Local liberty is a rare and fragile thingâ€¦. Among all liberties, that of townships, which is established with such difficulty, is also the most exposed to the invasions of powerâ€¦. [T]he strength of free peoples resides in the local community. Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to scienceâ€¦.
—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), that most prescient of all foreign observers, noted that once governments deny people the right to exercise their common sense on modest matters, it is absurd to think they can exercise control over grand matters. This is precisely the situation Americans face today. Our most fundamental liberties are threatened by incoherent national legislation and stifling bureaucracy but even more by local government. From once having been the "primary schools" for the college of liberty, local institutions are perhaps its greatest enemy.
Local Liberty will explain how the transformation came to be. Each issue's articles and commentary will explore the vices and virtues of local government today, notably here in southern California but also throughout the nation and around the world. Our concerns include the traditional ones of the friends of freedom and limited government: property rights, zoning, eminent domain, regulation, and taxation. But we will also explore dimensions of urban life such as public architecture and the critique of contemporary urban planning offered by the "new urbanism." We aim to enhance not just private life but local public life as well.
The first issue of Local Liberty is available in PDF format on the Claremont Institute's website. (Requires Adobe Acrobat to view.) It features an interview with Becket Fund attorney Anthony Picarello on the Cypress religious liberty case; Brian Janiskee on secession and the suburbs; Steve Hayward on housing costs; an insight into Claremont redevelopment politics; and Elliott Banfield's sketch for a September 11 memorial. If your computer can't handle our PDF graphics, try the HTML version.
We welcome your responses, by e-mail and letter. Subscriptions to Local Liberty are free for the asking. Contributions to its publisher, the Claremont Institute, which is a 501c(3) education and public policy center, are tax-deductible.