Chapter Study Outline

  1. Federation and Confederation
    1. Federalism refers to a political system with multiple levels of government, each of which has independent authority over some policy areas.
    2. Federalism balances power between national and subunit governments, in contrast to a confederation in which subunits retain full sovereignty, and a unitary system in which all power flows through the national government.
    3. In the absence of a federal government, individual states would face several collective action problems when facing issues that affect multiple states. A central government can be used to enforce a common solution that is more beneficial for all states.
  2. The Dynamics of American Federalism
    1. While some scholars believe the American government is a system of dual federalism, meaning that national and state governments each have control over unique spheres of policy, others describe it as cooperative federalism, wherein both levels work in nearly all areas of policy.
    2. Intergovernmentalism refers to cooperation or sharing of resources by multiple levels of government in the same policy area.
    3. The balance of power between the states and the federal government frequently shifts back and forth and if one side gains a lot of power, typically the other will respond to redress the balance.
  3. The Courts and the Constitution
    1. Provisions of the constitution related to federalism include Article I, Section 10 (enumerates limits on state powers); Article IV, Sections 2–4 (national duties to the states); Article VI (the supremacy clause); and the Tenth Amendment (non-enumerated powers are reserved for the states).
    2. The expansion of power at the federal level has come through broad interpretation of congressional power under the elastic clause and commerce clause.
    3. The broad interpretation of national authority to regulate commerce goes back to the Supreme Court cases McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824).
    4. The courts have made decisions both to protect state power and to expand national power, thereby keeping the balance from shifting wholly to one side or the other.
  4. Toward a Stronger National Government
    1. During the Progressive era (1896–1913), the Supreme Court began to recognize national authority to regulate certain areas of commerce. Congress and the president created more national regulatory bureaus, and the Sixteenth Amendment granted Congress the power to levy an income tax.
    2. The New Deal (1933–1952) saw major expansion in federal power in the creation of regulatory bureaus and the Social Security system, and in increased infrastructure construction.
    3. The size of the federal government expanded further through the policies of the Great Society (1964–1977), wherein federal policies were designed to address social problems such as poverty, housing, education, and health care.
    4. In more recent years, national power has eroded, on one hand, through a narrowing interpretation of the commerce clause, but has also expanded through new federal powers related to national security and economic stimulus.
  5. Federal Financing
    1. Federal grants-in-aid are funds provided to a lower level of government to cover the costs of a specific project, while categorical grants are funds that have many conditions attached to how they can be spent.
    2. Revenue sharing refers to the partnering of multiple levels of government to fund a program or project.
    3. Federal block grants are funds provided to a lower level of government for a general purpose that allow the state or local government broad freedom in how they choose to spend the money.
  6. Federalism and Race
    1. The Fourteenth Amendment was crafted to change the legal status of African Americans and established that neither states nor the national government could deprive people of life, liberty, or property.
    2. For a century after the Fourteenth Amendment’s adoption, many southern leaders relied on the doctrine of states’ rights to justify their use of Jim Crow laws.
    3. In the 1940s to 1960s, the national government increasingly used its power to undermine state-level segregation and discrimination. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave the Justice Department the power to oversee elections in southern states.
  7. State Governments
    1. Although the federal government has gained relative power over the states, state governments have continued to expand in size and power.
    2. The institutions of state governments parallel those of the national government, consisting of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. How power is distributed among these branches varies state to state.
    3. State governments frequently practice direct democracy through ballot initiatives, referendums, and recall elections.
    4. A recent resurgence of state power has occurred due to a narrower interpretation of federal power by the Supreme Court, the national government diminishing its role in social welfare programs, and federal cuts in many programs including road construction, scientific research, and job training.
  8. Local Governments
    1. Dillon’s Rule holds that states can create, abolish, or amend local governments. When home rule is granted, then the state may not interfere with the local government’s affairs.
    2. City governments generally take one of three basic forms: mayoral (where a mayor is directly elected and appoints administrative heads), council-manager (where a city council is elected and appoints a city manager to run day-to-day operations), and commission (where administrative heads are elected and govern the city collectively).
    3. There has been a marked rise in special districts, which cut across traditional city and county boundaries to address a particular issue such as education, water, or zoning.
  9. In Comparison: American Federalism
    1. Among federations, some nations place more relative power at the national level, while others leave more power with the subunits.
    2. Reserved powers refer to authority for states that is constitutionally protected. Nations with independent subnational governments that lack constitutional powers are unitary systems that could be thought of as quasi-federal.
    3. Why countries have a more unitary or more confederal system often depends on the circumstances present at the nation’s founding.
  10. Evaluating American Federalism
    1. The framers of the Constitution argued that a major advantage of the American federal system was it prevented the concentration of power into one authority, preventing tyranny.
    2. A major advantage of a federal system is the ability to protect diversity of preferences in state policy while still allowing unity when confronting collective action problems.
    3. Charles Tiebout argues that competition among states and localities produces more efficient government and better public programs. Paul Peterson, on the other hand, argues that wealthier people will move away from places that offer generous welfare programs, depleting the tax base from the places they vacate.
    4. The state governments can be useful as “laboratories of democracy” wherein new policies are tried out, and the most effective can be adopted by other states or the national government.