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However, the federal constitution does not always take into consideration the principle of decentralisation at the local government level. In Australia for example, municipalities are not explicitly recognised by the Commonwealth Constitution, despite failed or abandoned referendums proposing constitutional recognition in 1974, 1988 and 2013. In some federations, however, the guaranteed principle of local self-government is set out in the federal constitution, e.g.

Let us glance at a small sample of local functions now monitored by federal agencies and courts. Opinions are bound to differ on which level of government should have the last word about marriages or abortions. More puzzling is how the central government has come to meddle incessantly in matters that are ordinarily much more mundane, often meeting little or no resistance. For the often indiscriminate preoccupation of national policymakers with the details of local administration is not just wasteful; it can be irresponsible. If we fast-forward to present day America, the thesis that federalism is what holds the country together seems no less questionable, though for a different reason. Thanks largely to massive interregional migrations, economic dynamism, and ease of assimilation, contrasts between America’s deep South and the rest of the country seem minor today compared to, say, the continuing cultural chasm between the north and south of Italy.

Thanks to liberal use of federal administrative waivers in the early 1990s, the states took the lead in revising the nation’s system of public assistance. They were widely credited with setting the stage for the historic national legislation of 1996—and also for securing a dramatic decline in caseloads. How much of the decline, however, could be attributed to the actions of the states, both before and after the 1996 law, is actually a matter of considerable debate.

Its essential function is to educate professional political scientists capable of independent research and qualified for careers in academic institutions, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. Program in Political Science features a diversity of approaches, all students are expected both to specialize and to develop an understanding of the discipline as a whole. Moreover, international experiences show that design and implementation are the most challenging phases of decentralisation reform.

Most of the caseload reduction had less to do with inventive state policies than with a strong economy and expanded federal aid to low-income persons who entered the workforce. In sum, although state experiments were undoubtedly instructive and consequential, other fundamentals were more so. One suspects that what holds for the welfare story also applies to some other local inventions—for example, smart growth strategies, school reform, or the deregulation of electric utilities—the impact of which state politicians sometimes exaggerate. Whatever else it is supposed to do, however, a federal system should offer government a division of labor. Perhaps the first to fully appreciate that benefit was Alexis de Tocqueville.