Edward Banfield on the Promise of Politics and the Limits of Federalism

Kimberly Hendrickson, Publius, Vol. 34, No. 4, Autumn, 2004, pp. 139-152.

Edward Banfield is generally considered to be a conservative, but this assumption is problematic. This essay examines his views on federalism and local politics in an attempt to better understand his orientation. While he holds views on federalism and localism that are not liberal, by post-Second World War American standards, his lack of interest in constitutional rules, acceptance of national expansion, and lack of enthusiasm about local government put him at odds with mainstream conservatism. Ultimately, Banfield’s suggestion that politics (local and national) can improve the character of human beings places him outside both conservatism and liberalism, and within an older tradition.

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