Elite big government supporters are shocked by the Brexit vote, and they’re not sure what it means. Conservatives believe the smaller the government, the better, so I’m pleased. Elites in Europe fear more countries will pull out of the European Union, while elites over here are finally sensing similar unrest in America.
Moving from big-government Massachusetts to rural Maine in 1977, I quickly learned that local control was prized. There was, for example, a movement to withdraw my new town of Lovell from the Maine School Administrative District #72 which it had joined only a few years before. Lovell had run its own schools for a century and a half and bristled under the new bureaucracy. There had been a choice of three high schools: Fryeburg Academy, Gould Academy, or Bridgton Academy, but no more. I was Director of Special Education, a district-wide job requiring me to travel around to six elementary and junior high schools to supervise staff. The position was created because of a federal mandate and it was all about meetings, paperwork, phone calls, paperwork, and more meetings.
The new district borrowed to build the New Suncook School in Lovell. It wasn’t paid off yet so that was an issue in Lovell’s pulling out. It was overcrowded already and just down the street was the old, unused Annie Heald School, a wooden building owned by the town. The superintendent asked me to attend a Lovell Budget Committee meeting to inquire about the district leasing it. I was new in town, so I introduced myself and made the pitch. The Yankee Republicans who dominated the committee in those days looked at me silently for nearly a full minute after I was done. “Any questions?” I asked. One older guy with sharp eyes and arms folded across his chest said, “Yeah, I have a question.”
Annie Heald School on right
“Okay,” I said.
“Ten years ago, when the superintendent wanted Lovell to join this new district, he said the Annie Heald School was a firetrap and they had to build a new school. Now, after the old school has been sitting there for ten years with nothing done to it, they say they want to use it again?”
“Good question,” I said. I had no idea about any of that and felt that I’d been set up. Locals believed they’d been manipulated by the “bigger is better” argument bureaucrats use, and maybe they had. The effort to pull out failed though, because people like me with young families were moving up from Massachusetts and other states. We thought ourselves better educated and believed bigger was better too. I do not believe that anymore.
Shortly after, I was elected a selectman and served with two Yankee Republicans who thought Lovell people knew what was best for Lovell, that their judgement was better than the state’s or the federal government’s and they could govern themselves more effectively if they were left alone. After nine years I became convinced they were right, and that was one of the realizations pushing my political perspective from the big-government left to the small-government right where it has been ever since.
I supervised two federal programs — Title I and Special Education. Since then, the feds have taken over the school lunch program and now curriculum as well. More tax revenue goes to Augusta and Washington and what little comes back has strings attached — most recently, regulations concerning transgenders in locker rooms and bathrooms.
Back then, I was one of only three administrators and two secretaries in a district with 1200 students K-8. Now there are Now there are 1160 students but double the administrators, way more secretaries, way more teachers, much bigger buildings, much more paperwork, many more meetings, and a much bigger budget. Is there more learning going on for all that? After thirty-four years teaching in the district, I have to say no, and I could make a strong case that there’s actually less.
Similar problems have been plaguing the UK and other EU countries for decades, and they were a major factor in the Brexit vote. Big government elites running the EU say the UK should take still more refugees. Ordinary Brits want local control and last week they shocked the elites by voting to leave the EU. More countries will follow. As liberal elites push for more central government power, ordinary citizens are pushing back.