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As if undermining the competitive advantages of unions weren't
concerning enough, Wisconsin's governor-you-love-to-hate is now
reportedly seeking to emulate a recent Michigan law which grants the
governor's office sweeping powers over cities and towns. Some have
already argued that the states have always had the power to tell cities
what they should or should not be doing, which in general they do. But
the key difference in the Michigan law, is that this power has been
taken from the legislative branch and given to the executive. As it
stands right now in Michigan, the Emergency Financial Manager can,
almost at will, dissolve city councils, school boards, dictate what
policy they can or cannot pursue, even what kind of meetings they can
have. In short, an appointed official is able to literally destroy an
elected body. This might not seem that extreme to some, considering the
dire straits many municipalities find themselves in these days. And
indeed, one would be a fool to argue that simply being an elected
official means you practice good governance. Plenty of duly elected
officials have run the gamut from incompetence to outright fraud. But
does that mean we should shift decision-making power - and
responsibility - away from the general assembly toward the governor's
office? I try, as a general rule, to steer clear of alarmist rhetoric.
But I can't seem to get past the idea that the supremacy of executive
over legislative power is a defining feature of totalitarian regimes.
Which isn't of course to say that I think Mr. Snyder counts as a
dictator. Nor do I think you can argue that Michigan has suddenly
turned into a fascist state. But I do think the health of a democracy
can be measured by the health quantity and quality of its social
competition. By that metric, anything which limits political influence
to a only few powerful interests is something we all ought to be
concerned with.

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