You might be surprised to learn that I have no problem with Canton, OH, considering jail time for homeowners who don't cut their grass.

For residents tired of that overgrown lot that resembles a minijungle next door, the city wants to help by trying to put high-grass violators behind bars.

City Council wants to beef up its existing high-grass and weeds law by making a second offense a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and up to 30 days in jail.

In the spring and summer, it's not uncommon for council members to field complaints from residents about overgrown lots owned by individuals or banks and corporations that ignore the law and notices in the mail.

I believe that lower levels of government should have more power to restrict liberty than higher levels of government. I'd oppose a federal or state law governing the height of my lawn, but wouldn't mind having such an ordinance in my city. (Similarly, I wouldn't mind allowing cities or perhaps even states to establish government-authorized religions if their population desired it.)

Lower levels of government are more responsive to citizens than higher levels are. Anyone can go to a city council meeting and be heard, but just try getting your state legislature or Congress to pay any attention to you. Furthermore, it's easier to leave a city that has laws you don't like than it is to leave a state, and easier to leave a state than to leave the United States. Our joint state-federal system was designed to encourage competition and experimentation between different sets of laws. I'm not sure the doctrine of "incorporation" serves us well in this context.

So how should the limits of power be defined for various levels of government? I don't know! That will take some more thought.

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