Evolving Federalism Essay
09 May 4, 2004
Federalism by definition is the division of power between a central government and its participating members. How that power is divided is the subjective aspect of federalism that was before the framers of the United States. Through compromise and necessity the seeds for a strong central government were planted alongside already strong state governments. Over time the seeds for strong central government grew; wars, economic fluctuations and national growth established a strong central government. As America’s idea of federalism changed the central government grew more powerful, the state’s government gave more power away, and local governments were established.Order now
In American Intergovernmental Relations, Laurence O’Toole cites Harry Scheiber five stages of federalism to identify three key terms of federalism in the U.S as “dual federalism,” “cooperative federalism,” and “creative federalism.” According to Scheiber the five stages of federalism, are still a valid history of federalism in the United States.
The first stage, 1789-1861, he calls the “era of dual federalism” in which national, state, and local governments operated independently of one another. This “layer-cake” stage was a product of Congress, “refraining from making innovative policy in many areas formally opened to it by the Court.” It was apparent during this time that Congress was not yet ready to move to a more centralized government that would interfere with state and local governments.
Scheiber identifies the second stage, 1861-1890, as a period of transition to a more centralized government. Change to the Constitution, expansion of federal court powers, business regulation, and Supreme Court activism all worked to increase the power of national government and move towards a more centralized view of federalism. Schreiber’s third stage from 1890 to 1933 continues this move towards centralization with World War I as a catalyst.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal “inaugurated” Scheiber’s fourth stage. “Cooperative federalism” surfaces in this stage that promoted interaction and funding between the state, local, and national governments in order to facilitate new programs under the New Deal.
Although this stage, labeled the marble-cake stage, is still marked with a strong national government, Washington relied on the state and local governments to plan, allocate funds, and monitor progress within their sphere.
Schreiber’s fifth and final stage is the post-World War II era. Here, “creative federalism” is born. Creative federalism points to a strong centralized government that initiates federal programs to fight poverty, hunger, crime, and other social issues. This stage sees a noticeable increase of power given to the national government by the Warren Court.
Schreiber concludes by describing a struggle between cooperative federalism and creative federalism.
He sees these two models of federalism in competition with one another on how power will be distributed between the three levels of government. This is best described by Russell Hanson, in Governing Partners, as “competitive federalism”, which is the idea that the three levels of government must compete for power in a “zero-sum” game.
It can be argued that we now are in a sixth stage that can be defined as competitive federalism. Recent struggles involving gay marriage, education, tax reform, and anti-terrorism funding prove that a struggle for power between the three levels of government is ongoing.
The issue of education best exemplifies the changing nature of intergovernmental relations. State and local governments run their own school systems, and for the most part, fund them as well.
States differ from one in another in how much control they give the local governments with funding, curriculum, and teacher certifications.
An example of two different systems would be Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In MA most of the tax revenue is generated from an income tax. The money is then allocated to school districts according to population of school, cost of running the school, and contribution to the tax revenue from the respected districts. The teacher test is instituted by the state, which requires that all teachers pass a general test and their subject area test. “No child left behind” legislation requires schools receiving state money and accreditation to adhere strictly to their guidelines of teachers and curriculum.
MA has a high school completion exam that all students including vocational students must complete. Local school boards still run their schools however they run them under these strict .