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Federal Government & Local Problems

National government should intervene to a large extent in solving state and local social and economic problems. Social and economic problems such as drunken driving, child abuse, educational quality in America, and aid to families with dependent children are issues too important to be left to the states. If one broadly interprets the United States as a nation united, we are one people, not separate states. Because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, national theory (which takes a far more generous view of the powers and responsibilities of the federal government) is theoretically a more viable stance than compact theory (which takes a far less generous view of federal power--in fact, the states and the nation are opposed).

Federalism, the distribution of governmental power between a central authority and its constituent parts, poses serious questions of political philosophy. Do state and local governments really express the national will? Are state and local governments capable of providing for the national will when they are acting upon exclusive and inward-looking concerns for their own distinct interests?

Samuel H. Beer points out, "Throughout our history, [national theory] has informed and supported the broad against the narrow construction of the constitutional power of the federal government . . . however, it is not merely a doctrine of centralization. As its advocates at the time of the founding continually emphasized, the national point of view not only tolerates but indeed requires a federal arrangement."

Because federalism has allowed states to maintain a certain level of autonomy in implementing federal policy, do the states effectively accomplish federal priorities? For example, why do divorced working mothers with children receive liberal financial help from some states (Wisconsin and Minnesota, for example) but virtually none from others? As Christopher Hamilton asserts, "It is small comfort f...

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