The Public Interest

Public policy by prosecution

Arthur Maas

Fall 1987

IN NOVEMBER 1986, the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Working Group on Federalism issued a “comprehensive report” analyzing the status of federalism in America. Echoing a policy objective of the Reagan presidency, the report called for greater attention to the traditional division of power between the federal and state governments. (The Working Group was chaired by Assistant Attorney General Charles J. Cooper, while the Domestic Policy Council was chaired by Attorney General Edwin Meese III.) Like the proponents of federalism in the Department of Justice, the report lamented the historical decline of the power and sovereignty of state governments: The last 200 years have witnessed the evisceration of federalism as a constitutional and political principle for allocating governmental power between the States and Washington. The Founding Fathers’ vision of a limited national government of enumerated powers has gradually given way to an expansive, intrusive, and virtually omnipotent national government.

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