Federalism and the Tug of War Within
Chapter two takes on the critical question of why the Constitution establishes a federal system at all. After considering the political origins of federalism, the fraught relationship between structural federalism and first-order policy concerns, and the distinction between true federalism and decentralization, it explores the individual principles of good government on which federalism is premised. It reviews how federalism fosters: (1) checks and balances between state and federal power that safeguard individuals against overreaching or abdication by either side; (2) transparent and accountable governance that enables meaningful democratic participation at all points on the jurisdictional spectrum; (3) local autonomy and diversity that give rise to the interjurisdictional competition and innovation of federalism’s great “laboratory of ideas;” and (4) problem-solving synergy between the unique capacities of local and national government for coping with different parts of interjurisdictional problems. The chapter discusses the how the checks and balances of jurisdictional overlap establish as powerful a bulwark against tyranny as those of jurisdictional separation, and it explores the provenance of federalism’s underappreciated problem-solving value within the subsidiarity principle.
Keywords: constitutional federalism, structural federalism, decentralization, governance values, checks and balances, governmental accountability, transparency, democratic participation, local autonomy, diversity and innovation, interjurisdictional competition, laboratory of ideas, problem-solving synergy, jurisdiction overlap, jurisdiction, “bulwark against tyranny,” subsidiarity
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