Discuss what cooperative federalism entails.

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Cooperative federalism in the United States entails cooperation and collaboration between the federal government and the states. This can take place in general, as a matter of principle, but cooperative federalism usually operates systematically. Under cooperative federalism, the federal government might cooperate with the states to implement specific laws or policies, like the Affordable Care Act or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but it might be less willing to collaborate with states on other projects, like foreign policy or border security. Cooperative federalism is more like a long-term relationship in which each party tries to give a little and get a little benefit, instead of a straightforward competition or tug-of-war.

The idea was popularized in the 1930s, when the Great Depression made it difficult for states to provide public services and regulatory oversight of their economies in the same way they did during the more profitable years of the late-nineteenth century. Most of them simply weren’t large enough or rich enough to cope with the financial dislocation caused by the collapse of the stock market and banking system. They didn’t have easy ways to increase the flow of money into their economies, so it was inevitable that cooperation with the federal government eventually became necessary. By the end of the decade, the federal government had institutionalized its cooperation with states in broad areas of the economy and society—for example, under the Works Progress Administration, the Social Security Administration, and other programs of what came to be called "the New Deal." That tradition of cooperation and collaboration continues today.

Not everyone in the United States likes cooperative federalism. People who believe that the federal government has grown too powerful, that it bullies states using its control of money, and that it is violating the spirit of the Constitution are opposed to cooperative federalism. They wish for a return to the government arrangements of the early United States, which were more in the spirit of the country’s founding and which were codified into law in the Supreme Court decision McCulloch v. Maryland. That arrangement is usually called Dual Federalism, and it envisions states and the federal government as equals in a competition for resources and power over citizens.


Theories of Federalism: A Reader by Dimitrios Karmis and Wayne Norman, eds.

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Cooperative federalism entails the collaboration between federal, state, and local governments when addressing common problems that affect all three entities. The goal is to govern jointly for the good of the people. This is advantageous because it enables the implementation and administration of federal programs at the state level. With the assistance of federal funding, states are provided the resources to operate and accomplish the mission of federal programs while taking into account their unique local and state needs. However, if minimum standards are not met through the state's administration, the federal government can reclaim control of the program in that jurisdiction. This ensures the compliance of national policy but not at the expense of state and local ingenuity. For example, the Interstate Highway Construction Project initiated by President Roosevelt was primarily funded by the federal government, but the ownership and maintenance of highways were the responsibility of the state.

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