"Should the government help?" A three-part test for conservatives

Getting back to our topic: Let’s say that you’ve considered the prescription principle, and that you still think the problem is pressing enough that government is needed to solve the problem. The next test which your idea must meet is often called subsidiarity or federalism, the idea that government should handle things at its lowest possible level—city/county, state, and then federal.

Sometimes conservatives talk about federalism as almost a magical formula bereft of meaning outside of abstract theory, and like “free markets” or “voluntary action” can lead non-conservatives to think that conservatives care more about rigid ideological dogma than pragmatism or actual people.

But there are actually very good practical reasons to support this principle.

For starters, as Hayek famously noted, knowledge is always diffuse, and local people have a command of knowledge of their own conditions that no centralized government in D.C. can really grasp. The local government, composed of those same people, would therefore be much better placed to understand their own needs and how to deal with them. Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution conceived in one place to be forced on all places, let each locality take the principles you advance and see how best to implement them in their unique circumstances.