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Federal principles grow out of the idea that free people can liberally enter into lasting yet limited political associations to achieve common ends and protect certain rights while preserving their respective integrities.

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Introduction

Federal principles grow out of the idea that free people can liberally enter into lasting yet limited political associations to achieve common ends and protect certain rights while preserving their respective integrities. Daniel J. Elazar explains this point particularly well although in a rather non-political way when he states that federalism is rather like 'wanting to have one's cake and eat it.'1 But what kind of a cake was it? The dual system has been described as a layer cake, with distinct, and separated powers exercised by the different levels of government, but David Walker proposes that the plums that characterize shared programs under fiscal federalism suggest a fruitcake2, and Wildavsky adds the image of a birthday cake to the metaphorical menu3. A very different approach to defining federalism is James Bryce's slant; he likened federalism to "a great factory wherein two sets of machinery are at work...each doing its own work without touching or hampering the other"4 were the two sets of machinery are state and local government. ...read more.

Middle

taxation.7 The first step towards devolution was Nixon's New Federalism which emphasized revenue sharing, underlining the notion that the states were being returned authority over their own funds, not granted license to spend federal money. Federal administration was decentralized; with greater authority granted to field office administrators8 Reagan's block grant approach was also aimed at the plethora of categorical grants, but gave more emphasis to shifting responsibility for programmatic choices, while still maintaining a federal claim of accountability for the funds. The limited success of each of these efforts was quickly lost as grants were re-categorized and entitlements grew. Courts also exercised a centralizing tendency in these decades, interpreting the Commerce Clause expansively. As soaring federal deficits and the politics of balanced budgets curtailed the growth of new national spending, Congress became increasingly willing to impose federal mandates on states either through the vehicle of existing grant programs or indirect requirements. Devolution efforts went full steam ahead under President Clinton who came to power with a decentralizing agenda. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Republican agenda of "devolution revolution"12 was not as successful as they had envisioned. The Republicans, with their stringent budget and plans to devolve federal power exceeded their electorate mandate. Timothy Conlan notes that the agenda may have worked if the Republicans controlled the White House as well as Congress13. They did not have such control so their revolution was doomed once Clinton became convinced that most Americans were highly sceptical of the program. 1 Elazar, 1991: 1 2 Walker, David B. The Rebirth of Federalism: Slouching toward Washington. Chatham House Publishers, Inc. 1995. 3 Wildavsky, Aaron. Federalism and Political Culture. D. Sleicher & B. Swedlow, Eds. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.1998. Cited in: McCurdy, Arthur H. "Political culture, local government and progressive personnel practices." Review of Public Personnel Administration, Columbia. Winter 1998Vol. 18, PP 23-38 4 www2.h-net.msu.edu/~shgape/bibs/federal.html 5 www.historylearningsite.co.uk/fed.htm 6 http://www.min.net/~kala/fed/history.htm 7 Conlon, T. 1998. From New Federalism to Devolution. The Brookings Institution 8 Walker, 1996:272. 9 Walker, 1996:196 10 http://nw.com/jamesd/libertarian-quotes, 11 www2.h-net.msu.edu/~shgape/bibs/federal.html 12 Conlon, T. 1998. From New Federalism to Devolution. The Brookings Institution 13 Conlon, T. 1998. From New Federalism to Devolution. The Brookings Institution ...read more.

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