Federalism Trends, Tensions, and Outlook

Timothy J. Conlan and Paul L. Posner

in The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199765362
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Federalism Trends, Tensions, and Outlook

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This article details the development of the US federal system over the past two and a half centuries. It not only establishes the proposition that if one is to understand the history of this country then one must understand its federalism platform, but also that that platform sets the initial conditions for determining the future options for US public finance policy and administration. To develop this theme, the article takes us through a series of stages—from that of a “dual federalism” that lasted until the 1860s whereby the federal and state governments had little overlap in functions and responsibilities to a post-Civil War era centralizing impulse that strengthened what had been a very weak antebellum national government. The early twentieth century saw the establishment of many of the institutions that are now part of today's intergovernmental system. What ensued was “cooperative federalism,” a model of governance whereby the federal government and the states shared responsibilities in a collaborative manner.

Keywords: US federal system; public finance; finance administration; post-Civil War era; intergovernmental system; national government

Article.  9342 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Public Economics ; Industry Studies

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