continues unabated. Buckley, as the book’s subtitle states, has a plan to emancipate the states. The prescription we discuss is to end federal grants immediately, saving billions of dollars and, most significantly, restoring the Congress to its proper remit of deliberating national problems and issues in place of funding sidewalk construction in Sharon, Connecticut (Mr. Buckley’s hometown) on behalf of a federal anti-obesity initiative for children.

Reader Discussion

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on January 06, 2015 at 12:17:56 pm

It's a great racket when you come to think of it. You take money from people in the states and then you blackmail them with it, a so 'this or else" situation. The mob never had it so good. This works well for Congress members has it gives them a kind of electoral slush fund and campaign tool, waste and corruption are the byproducts.
Glad to see Senator Buckley remains active in the politics and opinions of our day.

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john trainor
on January 07, 2015 at 08:32:01 am

Sounds like Mr. Buckley's proposal - a great one by the way, would be something akin to taking candy from a diabetic child. Of course, the problem is getting the one that has been seducing the child with unhealthy treats to stop, and the child to stop begging for them.

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EJW
on January 11, 2015 at 02:55:44 am

elder law

Liberating the States and Their People from Federal Grants: A Conversation with James Buckley | Online Library of Law & Liberty

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elder law
on February 24, 2015 at 00:28:59 am

[…] Liberating the States and Their People from Federal Grants: A Conversation with James Buckley […]

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Image of James Buckley at 90: Still a Hero of the Republic | Freedom's Floodgates
James Buckley at 90: Still a Hero of the Republic | Freedom's Floodgates
on February 27, 2015 at 01:07:51 am

Eric Gonchar

Liberating the States and Their People from Federal Grants: A Conversation with James Buckley | Online Library of Law & Liberty

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Eric Gonchar
on March 01, 2015 at 13:51:35 pm

Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Liberating the States and Their People from Federal Grants: A Conversation with James Buckley | Online Library of Law & Liberty

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Foundation for Defense of Democracies
on March 12, 2015 at 15:54:32 pm

Common Core is restructuring America via the back door using education via grants or promise money vouchers enticements that will that will end-up bypassing State Legislatures leading to central top down ruling.

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Theresa
on May 06, 2015 at 00:23:17 am

[…] New book by Judge and former Senator James Buckley makes case for eliminating federal grants to states [George Leef, Jonathan Adler; podcast interview, Liberty and Law] […]

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Image of May 6 roundup | Internet Tax Lawyers
May 6 roundup | Internet Tax Lawyers

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.