THIS is devolution I can live with

I stand by my conviction that there are real dangers in the move towards local ‘control’ (read: responsibility) for essential, shared, national functions (public education, welfare, health). There are too many cracks through which people fall, too many chances for parochialism to cloud out the common good, and too many imbalances between the capacities of our local communities to make this trend compatible with a broad vision of social justice.

Still, I cheered when I came across a press release from my good friends at the National Immigration Law Center about their collaboration with the Progressive States Network to bring together state policymakers committed to progressive policy change (in this case, in the area of immigrant-related policy) across the country.

As I see them, the goals are primarily three-fold: to counteract the conservative trends cropping up around the nation, to provide real progressive leadership on some of the social challenges of our time (in the hopes that Congress, may indeed, be listening!), and, also, to take advantage of the considerable authority devolved to state governments, in many of the critical aspects of human well-being.

And, in the “work with what you’ve got” school of policymaking, it’s about as excellent news as I could imagine. I, for one, would love to have my policies made (at any level of government) by people who group their work on immigration under the heading of “valuing families”, and who have an entire initiative focused on the challenges facing working people.

Make no mistake: the most common kind of devolution is still the “make you think you gained control when what you really lost is money and central accountability” type.

But these progressive legislators–not just in Massachusetts and Illinois but Nebraska and Arizona, too, and the network supporting them, are out to change that. And that’s the kind of “experimentation and replication” that I could get excited about.

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