Dual federalism is also known as “layer cake federalism.” This was a system in which the powers and roles of the state and federal governments were kept distinct and separate. This is different from how things are today where the federal government is more involved in many aspects of society, giving rise to the analogy of “marble cake federalism.” Dual federalism ended with the New Deal of the 1930s.
Conservatives in particular tend to believe that dual federalism is a better system. Supporters of dual federalism tend to make the following arguments:
- State governments are closer to the people and are therefore more democratic and responsive.
- State governments can act as “laboratories of democracy” to try out new ways of doing things. For example, if many different states had many different systems for providing health insurance, we could see which ones did and did not work.
- States give people more access to the government. A government is more democratic when there are more points at which people can access and influence it. The state governments are another point at which people can do this, thus making our system more democratic.
- States can restrain the power of the federal government. Conservatives in particular believe that the federal government is or can be dangerous to our freedoms. They believe that strong state governments can check the federal government and thereby protect our rights.