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Liberal Federalism

by Gene Healy | Mar 7, 2005 | 3 comments

Franklin Foer has a piece in the NYT Book Review about liberals' newfound interest in federalism. It's a nice trip down memory lane, even if, absurdly, he gives credit to Bill Clinton for the unfunded mandates law and welfare reform:

Prodded by a Republican Congress and a conservative Supreme Court, Clinton actually presided over the revitalized federalism that Sandel imagined, and even spent time in the White House huddling with Sandel and Putnam. Federalism suited his declared ambition to move beyond the era of ''big government.'' In 1995, he signed a law prohibiting the national government from imposing new burdens on the states without first providing funds to cover any costs. The welfare reform package he ushered into law a year later gave states enormous latitude in remaking social policy.

Clinton's commitment to federalism can be judged by his position on medical marijuana, which was hardly better than the Bush administration's.

I'd like to think that the Republican assault on federalism would lead to a resurgence of decentralist liberalism. But I expect the Left's interest in subsidiarity will last as long as its exile from federal power. Federalism, it seems, is the political virtue without a natural constituency. It's easy to be in the Leave-Us-Alone Coalition. It takes principle to sign up for the Leave-the-Other-Guy-Alone Coalition. And there's no deep commitment to the principle of federalism in either party.


3 comments - add your own

Stephan Kinsella — Mar. 7, 05 at 05:03 PM

"I'd like to think that the Republican assault on federalism would lead to a resurgence of decentralist liberalism." -- and maybe a resurgence of decentralist libertarianism too! :)

Kevin B. O'Reilly — Mar. 7, 05 at 10:56 PM

So ... looks like you're blogging pretty regularly again. Cool!

Stephan Kinsella — Mar. 8, 05 at 04:09 PM

yeah, where'd you go, Gene?

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