"Real" federalism, Michael S. Greve argues, is a federalism that promotes citizen choice and competition among the states. Far from being an anachronism in an increasingly complex society, a regime that permits citizens to choose among competing jurisdictions, each offering a different mixture of government services, is uniquely suited to a country of highly mobile and increasingly sophisticated citizen-consumers.
Real federalism requires effective constitutional constraints on the national government. American government lost such constraints--and hence, real competitive federalism--some six decades ago, when the traditional constitutional notion of "enumerated" powers collapsed in the wake of the New Deal. It will prove exceedingly difficult to reestablish constitutional constraints because so many powerful interests have acquired huge stakes in a centralized and essentially unconstrained national government.
In several important decisions (each discussed in this book), the United States Supreme Court has reestablished at least some federalism constraints. At the same time, a loose coalition of "leave-us-alone" constituencies--including, for example, religious groups, the term limits movement, home school and school choice organizations, and tax limitation initiatives--have developed a strategic interest in open, decentralized political arrangements. Real Federalism shows that those constituencies and the Supreme Court can, through a "virtuous cycle" of progressive accommodation and (often implicit) cooperation, succeed in advancing federalism.
Real Federalism combines a compelling, jargon-free analysis of important legal decisions and of the Supreme Court's role in modern American politics with a practical interest in reestablishing constitutional federalism.
Michael S. Greve is cofounder and executive director of the Center for Individual Rights and an adjunct fellow of AEI.