The Rise of a New Federalism: Federal-State Cooperation in the United States

By Jane Perry Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
Conclusion

THOSE who search endlessly for panaceas and nostrums will find that a federal system of government proves to be an ineffectual pill for curing the economic and social earthquakes of today. There is an inevitable circuitousness and lack of simple, direct action inherent in the very nature of federalism which, as De Tocqueville saw as early as 1835, stems from "a theory which is necessarily complicated, and which demands the daily exercise of a considerable share of discretion on the part of those it governs."1 In the United States, the difficulties inherent in the federal formula have been enhanced by the exercise of judicial review over acts of both federal and state legislation so that the boundary between the powers of the two governments has shifted and continues to shift, now in one direction and now in the other. The actualities of life and the problems of governmental administration in the far-flung and interdependent country of the United States do not fit tidily into a "scrupulous insulation of disparate interests which, formally at least, is the presupposition of the distribution of governmental authority."2There is, therefore, a great lack of reality in discussions in terms of federal versus state powers, or indeed in any attempt to separate into watertight compartments the federal and state levels of government.

Various forces have impelled the development of cooperative interrelationships between the two governments as means by which the American constitutional system may be accommodated to meet the needs of the actualities of life in the United States. The very distribution of power between the federal and state governments has been an important cause of the development of arrangements to catch up the loose threads where the powers of one

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1
De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, I, 166.
2
F. Frankfurter, The Commerce Clause under Marshall, Taney and Waite ( 1937), p. 21.

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