Federalism and the Constitution: Competition versus Cartels

Federalism questions are at the heart of today’s intensely controversial policy debates. From education to disaster relief to health care and insurance, federal arrangements are failing, and the federal structure itself has reemerged as a subject of public debate. Bloated bureaucracies defy reform and governments pursue ever-deeper debt. These debilities loom especially large in times of economic stress and widespread public disaffection.

This essay examines the sources and the scope of federalism’s failures. It provides a trenchant, constitutionally grounded analysis with profound implications for a range of current policy debates. Federalism’s restoration requires not merely rebalancing the federal-state relationship through decentralization. Rather, we must restore the structure of federalism to competitive federalism—which encourages states to compete to enhance freedom and economic growth—in response to the rise of cartel federalism, which squashes competition between the states and makes states dependent on the federal government.

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About the Author

Michael S. Greve is a professor of law at George Mason University. Previously, he served as John G. Searle Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specialized in constitutional law, courts, and business regulation. Before joining AEI, Greve was founder and co-director of the Center for Individual Rights, a public interest law firm specializing in constitutional litigation. Greve has served as an adjunct or visiting professor at a number of universities, including Cornell, Johns Hopkins University, and Boston College. He was awarded a PhD and an MA in government by Cornell University. Greve also earned a diploma from the University of Hamburg in Germany. A prolific writer, Greve is the author of numerous scholarly articles and nine books, including The Upside-Down Constitution (Harvard University Press, 2012), Real Federalism: Why It Matters, How It Could Happen (AEI, 2000), and The Demise of Environmentalism in American Law (AEI, 1996). He blogs at libertylawsite.org.