Remember when the Republicans were "the party of ideas"? Not birtherism, hastening the End of Days, denying the settled scientific facts of climate change or that the earth is 4,000 years old. No, this was the fumes, at least, of the intellectual conservatism that was built by William F. Buckley Jr. It was a philosophy not inured to facts or changing circumstances; indeed, it celebrated its suppleness compared with the rigid ideologies of the left. To be sure, it co-existed with reaction, racism and paranoia, but it was better than what we see in today's GOP presidential "debates." One idea was devolution, grounded not only in the proposition that the federal government had far exceeded its constitutional limits, but that it had become too big to be effective in many areas.
The answer: Devolve power to the states. Thus, if California wanted to have stringent environmental laws, for example, that was up to Californians. If Mississippi or Arizona envied the non-existent protections of air and water in the Third World, it was the business of those states, with no mandates coming from Washington. The same could be true for old-age pensions, health care, business regulation and subsidies, etc. etc. Let there be 50 laboratories of democracy.
This elegant idea faces practical problems. From the Progressive era through the Great Society, from Theodore to Franklin Roosevelt and beyond, most Americans realized that big challenges and needs could only be fulfilled by the federal government, with its size and power. Only the federal government could stand up against big business — this was a Progressive article of faith. Nor is it new. We tried the Articles of Confederation and they didn't work out well. Hamilton always argued for a robust central government, and although Jefferson is presented as his philosophical opposite, he didn't hesitate to employ federal power beyond the strict wording of the Constitution when it suited him, as in the Louisiana Purchase. The Confederacy started out to break away from the "tyranny" of the central government in Washington, yet Jeff Davis ended up creating every bit as powerful a (con)federal government in Richmond. There had never been a continental democracy before in history, and the American experience shows the need for a strong central government and a Constitution that can adapt.