New Federalism: Intergovernmental Reform from Nixon to Reagan

New Federalism: Intergovernmental Reform from Nixon to Reagan

New Federalism: Intergovernmental Reform from Nixon to Reagan

New Federalism: Intergovernmental Reform from Nixon to Reagan

Excerpt

I have a colleague who likes to kid me about my attachment to federalism. He asks two sorts of teasing questions. One is why I think "ideas" about federalism have any effect on policy. He holds, for instance, that President Reagan's much-touted proposals for federal reform in 1981 were merely instrumental to the overarching drive to cut the federal budget. The real motive was not a regard for federalism as such, but simply conservative hostility to the redistributive policies of the welfare state.

My colleague's second taunt is to question the value of federalism to American government. In his view, it would seem, the chief contribution of the states to our system of government is to introduce further incoherence onto the already chaotic scene of American policymaking. Citing the need to raise productivity, for instance, he claims that the problem can be met not by fifty separate manpower programs, but only by a national policy that reaches into the whole sphere of education and training. Insofar as federalism blocks a national approach to a national problem, it makes policy less coherent and effective than it might otherwise be.

I do not find it easy to answer these questions and welcome the present study as a powerful help. Tim Conlan is concerned with federalism in both respects: federalism as idea and as structure. He examines the explicit proposals for federal reform put forward by Presidents Nixon and Reagan and finds that on balance they have not had much effect. He does not come to this conclusion because he discounts the influence of ideology. He finds that conservatism, in two rather different modes, inspired many of the programs of the two administrations, often with important side effects on the intergovernmental structure. Under Nixon and Reagan, the conservatism of American politics has been expressed, to use the author's terminology, in both an explicit and an implicit federalism. Conlan also takes up the reverse of this relationship, asking what effect fed-

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