The conservative gospel holds that government is best when it is closest to the people, except when it's not. Advocates of limited government prefer state government to the federal government and local government to state government.
This week in North Carolina, however, that philosophy was abandoned after local government took an action that state conservatives didn't like.
The Republican-dominated state Senate voted May 14 to ban local governments from cracking down on smoking. The measure was especially aimed at Wrightsville Beach, where voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, had decided to ban smoking on the town-owned shorefront.
Republican state senators would have none of it. The major sponsors of the Senate measure received campaign contributions from big tobacco companies. The law would also affect more than a dozen other communities that have approved limitations on smoking.
The vote infuriated Wrightsville Beach's mayor, David Cignotti, who told the Raleigh News and Observer: "The same folks who don’t like the federal government telling us what to do are turning around and telling local governments what to do."
(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.)