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Most of the time, Americans seem to thrive on change. The meadow converted to a real-estate development is regarded less as a sacrifice to progress than a symbol of it. From Connecticut to California, Americans change schools, jobs, and houses almost as casually as they change television channels. They accept mobility as the American way of life, like the right to boo the Dodgers. But when it comes to government, most Americans muster amazing resistance to change, even to modest change, and even when it may be a matter of life and death for their country.

The myth dies hard, for example, that the Founding Fathers intended government to function on three rigid levels—federal, state, and local—with limited communication among them, and no fraternization.

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