States are taking the lead on justice reform

Whenever there is a violent conflict between police and citizens, the media goes into a frenzy looking for someone to blame. Some accuse the police of brutality, racism, and inhumanity. Others point out the hazards of a dangerous and thankless job, which requires dealing with some pretty unsavory people. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, but while politicians and pundits waste breath with accusations and complaints, it’s all too rare that we have someone step up and offer genuine policy solutions.

When people talk about “the government” they usually mean the federal government. This is the big government that handles issues like national defense and trade with other countries, not to mention the increasing share of federal spending going towards spending on things like Social Security and Medicare, on which millions of Americans depend. Consequently, when we encounter a problem that needs to be solved, most people’s first instinct is to appeal to the federal government, forgetting that there are fifty state governments and many thousands of local governments equally capable of acting.

It’s easy to forget that the Constitution actually grants relatively few powers to the federal government, and that the founding fathers intended for the states and localities to be relatively autonomous. Today, we’re reminded of this fact by the active role state governments are taking in adopting important reforms, particularly to the way the justice system operates.