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Governmental Structure

Federalism- local units of government in addition to a national government that can make final decisions with respect to some activities and whose existence is specially protected

almost every nation has local units, but this does not always mean federalism, since federalism as such requires independent choice by local units

Constitution is not the only guarantee of state independence, if it were the state governments would be influenced by the federal government; there exists an idea of commitment to the idea of local self-government

In United States, often there are federal expenditures for state functions

Federalism:  Good or Bad?

Bad side:  block action, prevent progress, upset national plans, protect powerful local interests, cater to interests of politicians, racial segregation, protect vested interests, facilitate cooperation

Good side:  unique combination of governmental strength, political flexibility, individual liberty, regulate harmful economic practices and purify politics locally

different political groups with different purposes come to power in different places

federalism provides greatest opportunity for relevant interests to be heard

Increased Political Activity

more practical effects of involvement in politics

lower the cost of organized political activity


The Founding

desire to protect personal liberty

A Bold, New Plan

federal and state governments based upon the people

Tenth Amendment was originally assumed by the founders

- has rarely had significance

- Supreme court tends to rule in favor of Washington

Elastic Language

unclear language to simplify the writing process, allows for interpretations

Hamilton- broad definition

Jefferson- strict interpretation, with intent to represent the rights of the people

The Debate on the Meaning of Federalism

The Supreme Court Speaks

national-supremacy view

McCulloch v. Maryland

confirmed national supremacy

bank- necessary and proper for money management

“the power to tax is the power to destroy”

until 1988, the national government could not tax state governments

since 1988, the national government has not felt a need to do such taxation


Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions- nullify what the state declares to be unconstitutional

South Carolina and Calhoun supported nullification; issue was settled by war

Dual Federalism

interstate versus intrastate commerce

interstate- shipment of lottery tickets, liquor, etc. across state lines

intrastate- farming, insurance, manufacturing

“original package” « interstate commerce

all commerce became a steady stream, so the federal government could regulate

dual federalism is basically dead


Federal-State Relations

Washington cannot always lawfully do as it politically would like


Land grants supported education, roadways, flood control

Support of housing assistance, Medicaid, highways, unemployment and welfare

Desire for state run programs such that Washington pays the bill, several reasons

federal money was available in surplus

income brought in more money as economic activity grew

federal government managed money and could print more currency

- did not have to pay back what it borrowed from itself

- states would always have to pay back their debts in full

citizens of entire nation would fund state functions

such plans would not pass Congress unless everyone could benefit

Meeting National Needs

grants not based upon state desires so much as national needs

some cities had become “federal aid junkies”

The Intergovernmental Lobby

made of health commissioners, school superintendents, transportation officials, etc.

people to look after local interests

goal was to get free money without strings attached

Categorical Grants versus Revenue Sharing

Categorical grants for a specific purpose

Block grants had a more generic purpose (for example, health)

Revenue sharing was very permissive with few requirements or purposes

The Slowdown in Free Money

categorical grants still given to help national issues

many departments depended upon federal aid

there was no sympathy in the government to support revenue sharing

Rivalry Among the States

difficult to determine exactly how much money goes where

example:  money given to a corporation in California could indirectly go to New York

distributed through careful formulas by population


Federal Aid and Federal Control

aid « control

block grants and revenue sharing were intended to prevent this kind of control


states must do, period

often pertained to civil rights and environmental protection

seemingly reasonable requests

some seemingly unreasonable requests- prisons, schools, judgments

Supreme Court has made it easier for citizens to control local officials

Conditions of Aid

strings attached

not totally voluntary since livelihood depends on it

highway money, prevailing wage, etc.

federal officials want to do what’s best for the nation

free money attractive to states; laws to benefit the nation attractive to Congress

Congress has favored Washington over localities since 1960

Reagan administration saw competing philosophies of governance

members of Congress have to respond to both national and state demands

The States Respond

new ways to deliver services

Child Care- pay for child care or pre-school education

Welfare- child support and such to get people off welfare into jobs

Education- reorganization, payment for college or aid to good schools

Sorting Things Out

Government could pay cost for all national things (only)

Plans to return things to full state control can’t pass Congress

Constitution does not have clear lines drawn

states had to live with the loss of free money


Federalism and Public Policy

American Politics remain local in orientation

different constituencies of same localities

parties have decayed- more individual

Different levels of organization favor different programs