The Libertarian Case for Making the District of Columbia the 51st State

(photocredit: Patrick Madden/WAMU.org

(photocredit: Patrick Madden/WAMU.org)

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a libertarian. This means that I like liberty and don’t care much for Big Government, so naturally this should predispose me to opposing statehood for the District of Columbia. After all, giving granting full representation to the citizens of D.C. will almost certainly produce two hard-left senators and at least one hard-left representative in Congress.

In addition, the proposed state of New Columbia, as it would likely be called, freshly freed from congressional constraints, would be emboldened to pursue and enact an agenda of higher taxes, more government regulations, and more programs. And since I’m likely to become a resident of the federally-controlled city in the coming months, it should be in my interest in maintaining the status quo.

But I don’t. In fact, I have become a steadfast supporter of the New Columbia plan for many reasons and believe libertarians, conservatives, and other anti-statists should, too.

The first and most basic argument for D.C. statehood is that all qualified citizens should have the right to vote in a free society. And although it’s often and unfairly downplayed or derided by many limited government advocates, many throughout the American history have fought and died for this right. And the fact that many libertarians are openly hostile to the very concept of the democratic electoral process should not prevent those who aren’t from voting.

Secondly, granting full enfranchisement to all citizens of the 5[emphasis added] states would give more credibly to to US diplomatic efforts to liberalize other non-free countries around the world who often use D.C. disenfranchisement as an excuse to deny their own citizens their full rights at the ballot box.

Third, giving D.C. residents their own state would not change the balance of power in Washington in any meaningful way. Republicans would still maintain a control of the Senate even with two new Democratic senators, and one extra voting member in the House of Representatives will not register more than a blip.

Fourth, the state of New Columbia would be able to enact certain pro-liberty legislation like it’s marijuana legalization measure passed in last years elections that is currently being blocked by Congress. And the fact their are many libertarian think tanks and activist organizations in the city means that they could have more of a role in shaping public policy.

Fifth, while it’s a Democratic stronghold now, it might not always be that way. When Hawaii and Alaska were admitted into the Union, Alaska was a Democratic state while Hawaii was a Republican. Now, they’ve switched entirely. There’s no reason to believe that District residents couldn’t be amenable to greater liberty and free enterprise.

Sixth, it will bolster Republican arguments that they are committed to federalism and local control. Granting DC statehood is the ultimate proof that the GOP is about giving citizens control over their own local affairs.

Seventh, DC statehood could be used as a bargaining chip to leverage greater concessions from Democrats. Perhaps in exchange for a national right-to-work bill or monetary reform.

These are just some of the arguments that libertarians and conservatives should consider before they mindlessly assume that creating a new state of Columbia would be automatically bad for them. We as advocates for small government shouldn’t discount the passionate human desire to participate in one’s own government. And while we libertarians rightly consider individual rights to be sacrosanct, we shouldn’t discount the right to vote in our greater pantheon of liberty.

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