The Price Of Federalism / Edition 1

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Overview

What is the price of federalism? Does it result in governmental interconnections that are too complex? Does it create overlapping responsibilities? Does it perpetuate social inequalities? Does it stifle economic growth?

To answer these questions, Paul Peterson sets forth two theories of federalism: functional and legislative. Functional theory is optimistic. It says that each level of the federal system is well designed to carry out the tasks for which it is mainly responsible. State and local governments assume responsibility for their area's physical and social development; the national government cares for the needy and reduces economic inequities. Legislative theory, in contrast, is pessimistic: it says that national political leaders, responding to electoral pressures, misuse their power. They shift unpopular burdens to lower levels of government while spending national dollars on popular government programs for which they can claim credit.

Both theories are used to explain different aspects of American federalism. Legislative theory explains why federal grants have never been used to equalize public services. Elected officials cannot easily justify to their constituents a vote to shift funds away from the geographic area they represent. The overall direction that American federalism has taken in recent years is better explained by functional theory. As the costs of transportation and communication have declined, labor and capital have become increasingly mobile, placing states and localities in greater competition with one another. State and local governments are responding to these changes by overlooking the needs of the poor, focusing instead on economic development. As a further consequence, older, big cities of the Rust Belt, inefficient in their operations and burdened by social responsibilities, are losing jobs and population to the suburban communities that surround them.

Peterson recommends that the national government adopt policies that take into account the economic realities identified by functional theory. The national government should give states and localities responsibility for most transportation, education, crime control, and other basic governmental programs. Welfare, food stamps, the delivery of medical services, and other social policies should become the primary responsibility of the national government.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An informative, even accessible, book that goes to the heart of the current talk about block grants, unfunded mandates, the deficit and more.... [A] valuable look at the bottom line of domestic politics" —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Okay: this is beach reading only if you're a policy wonk. But that doesn't mean the average voter won't find it an informative, even accessible, book that goes to the heart of the current talk about block grants, unfunded mandates, the deficit and more. After a whirlwind overview of American federalism, Peterson offers two theories of the fiscal relationships between national and local governments. Functional theory posits that different levels of government are best suited to different kinds of funding: for the national government, that's redistributive programs (e.g., welfare, SSI), which it can apply evenly across the country; developmental programs (e.g., roads, buildings) are best left to local governments, which respond more efficiently to local needs. The cynical legislative theory suggests the opposite: the national government (read congressmen) will prefer to legislate popular development projects for constituents (aka pork) while leaving unpopular redistributive projects to the states. Peterson argues that if legislative theory best explains federalism from 1957 to 1977, functional theory is increasingly the norm now and should continue to be. On the one hand, pork is losing popularity, as functional theory says is best. Contrary to the theory's prescriptions, however, is the idea of giving states control over redistributive programs, which, Peterson says, will result in every state trying to cut welfare in order to discourage an influx of the poor. Yes, there are charts, but that's no excuse to shy away from this valuable look at the bottom line of domestic politics. $20,000 ad/promo. (July)
Booknews
Peterson (government, Harvard U.) examines the rush to move responsibility for public services from the federal to the state governments from both a functional and legislative perspective. He agrees that transportation, education, and other economic development functions should devolve. But moving welfare to the states, he says, would simply kill it in no time: poor people would move to states with high benefits, so in self-protection every state would race to provide the least benefits. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815770237
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 5/22/1995
  • Series: Twentieth Century Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Lexile: 1430L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul E. Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard, the director of PEPG, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is author or editor of numerous books, including The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools, with William G. Howell (Brookings, 2004 and 2006). He is coeditor (with Martin West) of No Child Left Behind? The Practice and Politics of School Accountability (Brookings, 2003).

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Introduction
1 School Choice: A Report Card 3
2 The Case for Charter Schools 33
Pt. 2 School Choice and School Reform
3 Governance and Educational Quality 55
4 Civic Values in Public and Private Schools 83
5 Policy Churn and the Plight of Urban School Reform 107
Pt. 3 Public School Choice
6 Analyzing School Choice Reforms That Use America's Traditional Forms of Parental Choice 133
7 Interdistrict Choice in Massachusetts 157
8 Charter Schools as Seen by Students, Teachers, and Parents 187
9 The Performance of Privately Managed Schools: An Early Look at the Edison Project 213
10 Charter Schools: Politics and Practice in Four States 249
Pt. 4 Vouchers for Private Schools
11 Comparing Public Choice and Private Voucher Programs in San Antonio 275
12 Evidence from the Indianapolis Voucher Program 307
13 School Choice in Milwaukee: A Randomized Experiment 335
14 Lessons from the Cleveland Scholarship Program 357
Pt. 5 Constitutional Issues
15 Why Parents Should Choose 395
16 School Choice and State Constitutional Law 409
Contributors 429
Index 431
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