Welcome to Public Policy

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Welcome to Public Policy
POLS 306
Spring 2010

Lecture 21

Federalism Chapter 12
Intergovernmental Relations

The Federal System as an Institution of Government

Today’s Menu

The Institution of Federalism

The Nature of Man

Good, or Not So Much?

Confederal, Federal, Unitary

Ways Governments Relate

The Federalist Dessert Tray


Laboratories of Democracy

Why do we do this?

Fiscal Federalism

Feds, Speed and Sp. Ed.

Mandates and Devolution

Can the Tide Turn?

The Institutional Model:

Policy as an Institutional Output

Political Science has an intrinsic focus on institutions.
The Three Branches:

Legislative, Executive, Judicial

The Federal System:

National, State, Local

It can’t really be PUBLIC policy until it is adopted by a governmental institution.
Government policies possess:

Legitimacy (authorized power)

Universality (applied uniformly)

Police Power (Dye calls it coercion)

Because I DON’T trust you…

Two questions before we can begin:

One is philosophical:

The Nature of Man

On is structural (and highly dependant upon your answer to the first question!)

Confederacy or Federal system (anyone for unitary?)

The Great Beast?

Man is inherently good, and only needs to be empowered vs. Man is inherently selfish, power-hungry and greedy, and needs to be restrained.
Federalist: Optimistic, but suspicious of the mass of mankind; wanted to check the power of the demos
Anti-Federalist: More optimistic about mankind, but suspicious about POWER; wanted to check the power of the rulers
The Nature of Man?

They concluded:

NOT Perfect; but not irreversibly Evil incarnate. Sinful, but redeemable.
The Constitution must control our “lesser angels” and keep our appetites in check
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson
How Do Governments Relate?

Federal System


Unitary Nation State



States vs. National Government

Unitary Systems



But Remember:

The power originates in the citizens!

Separation of Powers and Federalism

The principles that the powers of government should be separated into multiple branches and multiple levels.

It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.


Calls for political authority to be distributed between a central government and the government of the states. (“Shared Power”)

Both the federal and state governments may act directly on the people

Each has some exclusive powers

Political authority is spread out to prevent power from being concentrated in any one group
Which all sounds like a really great plan, BUT…

Imperium in Imperio

The contradiction of federalism:

How can you have a state within a state?

How do you know who’s in charge?
The Convention and Compromise

Federalists and anti-federalists

Federalist: Strong national government

Anti-federalist: stronger state role; want guaranteed rights for citizens

A federal system was “more than just a reasonable principle for governing a large country divided by regional differences…the only realistic way to get the states to ratify the constitution.” (Wasserman)
An Experiment in Self Governance

Federalist 46:

Both the state and federal governments “are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers” (Madison)
The levels of government would keep a check on each other’s power, much as the three branches reign in each other’s powers.
But, there was no historical precedent to predict that the experiment would work!
Who Rules and to What Ends?

Federalist 45:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” (Madison)
Hamilton Argues for national supremacy, Jefferson for state’s rights.

In the end, we have both the Supremacy Clause and the 10th Amendment.

The Supremacy Clause

Article VI, section 2

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Reserved Powers

The tenth amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Remember: the amendments of the Bill of Rights were part of a political deal to appease the concerns of the anti-federalists
When is 6 greater than 10?

When you ask the courts.

Two Significant Cases:

McCullough vs. Maryland (1819)

An expansion of federal powers
Said that the Necessary and Proper Clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18) gave Congress the flexibility to create a National Bank as an aid to carrying out its enumerated borrowing and taxing powers and that Maryland's taxation of the bank violated the Supremacy Clause (Article 6, Clause 2)
Laid the groundwork for a significantly more significant federal government!
Answered a pivotal question about who would be the “most equal”
This is especially important in terms of both the size and scope of the federal government and in terms of the balance of powers

John Marshall Puts in His $.02 Worth on Federalism:

“Let the ends be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution are constitutional.” (McColloch v Maryland)
One More for the Road (or the bay)

Gibbons vs. Ogden (1824)

established that the power to regulate interstate commerce was an exclusive national power

forbade states from enacting any legislation that would interfere with Congress's right to regulate commerce among the separate states.

Woodrow Wilson, Political Scientist

The relations of the states and federal government cannot be settled …“by one generation, because it is a question of growth, and every new successive stage of our political and economic development, gives it a new aspect, and makes it a new question.”

Modern Federalism

How Many Governments?

One National Government

Fifty State Governments

89,476 Local Governments!
2.5 million Federal Employees

3.8 million State Employees

11.05 million Local Employees
Almost 1 million local officeholders!
Evolving Federalism

State Centered Federalism:


“You’re not the boss of me!”

Dual Federalism:

Post Civil War – 1930’s

National Supremacy in specific areas mentioned in Constitution

State Supremacy in all others

Cooperative Federalism:

The New Deal (1913-1964)

States and Federal Government work together to solve BIG problems

Like World Wars and great Depression

Centralized Federalism:

State’s role is to

Respond to federal policy initiatives

Conform to federal regulations

Meet conditions of aid as required by federal grants

New Federalism (1980-85)

Reagan (actually, New-New. Nixon was New.)

Didn’t last long, did it?

Representational Federalism

Political controls are the only things left protecting federalism

Poor Old Federalism…

She’s not dead yet…

She doesn’t want to go on the cart…

Are we at the end of true federalism?

A Little Visual Aid:

The Federalist Dessert Tray

Cupcakes (Confederacy)

Layer Cake (Dual Federalism)

Marble Cake (Cooperative Federalism)

Centralized Federalism

“The frosting has moved to the top.”

Page 278

Coercive Federalism

Some Strings Attached
If this is so complicated,

Why do we do it?

What’s the “upside”?

#1 – fewer tyrants

As an extra added bonus:

Improved efficiency

Increased responsiveness

Policy diversity – like biodiversity, only better!

And, best of all…

Mad scientists!

Laboratories of Democracy

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system," Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in 1932, "that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

Besides, It Isn’t Really That Complex.

(It all comes down to money!)

Pikachu, I Choose YOU!

“What many of us forget when we think about ‘the government in Washington’ is that it spends much of its money and enforces most of its rules not on citizens directly, but on other, local units of government.” Wilson, p. 52
A Sampling of State Policies Subject to Federal Pressure:


Downtown Improvement Districts/ Empowerment Zones

Unemployment Compensation

Environmental Programs for Clean Air and Water

National Guard

The Intergovernmental Lobby



Superintendents of Schools

State Directors of Public Health

County Highway Commissioners

Local Police Chiefs

ALL count on federal funds!

Like any lobby, they want more money with less strings!
Fiscal Federalism

Follow the money!

Purse Strings and Apron Strings

Land Grants become Money Grants

1808 - $200,000 to the states for Militias

1915 - $6 million for grants in aid

1925 - $114 million

1937 - $300 million

Between 1960 and 1970 Federal grants increased eightfold!

1985 - $100 billion

2003 - $400 billion

2009 - $567 billion

Your Mother is Sending You $50...

Categorical Grants

Specific Purpose

LOTS of strings

May require matching

Are strings indicative of a lack of trust or a desire for control over states?
Block Grants

General use

Fewer strings

May require matching

Community Development Block Grant

Law Enforcement Assistance Act

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act

I can’t drive 55!

Fiscal blackmail or federal leadership?

“Conditions of Aid”

Federalism and Education

An example of:

The ever-changing, generally expanding, role of the federal government

The concept of purse string as apron strings

“selective federalism”

Total Preemption

The federal government assumes all regulatory powers in a particular field:



Partial Preemption

State law on the same subject is valid as long as it does not conflict

(Home rule anyone?)

OSHA standards

If no standard, state standards rule

Standard Partial

I’ll see your federal standard and raise you one!


Not just putting conditions on a grant, but telling a lower level of government what to do.

States hate these.

States impose these on their own local governments.

Mandates come from Legislative, Executive AND Judicial actions.


Agency Rules and Regulations

Judicial Decisions

School desegregation

Prison overcrowding

BBQ Joints
Unfunded Mandates

Telling a lower level of government what to do AND not providing the funds to do it.

States REALLY Hate these.

You guessed it: States impose these on their own local governments

In 1995, the new Republican Congress enacted a new Federal Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, banning unfunded mandates. They also increased funding for the Toothfairy…
Speaking of the Speaker - Devolution

Devolve: to send responsibility and sometimes resources to a lower (more responsive?) level of government

Combination of devolve and revolution

Negative spin: Reversing an evolutionary trend
James Q. Wilson Gets the Last Word:

“Finally, Americans differ in the extent to which we like federal as opposed to local decisions. When people are asked which level of government gives them the most for their money, relatively poor citizens are likely to mention the federal government first, whereas relatively well-to-do citizens are more likely to mention local government. If we add to income other measures of social diversity-race, religion, and region-there emerge even sharper differences of opinion about which level of government works best. It is this social diversity, and the fact that it is represented not only by state and local leaders but also by members of Congress, that keeps federalism alive and makes it so important. Americans simply do not agree on enough things, or even on which level of government ought to decide on those things, to make possible a unitary system.” (Wilson, page 80)

I get the last picture…

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