There Will Always Be a New Federalism

R. P. Nathan
2006 Journal of public administration research and theory  
American federalism is strongly operative and very much alive! Above all, it is opportunistic. It changes over time depending on the relative power and goals of major interests in the society. Currently, federalism has been rediscovered by liberals. This article describes the latest "New Federalism" and discusses the values of U.S. federalism at the state and grass roots' levels as well as the ways it has changed historically and has served as a force for public sector growth and the accretion
more » ... and the accretion of governmental functions and services. There was a time when it was stylish among political scientists to write about the death of federalism. That it will whither away. I want to reassure readers-if for any reason you are worried about this-it won't happen. There will always be a New Federalism. As an architect of the "New Federalism" program of President Richard Nixon's first term, I am struck by a paradox in domestic policy now that hinges on how our federal system works. Nixon's "New Federalism" had a decidedly progressive cast, although not many people know about or recall this. A key component was more fiscal aid on a more flexible basis to state and local governments in the form of revenue sharing and block grants (Nathan 1975, 12-34). In more recent decades, federalism has been touted as a good thing by conservatives. Ronald Reagan as president stressed the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which "reserves" powers to the states), making the argument that various national proposals for new domestic programs should not be federal responsibilities but instead should be viewed as appropriate for the states. Some observers believed that the subliminal message was not that the states should carry out the programs involved, but that no government should do so. The George W. Bush administration has gone Reagan one better, forthrightly arguing that in domestic policy areas no government should do things that some liberal interests and organizations favor. REDISCOVERY BY LIBERALS The paradox is that federalism is being rediscovered by liberals. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) recently was compared to states' righter and former U.
doi:10.1093/jopart/muj011 fatcat:j2as52fnbjfzhbodskzvqkhbdq