Available in paperback. University of Michigan Press, 1998 (with Malcolm M. Feeley).
Federalism: Political Identity and Tragic Compromise. University of Michigan Press, 1998 (with Malcolm M. Feeley).
We regularly describe our system of government as federalist, but the concept is so ill-defined and laden with emotion that it only confuses the issues that is supposed to address. This book explains that federalism properly understood to be a partial grant of governmental autonomy to geographic sub-regions of a nation. It distinguishes the concept from managerial decentralization, the much more widespread practice where an institution – a nation, a corporation, or a religious denomination – delegates some of its decision making authority to local subordinates. Decentralization will often lead to greater efficiency, but why would a nation grant regional officials the right to make autonomous decisions? The book’s argument is that this will only occur when the nation lacks a unified political identity and partial grants of autonomy are the only way that the disparate groups within the nation can be held together. This is the sense in which federalism is a tragic compromise. The book goes on to demonstrate that federalism has become vestigial in the United States because a unified political identity developed in the aftermath of the Civil War.