Federalism and the Dilemma of Popular Government

In How Federal is the Constitution?, Robert A. Goldwin and William Schambra, eds. (Washington: AEI, 1985), pp. 1-15. Reprinted in Edward C. Banfield, Here the People Rule: Selected Essays (Washington, DC: AEI, 1991).


Beginning with the Truman administration, there have been persistent and sometimes strenuous efforts to devolve many federal activities to state and local governments. These efforts have almost entirely failed. Meanwhile, the number and variety of federal interventions in what until recently were generally considered local matters has increased at an accelerating rate. One gets an indication of what has been happening from the fact that federal domestic spending more than doubled as a percentage of gross national product in the twenty-five years prior to 1980.

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