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Please answer at least 1 of the following:

1-Explain “Separate but not equal”, why was this an important conversation? Do you believe this is still the case today?

2-Describe how the 13th, 14th, and 15 Amendments have affected the Black Community and other communities such as individuals with disabilities and other people of color. 

3- What are the main points of Ilel, “A Healthy Dose of Anarchy”?

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Katrina’s Political Roots and Divisions: Race, Class, and Federalism in
American Politics
By Dara Strolovitch; Dorian Warren; Paul Frymer
Published on: Jun 11, 2006

Dara Strolovitch is assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. She has been a research fellow at
the Brookings Institution and a visiting faculty fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Democracy and the Third Sector. Her
research and teaching focus on interest groups and social movements, and politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Dorian Warren is a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. He specializes in the
study of inequality and the politics of marginalized groups in American politics.

Paul Frymer is associate professor of politics and legal studies at UC Santa Cruz. He is the author of Uneasy Alliances: Race
and Party Competition in America (Princeton Press) and is currently writing about race and labor in the twentieth century.

In the public imagination, natural disasters do not discriminate, but are instead “equal opportunity”
calamities. Hurricanes may not single out victims by their race, class, or gender, but neither do such
disasters occur in historical, political, social, or economic vacuums. Instead, the consequences of such
catastrophes replicate and exacerbate the effects of extant inequalities, and often bring into stark relief
the importance of political institutions, processes, ideologies, and norms. In the words of New York
Times’ columnist David Brooks, storms like hurricane Katrina “wash away the surface of society, the
settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the
patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities.”

Katrina hit the Gulf Coast just as America prepared to mark the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,
and consequently, the fourth anniversary of the American government’s quest to bring American-style
freedom and democracy to other nations. The hurricane made clear, however, that the U.S. has not
resolved fundamental domestic disparities and inadequacies. Katrina did not create these inequities; it
simply added an important reminder that they are deeply embedded and constitutive of American
political, economic, and social life. From the voting rights violations of 2000, to the vast disparities in
drug laws that have resulted in the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of young African-American
and Latino men, to the continued widening of racial and wealth gaps when it comes to finances,
education, and health services, the last two decades alone have provided a series of examples that
demonstrate the vast inequalities of our democratic system, particularly as they are manifested along
racial lines. Were Katrina simply an accident of geography and ecology, we could perhaps be sanguine
that its effects might be resolved. But the disparities exposed by Katrina have deep-seated, historical and
institutional roots. While it is therefore unlikely that public policies in the aftermath of Katrina will
resolve these disparities, perhaps the inequalities laid bare by the hurricane will provide a longer-term

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The Political Roots of Race and Class Inequality in New Orleans

wake-up call to those who wish to actively build a more fair and meaningful democracy in the United
States. In particular, we hope that new attention will be paid to the role of American political
institutions in structuring and perpetuating contemporary racial, economic, regional, and gendered
inequities.

Storms and natural disasters such as Katrina always hit marginal groups in society harder than they do
other segments. Women, many of whom were primary caregivers for their children, were vastly over-
represented among those in New Orleans’ shelters, reflecting not only the gendered norms of family
relations, but the glaring statistical fact that women in America are more likely to live below the poverty
line. Similarly, the elderly and disabled faced some of the most severe horrors of Katrina, again in part
because they constitute a disproportionately high percentage of those who are impoverished, and
because too many were simply left to die in the face of rushing water due to the difficulties in rescuing
them. It was the compounded effects of the intersection of race and class inequalities, however, that was
brought most visibly to the fore by the national and international media in the days following Katrina.
Quite notably, President Bush, who had first resisted acknowledging the disproportionate impact of
Katrina on low-income and black residents of New Orleans, finally felt compelled to recognize “the
legacy of inequality.” The evidence of the centrality of racial and class inequalities is overwhelming, as
evidenced by Kanye West’s impassioned comments on television as well as by the fact that the topic
became one of discussion in such unlikely outlets as FOX news and the Rush Limbaugh show. By now,
we have all heard the damning statistics about the demographics of New Orleans residents so devastated
by Katrina: 67% are African American, 28% live below the poverty line (of whom 84% are black),
100,000 had no car, and therefore had no ability to flee the city when the storm hit.

Although jarring, these statistics can only be shocking to those who have willingly ignored systematic
evidence of what former Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards topically called the “two
Americas.” Edwards may not have specifically mentioned race during his popular campaign stump
speech, but social scientists and political activists have long tried to draw the nation’s attention to the
scope of racialized (and gendered) poverty in the United States, particularly in the South. It is no
accident that African Americans in New Orleans are disproportionately poor, or that a disproportionate
number of the poor in New Orleans are African American. It is the result of centuries of concerted
decision-making by political actors at the local, state, and national levels, going back to the days of
slavery and continuing up to our current political moment.1 Highlighting the roles of race and class in
attitudes about and identities of those most affected by the aftermath of Katrina draws attention to the
ways in which these divisions have played an historically significant role in conflicts about the proper
relationship between local, state, and federal governments in American politics. Though many in the
media focused on the failed political response in the immediate aftermath or Katrina, little attention was
given to the long-term effects of weakened government capacity and its core functions in providing aid,
services, and jobs to impoverished urban communities, as well as the historical role of race as a causal
factor that has shaped these intergovernmental relations.

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Race has always been central to debates about the proper role of the American government in aiding
those Americans in need of assistance from the inequalities that result directly from the actions of both
the government and private citizens. Whether the national government should have the capacity to
intervene into local affairs was an issue of primary importance at the nation’s naissance. At the time,
race and labor—specifically debates about the slave trade, about the maintenance and expansion of
slavery into American territories, and about the status of blacks more generally—were the sine qua non
of the conflicts between federalists and anti-federalists at the founding of the nation. Southern political
elites argued that the federal government should have no authority over the governance of local
institutions and culture; these arguments were constitutionally protected in the 10th Amendment.
Pointing to the guarantee of “states’ rights,” southern states resisted all attempts to abolish slavery,
resulting in the secession of eleven states—including Louisiana—from the nation in 1860.

The Civil War prompted by this secession did not end race-inspired conflicts over federalism. Following
the defeat of Confederate forces, the national government used its power to expand rights and resources
for blacks primarily through the Freedmen’s Bureau. Its task was to coordinate relief efforts and
redistribute educational, employment and political opportunities among newly freed and homeless
former slaves, as well as to whites who had been dislocated by the war. With the help of the Freedmen’s
Bureau and the protection of federal troops, African Americans acquired land, sought employment,
voted in large numbers, served as elected officials, and used public accommodations in the years
following the war. Most southern whites resented the federal presence and resisted efforts to equalize
the status of former slaves. President Andrew Johnson vetoed congressional renewal of the Bureau in
1866, and undercut its efforts by restoring most land to its former white owners. As the ex-Confederate
states rejoined the Union, Congress further curtailed the agency’s power and personnel, and it finally
ceased operations in 1872. Five years later, the Hayes-Tilden compromise led to the withdrawal of
federal troops, effectively ending all Reconstruction efforts in the South, sealing the fate of the vast
majority of African Americans for generations and ushering in a new era of racial and class inequality.
Southern states, with little federal resistance, enacted “Jim Crow” laws that segregated public spaces,
curtailed voting rights, and reestablished white political, economic, and social supremacy.

But debates over federalism returned during the Great Depression, leading both to an emboldened
national government with power to interfere on matters of interstate commerce to mold social policy,
and at the same time, a recognition that states’ rights would limit the New Deal’s intervention into the
southern economy and political hierarchy. These political battles, in which the federal government won
certain powers with an explicit compromise that it would not threaten southern institutions, set America
on a path-dependent course towards a vastly curtailed welfare state and one that differentiated on the
basis of race. To obtain the necessary support of southern Democrats in Congress for his legislative
agenda, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and northern Democrats agreed to a series of measures that
codified racial inequities into policy. Critical legislation such as the Wagner Act and Social Security Act
did not cover workers in occupations commonly filled by blacks, such as agricultural and domestic
workers, and enabled private and local actors to discriminate in their enactments and interpretations of
the policies. Approximately two thirds of black workers were not initially covered by critical pieces of

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New Deal legislation, at a time when 50 percent of blacks were unemployed, a proportion twice that of
whites. Consequently, while black Americans benefited in some ways from the New Deal, the policies
were severely limited in reach and, in many instances, served to systematically create racial segregation
and poverty in communities such as New Orleans. Labor laws and construction grants allowed unions to
exclude black workers through closed shops and contracts, the Federal Housing Act allowed banks and
home lenders to “redline” their home and business loan policies to exclude black communities, and
federal welfare laws allowed local governments to make determinations of need and assistance.

Southern states continued to resist federal efforts to combat segregation, discrimination, and the
increasing use of terror against blacks in the South well into the 1960s. Faced with civil rights activism, a
series of Supreme Court decisions, and critical new federal laws, conditions improved for blacks in the
“new south.” But, as Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith have argued, this moment was brief—the
“unsteady march” toward racial equality quickly moved backward. Beginning with President Richard
Nixon, the ambitious plan of the Great Society to use federal funds to combat poverty and racial
inequality was curtailed. The Supreme Court retracted from its ambitious Equal Protection agenda,
instead privileging state and local boundaries that limited policies designed to reduce racial segregation
and inequality in employment, schools, and criminal justice. This was often a bipartisan effort,
witnessed by President Bill Clinton’s signing of welfare reform that cut federal funding sharply to those
in need of assistance. The legacies of racial and economic inequality, from slavery and segregation to the
exclusionary nature of federal aid, remain evident in every Southern state. Racial disparities in
Louisiana and New Orleans are certainly more extreme than they are in other states, but racial
inequality prevails in the former Confederacy, in no small part because of the ongoing invocation of
states’ rights to justify unequal treatment and to resist federal attempts to intervene.

It is important to recognize, however, that while states’ rights arguments have been used historically to
undergird southern racial and class inequalities, they have been invoked inconsistently. Like most
political ideologies in American politics, states’ rights is much less a fundamental and enduring
principle than a political foil that has been deployed opportunistically by political elites to advance their
interests and agenda. Southern conservatives have often invoked states’ rights to resist federal
intervention, but they have also been quick to disregard this principle when it has suited their needs, as
they did earlier this year when asking Congress to overrule a state court that allowed the removal of
Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. Such inconsistency has historical roots that make clear that southern
invocations of the 10th Amendment have more to do with protecting their power than they do with
concerns about states’ rights. While many southern states endorsed the 10th Amendment during
constitutional debates, they also supported the Commerce Clause and the Full Faith and Credit
provisions of the Constitution—both strongly anti-state rights—in order to stop northern states from
taxing their products that were made with slave labor, and as a way of legally demanding the return of
slaves who escaped to northern free states.

Federalism then, may be a center of the debate, but it provides a smoke screen more than a concrete
barrier to political reform. The reason federalism debates are so powerful is because our national

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American (Lack of) Recognition of History and Structural Inequality

political institutions are fundamentally divided over race, a division that is as old as the nation itself. To
maintain racial hierarchies, southern Democrats and racial conservatives consistently invoke states
rights when it suits them. These interests, while a minority in American society, have always been
important pivots and veto players in the national political arena. Because our political institutions, such
as the Senate, the Electoral College, and the party system, are unduly beholden to these pivotal votes,
federal distinctions remain politically meaningful at a time when many scholars have argued that they
are antiquated and artificial. It is for this reason that even those political actors who support the
expansion of racial and economic justice have had to make political calculations that work against such
goals. This is perhaps most notable in the way that the two party system has been affected by the pivotal
role of the South. With brief exceptions, the two major political parties have been equal opportunity
ignorers of racial inequality going back to their formation in the 1820s. To win elections, parties need to
appeal to southern whites and racially conservative voters. Democrats as much as Republicans are
vividly aware of this, as the actions of national candidates from Bill Clinton to Al Gore to John Kerry
have emphatically illustrated. The poor in New Orleans only entered our television screens with Katrina,
in part because no major party presidential nominee has made race or poverty a campaign issue in
almost four decades.

Fifty years after Louis Hartz remarked that Americans were “born equal” and that, as a result, they have
no sense or interest in history or the broader development of ideas and inequities, it is not surprising
that the American response to New Orleans was viewed through an exceedingly narrow lens. Most
Americans were shocked by New Orleans and our media reflected this with pictures of the faces of
inequality capped with headings ending with question marks—How did this happen? Where did this
inequality come from? Who is to blame? The sense of wonderment is held only by some segments of the
American population, however. As is the case with many other issues, race has been the critical variable
in determining Americans’ perceptions and attitudes about Katrina’s aftermath, and about the way it
was handled by the government.

The American public is sharply divided along racial lines in its assessments of George Bush’s efforts to
help Katrina’s victims. Data from a recent poll by the Pew Research Center show that many more
African Americans (85%) than whites (63%) believe that President Bush did not do “all he could to get
relief efforts going quickly.” Moreover, race also has also shaped perceptions about why the response
was as slow and inadequate as it was. The poll results suggest that a vast majority of African Americans,
but very few whites, agree with hip-hop artist Kanye West’s charge that “George Bush doesn’t care about
black people,” and that America is set up “to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as
possible.” Echoing West’s sentiments, the Pew poll found that two-thirds of blacks (66%) agreed that the
government response to the hurricane would have been faster if “most of the victims had been white,”
compared to less than one-fifth (17 percent) of whites.2

The disjuncture between white and black attitudes on this question is illuminating not only for the

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wideness of the racial gap in responses, but also because the responses tell us about each group’s
understanding of the way in which race and racism structured individuals’ experiences of and the
government’s response to the hurricane. For white respondents, the question seemed to ask whether
overt racism had led the government to intentionally ignore black residents of New Orleans, leaving
them to suffer on purpose. This understanding is captured in First Lady Laura Bush’s denunciation of
West’s allegations as “disgusting,” and her statement that “President Bush cares about everyone in our
country.” Within this line of reasoning, unless President Bush, Michael Brown, and the Louisiana
National Guard had made explicit decisions to avoid helping or rescuing black victims of the hurricane,
no racial discrimination would have occurred.

For black respondents, however, the question was much broader, and far more subtle. Though not
disconnected from concerns about negative feelings about black people, intentional acts of
discrimination by individuals and government agencies and from the facts of the hurricane itself, black
responses are embedded within an understanding of what social theorists call structural racism. From
this perspective, the racialized impact of Katrina, though clearly more severe than anything in recent
memory, was nothing new but was instead yet another chapter in a long history in which the needs of
blacks have been ignored, and in which seemingly race-neutral policies have actually been very
specifically designed to disadvantage them, whether through provisions that excluded black workers
from social welfare protections or the use of “redlining” and other techniques that served to exclude
black Americans from government subsidies. Had anyone really been concerned about African
Americans and other poor residents of New Orleans, they would have anticipated the fact that many did
not own cars and would have arranged for transportation to help them leave the city as the storm
approached. (Although it should be noted that public officials have ignored just about every warning by
scientists, academics, and journalists of the impending disaster in New Orleans. Just last year, Mike
Davis forecasted exactly this chain of events in an article in Mother Jones magazine and his broader
books on ecological disasters, blaming directly government officials who have promoted harmful
policies for short-term benefit. A similarly prescient article appeared on the front page of the New
Orleans Times-Picayune only 3 years ago.) Instead, the plight of these residents was not even on the
President’s radar screen. Low-income and poor people always suffer more when disaster hits. Eric
Klinenberg’s recent book on the Chicago heat wave of 1995 shows the myriad ways in which African
Americans suffered most extensively from the record temperatures because of worse housing
conditions, less access to medical facilities, less attention by police, fire, and paramedics, and less urban
infrastructure designed to handle such emergencies. As the old axiom goes, “when America sneezes,
black people get pneumonia.”

In this sense, the experience of African Americans in New Orleans can serve as the “miner’s canary,” as
Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres argue. Similar to the way in which canaries alerted miners to the specter
of poisonous air, the fates that befall people who are disadvantaged by inequalities based on, for
example, race, class, and gender, are signifiers of society-wide inequalities. If policymakers and the
public heed the lessons of Katrina and make efforts to address the structural and institutional sources of
American inequality, perhaps the brunt of future disasters will not be borne by those who are the least

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Endnotes

able to endure their costs.

1 While these decisions have had disproportionate effects on African Americans in the southern states,
the exploitation of racial animosity also undermined the possibility of a comprehensive safety net that
would have benefited white poor and working-class southerners as well.

2 In addition to structuring responses, the immediate widespread reports by the media of gang violence,
mass rapes, and looting hearken back to similar tall tales about African American mayhem in the
aftermath of the civil war, the Chicago Fire, and the River Rouge Strike. Barbara Bush’s callousness
towards those suffering in relief centers similarly stems from embedded stereotypes of African American
cultural deficiencies when it comes to work ethic and responsibility.

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A Healthy Dose of Anarchy
After Katrina, nontraditional, decentralized relief steps in where big government
and big charity failed.
Neille Ilel | Dec. 11, 2006 11:54 am

When I walked into Rose and Gary Singletary’s house in the black, middle-class Gentilly section
of New Orleans in February, I saw the shell of a building. The floors, the walls, and all the fixtures
—toilets, sinks, doors—had been removed. Floodwater from Hurricane Katrina had reached
higher than the Singletarys’ front door, and their home had to be stripped down to the frame to
bleach out the mold. After months of on-again, off-again work, the house was finally ready to be
rebuilt.

The couple had all but given up on getting any more than the $2,000 they had received from their
insurance company. They had been insured under a state initiative called the Louisiana Citizens
Fair Plan, administered by the American International Group. According to Americans for
Insurance Reform and other watchdog groups—not to mention several class action suits—the
group paid out $2,000 “advances” to its policy holders and then effectively disappeared through
tactics such as not answering calls, constantly changing adjusters, and conflating wind/storm
damage (covered) with flooding (not covered).

But the Singletarys were beaming. Nearly six months after the hurricane hit, their house was
miles ahead of any others in the neighborhood. It got that way not with conventional charity or
insurance, nor with government aid, but with a ragtag crew of amateurs. Were it not for a
rotating group of young volunteers, the house probably would have been in the same state as
those surrounding it: empty, only superficially cleaned, and growing more mold by the day.

“They’re a godsend,” Rose gushed. “You’ll find everybody down at Common Ground. They’ve got
lawyers, child care, computers with Internet.”

Two giant spray-painted signs point to the Common Ground Collective’s headquarters in a
church parking lot in the now infamous Ninth Ward, where the group houses its volunteers, takes
names for house gutting, and gives away bleach, buckets, respirators, canned food, and other

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supplies. The collective was founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by a former Black Panther
and some street medics trained at mass protests.

Like most residents I talked to, the Singletarys had seen little of the Red Cross aside from an
occasional food truck, and they evinced nothing but frustration when I mentioned the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was a major coup that seven men from the city had
actually arrived to pick up debris from their house on the day I visited. Of the seven, four were
dedicated solely to detouring nonexistent traffic.

The Red Cross and FEMA are under serious scrutiny for their mishandling of Katrina’s
aftermath. In addition to a very public failure to manage the immediate flooding crisis, FEMA has
been skewered in a recent Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s report, in its
own internal audit, and in private and public conversations along the Gulf Coast. The inspector
general’s report faulted the agency for poor communication, lack of preparedness, and
inadequate staffing. FEMA’s emergency housing program, which includes expensive cruise ships
and trailers that cost $30,000 apiece, is fraught with inefficiency and waste.

The Red Cross is widely thought to have performed better than FEMA, but it’s on the ropes too.
At the request of the aid organization, the FBI recently took charge of an investigation involving
volunteers who misappropriated millions meant for victims of Hurricane Katrina. A March New
York Times report revealed major gaps in the organization’s system of accountability. Red Cross
officials have acknowledged that their reaction in the storm’s aftermath was inadequate, and that
tensions, possibly race-based, have sometimes emerged between its volunteers and the residents.

Against this backdrop of failure, successes stand out starkly. Perhaps the most obvious mistake
made in the institutional response to Katrina was a failure to innovate, to ignore the old rules and
procedures when they stood in the way of helping residents in need. Individual citizens, church
groups, and a new brand of grassroots relief organizations stepped in to fill the gaps. These
grassroots groups dispense with bureaucracy and government aid. They rely instead on small
donations of money and supplies, and the commitment of on-the-ground volunteers and the
communities they serve. In addition to Common Ground, secular organizations such as
Emergency Communities, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, and Four Directions have joined a
multitude of small church groups in the region to provide services where government and big aid
organizations fell short. When necessary, they simply ignored the authorities’ wrongheaded
decisions: pushing supplies through closed checkpoints, setting up in unapproved areas, breaking
the rules when it made more sense than following them.

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Their organizers, as well as their volunteers, have little experience with relief work. They live in
tents or sleep on cots in repurposed churches and community centers. Volunteers run the gamut
from hippie dropouts to middle-class students on spring break, and the outposts they’ve built are
filled with things you’d never expect to see anywhere near a relief effort: free acupuncture,
vegetarian cooking, cross-dressing volunteers, a giant geodesic dome. Despite their inexperience
and occasional outlandishness, they are organizing and delivering some of the most effective
relief work in the area.

They aren’t a complete solution to the problem. But they have complemented and sometimes
superseded other efforts, and the old-time charities are starting to take respectful notice of their
unusual new colleagues.

Acupuncturists Without Borders

I first heard about Common Ground in an email from my friend Jeff, a New York bohemian who
frequented underground art parties and halfway legal street events. It’s fair to say that many of
the people who organized and attended those events were of a type. They had odd jobs and even
odder side projects; they made their own clothes, and it showed. And they threw really good
parties.

So when I learned some of the same people were helping organize a relief project in New Orleans,
I was both fascinated and skeptical. When I poked around further and learned that many were
alumni of Burning Man and the Rainbow Gathering, two of the nation’s biggest, strangest
counterculture festivals, I was even more fascinated and even more skeptical. Could a bunch of
middle- and upper-middle-class kids, many of them fresh from “alternative” experiences, connect
with poor, churchgoing residents of the South? And if they could, would the experiment affect
more than a handful of residents?

To my surprise, the answers were yes and yes. As I watched these groups in action, it became
clear that they were connecting with the locals and that their services were invaluable. Residents
used words like “heaven-sent” and “angels” when describing the volunteers, even the guy serving
food in a cowboy hat and a dress.

Common Ground’s initial incarnation was a medical clinic in an Algiers mosque. Algiers is a
decidedly poor and drab cousin to the rest of New Orleans; it’s hard to believe that its sprawl of
nondescript homes and apartment buildings is just across the Mississippi River from the French

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Quarter. But unlike the city across the river, Algiers didn’t flood. And within a few days of the
storm, several young men on bicycles started knocking on doors in this unremarkable place,
asking if people needed medical help. They called themselves street medics.

“A street medic,” explains Iggy River, a Common Ground volunteer, “is a person with an
indeterminate amount of knowledge, usually from mass gatherings or street protests, of acute
need first aid”—treatment for dehydration, cuts, broken bones. With his dark disheveled hair and
giant wooden ear spools, Iggy looked like he would be more at home at a World Trade
Organization protest than coordinating supplies in the ruins of a poor black neighborhood.
Indeed, it was for such protests that the street medics learned their craft. After Katrina, street
medics provided first aid and basic medical services such as blood pressure and diabetes testing.

The renegade volunteers soon ran into Malik Rahim, a neighborhood activist and former Black
Panther, and Common Ground was born. By the time I visited, the group’s clinic had moved into
a permanent storefront location and was staffed by three motherly receptionists, two
acupuncturists, and one overworked doctor. The acupuncturists hailed from Acupuncturists
Without Borders, one of the more curious groups founded after Katrina. To accommodate
medical volunteers from all over the country, the state of Louisiana allowed out-of-state
practitioners to provide treatment without a Louisiana license. The acupuncturists fell under that
umbrella.

In the clinic’s waiting room a man with diabetes waited for acupuncture with his wife. Since the
hurricane, Dennis Waits had come back to his job as a furniture restorer. But because only two of
his colleagues also returned to work, the company was cut from its health insurance program.
Waits, a solidly-built, middle-aged white man in a work shirt, did not look like an adherent of
alternative medicine. But his diabetes had led to a condition called nephrotic syndrome that
caused painful swelling in his legs and feet. It wasn’t easy for him to swallow his pride and get
care from a free clinic, but he was up to two shots of cortisone a day, and it was wearing off after a
few hours. In any case, he wasn’t afraid to have needles put into his wrists.

‘You’re Seeing Life Here’

Waveland, Mississippi, is one of those small Gulf Coast towns that wasn’t covered much by the
national media but suffered Katrina’s winds and storm surge as much as anyplace else. It’s also
where a band of hippies from the Rainbow Gathering landed just after the storm. “Waveland was
as far as you could go then,” said David Sayotovich, a tall, skinny 51-year-old who has been

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attending Rainbow Gatherings since the 1980s.

Every year, usually in July, a group of like-minded folks get together for a week or so in a national
forest to honor the ideals of peace, love, and cooperation. Begun in 1972, the Rainbow Gathering
is an institution of the American counterculture; it brought an estimated 15,000 participants to
the Routt National Forest for its annual gathering this year, according to the Denver Post. Most
people associate the group with drumming and smoking pot, but the group also manages to cook
and serve meals for a large number of people with no running water and no electricity. To people
like Sayotovich, it was a no-brainer to use those skills to help people hurt by Katrina.

With encouragement from a local church group, a Rainbow busload of volunteers decamped in
Waveland, pitched tents across from the police station, and started serving hot meals to the
displaced. “The FEMA people said, ‘You can’t do this—it’s not in the manual,’ but we got away
with it,” Sayotovich said with a grin.

Dubbed the New Waveland Café, the operation didn’t just feed residents. It encouraged them to
participate in cooking, cleaning, and other details that went into running the aid effort,
transforming the helped into helpers. Tales of how the residents of this small Southern town took
to a group of hippies reached as far as the Chicago Tribune, which reported that the group ran its
kitchen so well that one Red Cross volunteer quit to join them instead. The Gambit, a New
Orleans alt-weekly, described a police officer looking the other way when the smell of marijuana
drifted out of the Rainbow camp.

“You’re not just seeing a truck driving around passing out Styrofoam containers of food,” said
Mark Weiner, taking a dig at the Red Cross. “You’re seeing life here.” Behind him a 40-foot
geodesic dome—a tent repurposed from the 35,000-person Burning Man art festival in Nevada—
was beginning to fill with the day’s lunch crowd. The 23-year-old Weiner is a founder and
executive director of the nonprofit Emergency Communities, which set up shop in the parking lot
of what once was Finish Line Off-Track Betting in storm-ravaged St. Bernard Parish, just east of
New Orleans. There it operated the Made With Love Café and other assorted services, including a
clothing swap, Internet terminals, and a children’s play area.

Weiner had never run an aid organization before. He hadn’t really run anything before, which
was at once obvious and hard to believe. His phone rang constantly. Young volunteers ran up
with questions at a sustained clip. Weiner accommodated every request with answers that
seemed to be pulled out of the air: “Sounds great.” “Whatever you think is best.” “Totally.” It

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sounds like a recipe for chaos, but behind him trays of coconut curry soup were being instantly
replenished as the food line emptied into the cafeteria.

A fresh-faced graduate of Columbia University, Weiner was your typical young hipster living in
Brooklyn and applying for law school when Katrina hit. Like nearly every volunteer I
encountered, he tried to sign up with the Red Cross first. After he registered online, the Red Cross
informed him he would have to wait weeks to attend a training session before he could see any
action. “Basically,” he recalled, “I was impatient.”

Then he found out about the New Waveland Café. There he met Scott Ankeny, a 34-year-old
magazine publisher who had been at Burning Man when Katrina hit. When the Rainbow kitchen
organizers closed shop, the two decided to expand on the Waveland principles by opening a food
kitchen in the denser New Orleans area.

They settled on St. Bernard Parish, where the devastation was so complete that some say there
may have been only two homes in the area untouched by floodwaters. Weiner and Ankeny
estimate that the food kitchen served around 1,400 meals a day to construction workers, relief
workers, and residents who came back to rebuild. In February, there were still no restaurants or
grocery stores open for miles. For most of the diners at the Made With Love Café, the only other
option was eating packaged food brought in from elsewhere. Five months after Katrina, the few
Red Cross trucks that had been seen early on weren’t coming around anymore.

Nearly all the ingredients at the café were donated directly from companies or individuals who
were similarly frustrated with the bureaucracy of the traditional avenues for giving. The café’s
roots in the Rainbow subculture were on vivid display. Twenty-six-year-old Lali, a slip of a
woman in homemade clothes and a giant head wrap, was the “head kitchen mama”; she believed
in using as many fresh organic ingredients as possible, which is not ordinarily a priority in the
wake of a hurricane.

Lali began volunteering in Waveland with friends from the Rainbow Gathering, going on to set up
the St. Bernard Parish operation with Weiner and around a dozen others. “We’re looked at as
outsiders in the rest of the world,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for us to prove ourselves,
to be seen in a better light, not to be judged as people who freeload”—a reputation that haunts the
hippie Rainbows. The meals at the café were delicious: curried vegetables, roasted organic
chicken, homemade apple pie. I tried to eat there whenever possible, as did every resident I
talked to.

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One of the first principles of Emergency Communities was that anyone was invited to come down
and help. “If you’re a volunteer and want to come down for two days, we say come on down,”
Weiner said. “You don’t need ‘training.’ We’ll give you two hours of orientation right here.” And
so behind the tents for eating, cooking, picking up free supplies, and checking email were a
hodgepodge of more ramshackle tents connected by a makeshift boardwalk of moving pallets.
Volunteers, who ran the gamut from homeschooled high school students to a father-son duo on a
bonding weekend, just had to get as far as the New Orleans airport. Emergency Communities
housed them, fed them, and put them to work. According to Weiner, 1,400 volunteers came
through the camp, and the café served about 160,000 meals to 15,000 residents and workers in
the six months it was open. (It’s impossible to verify his numbers independently. For that matter,
it’s impossible to verify the Red Cross’ numbers independently.)

Disaster Relief As Civil Disobedience

“The most important thing to remember is that this was a catastrophe rather than a disaster,”
says E.L. Quarantelli, co-founder of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware.
The Red Cross tried to operate as it has in most American disasters—and that usually works just
fine. But this wasn’t a typical situation. The relief groups’ own headquarters were destroyed, as
were local trained workers’ homes. You couldn’t reliably reach people by phone or email. And
when the Red Cross was prevented from going into some areas, by physical hazards or by local
authorities, it didn’t react like the Rainbows, a group used to operating without the law on its
side. It simply turned back.

Quarantelli says it’s not unusual to see informal community groups stepping in during a crisis.
But traditionally it’s religious groups that engage in this sort of decentralized relief. The
Mennonites, for example, have been at it so long they’ve developed a formal organization, the
Mennonite Central Committee, which sends workers to disaster areas all over the world.
Grassroots relief organizations like Common Ground and Emergency Communities, with no
religious affiliation and with members and organizers who are overwhelmingly from outside the
community, do not fit the Disaster Research Center’s model of what kinds of groups emerge to
deal with disasters. Their emergence, Quarantelli allows, can be attributed in part to the Internet,
where people who wanted to volunteer could be matched with groups that needed them instantly,
without an existing social network such as a church.

Relying extensively on Internet communities like Craigslist and Tribe.net, the volunteer groups
are technically savvy; all had wireless networks in their headquarters. Perhaps more significant,

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they have a do-it-yourself culture and a concept they call mutual aid. “We take your house, we
help you in repairing it. You help us by putting up our volunteers,” explained Sundjata Koné, a
spokesperson for Common Ground.

In dealing with the disaster’s victims, this approach seemed not only natural but also necessary.
Most were not used to standing in food lines or asking strangers to come work on their homes for
free. They wanted to pitch in.

Take Amie Roberts. She used to cut hair at a St. Bernard salon before it flooded. When she
started coming to eat at the Made With Love Café, it didn’t take long for her to realize that what
was left of the parish citizenry needed somewhere to get their hair cut. She mentioned the idea to
the volunteers at the café, and they provided her with a tent and some chairs. She brought her
own scissors and a donation can. “I wanted to do it for the residents,” she told me while snipping
away at the head of a Red Cross worker from Arkansas. By all accounts hers was the only
functioning hair salon in the entire parish, attracting dozens of residents, contractors, and relief
workers a day.

The term “mutual aid” isn’t as touchy-feely as it might initially sound. The Russian anarchist
Peter Kropotkin advanced the concept in the early 20th century as an argument against the idea
that people are naturally inclined to compete against one another. The concept remains popular
among radicals today, and some of the relief workers in the area espouse anarchist politics.

When locals trying to rebuild asked Common Ground for help getting the proper permits, the
group’s policy was to help rebuild, building permits or not. “We’re essentially breaking the law,”
Koné told me, pausing for emphasis. “That’s civil disobedience.” If it keeps people from living in
mold-filled houses, he said, then Common Ground will do it. The logic of the approach became
clear to me after I spent weeks trying to get in touch with anyone at the New Orleans Department
of Safety and Permits. I was hoping to get the department’s reaction to Koné and other critics
who called it inefficient and unresponsive to ordinary residents. No one ever returned my calls.

Common Ground’s call to action is “Solidarity Not Charity.” Its logo features a fist holding a
hammer on one side and a medical cross on the other, á la Bolshevik-era posters. Volunteers
argue online about whether the group is too authoritarian or not authoritarian enough, whether
there are too many anti-oppression workshops or too few. As Owen Thompson, a college student
and Common Ground volunteer, has pointed out in the webzine Toward Freedom, it makes
sense for New Orleans to be attractive to anarchists right now: Here is a place where government

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failed absolutely, and as such it could be the perfect place to argue that government itself is a
failure.

Koné was happy to do just that. “They [FEMA and the Red Cross] come in, and they have all the
money,” he said. “They do much less than we do. And they put their volunteers up at hotels, or on
cruise liners. And that’s our tax money that FEMA’s using for that.” Like other organizers, and
many locals, he marveled at the money donated to the Red Cross—$2.1 billion at last count—and
how little he’s seen them do with it. “They pay themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in
salaries,” he said. “And they claim they’re broke!”

Is It Enough?

The smaller groups’ nimbleness deserves a lot of credit for their successes. Allowing residents and
victims to shape the services they receive is a necessary part of disaster relief and is done best by
small local groups, says Joseph Trainer, projects coordinator at the University of Delaware’s
Disaster Research Center. The sheer exuberance of creatively organizing to help others is also an
important factor. The same naive eagerness that inspires skepticism in some of us is an asset
when none of the traditional avenues for getting things done works.

The first time I met Iggy River, the young man who told me what a street medic is, I was sitting in
a coffee shop in the Bywater section of New Orleans. He was one of two men in their early 20s
whom I overheard talking authoritatively, maybe a little self-importantly, about supplies for a
health clinic in Algiers. They spoke with a pride that bordered on giddiness.

That conversation was a sharp contrast with the measured words of the director of the New
Orleans chapter of Habitat for Humanity, or the director of the Red Cross chapter, or any
representatives of the large, traditional relief and post-disaster recovery organizations that
normally claim the authority to perform this type of work. Those people had decades of
experience managing crises. They had staffs of volunteers who expected leadership. They
reported to national hierarchies and had a brand name to protect. “It’s not always wise to accept
someone coming through the front door,” Quarantelli notes. And with all that money coming
through the pipe, it’s not hard to see why. But these big groups end up turning away the Young
Turks who are ready to ride their bikes around a deserted city with nothing but a hunch that they
will find people in need.

In an April interview with NPR, acting Red Cross Director Jack McGuire admitted the

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organization had made major mistakes after Katrina, including not reaching out to community
groups that were doing some of the best work in the area. The organization promises to
implement a “cultural shift” that includes working more closely with grassroots organizations, a
tack the institution has historically shied away from. Kay Wilkins, CEO of Red Cross’ Southeast
Louisiana chapter, called Katrina “the great equalizer” of relief organizations. After its blunders
with supplies and volunteers, the Red Cross’ reputation as the charity that could do no wrong has
been squashed.

“I’ll go to any meeting now,” Wilkins says. “I work with groups I had never really worked with.”
While the grassroots groups will gladly take help from the behemoth Red Cross, they emphasize
that their lack of hierarchy and take-anyone approach were not merely born of necessity. They
worked that way by design.

But couldn’t that design have flaws as well? It’s one thing to tear down Sheetrock on a house, but
the liability issues involved in allowing amateurs to build a house are a lawyer’s nightmare—or
dream. I asked organizers at both Common Ground and Emergency Communities what
protections they had in place to avoid lawsuits from either residents or volunteers. They all
answered with the same shrug.

And during hurricane season it’s not safe to have volunteers sleeping in Kelty tents in parking
lots. In fact, the Made With Love Café closed its makeshift kitchen on June 15, leaving a
permanent community center called Camp Hope in its wake. The United Way and the local
government asked the café’s organizers to start a new food kitchen in neighboring Plaquemines
Parish. They served their first meal there on June 1.

Common Ground scaled back its house gutting significantly during the hot summer months and
housed more volunteers in more stable structures. The group is turning its attention to more
permanent aspects of rebuilding, such as job training for returning residents in the construction
and mechanics trades, and workshops on “rebuilding green”—that is, using environmentally
sensitive tactics and materials in reconstruction. It’s too soon to tell if these grassroots
organizations will grow into permanent institutions resembling the big groups they once railed
against, or if the spontaneous network of activists will dissipate until the next big disaster. Iggy
River, for one, was on his way back home to Maine when we last spoke in June.

For Rose and Gary Singletary, the help Common Ground provided has been invaluable, but in the
end it wasn’t nearly enough. When I spoke to them again in May, their house looked much like it

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did when Common Ground volunteers picked up their tools and moved on. “Everything is at a
standstill,” Rose said. They are still trying to get more help from their homeowner’s insurance;
more important, the neighborhood’s residents aren’t sure the levee on the London Avenue Canal
will protect their homes from another serious hurricane. Mardi Gras and JazzFest may go on, but
a single drive through New Orleans remains breathtaking. The devastation is relentless. “It’s a
struggle,” Rose told me. “You’re trying to do something in a year that it took your whole life to
do.”

The ad hoc efforts of amateurs haven’t fixed the devastated Gulf Coast. But neither have the
centrally organized efforts of government authorities and traditional aid groups. The large
agencies trusted with caring for citizens in their time of greatest need have something to learn
from the idealists in New Orleans: Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Rules
made when …

56

American
Federalism

2
Watch the Video at myanthrolab

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Title of the Document
Goes Here at myanthrolab

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Margin sample

Listen to Chapter 2 on MyPolisciLab

he relationship of the national government to the states has been the subject of
intense debate since the founding.1 In 1787, members of what would become
the Federalist Party defended the creation of a strong national government. Their
rivals, the Anti-Federalists, warned that a strong national government would over-
shadow the states. The debate over which level of government best represents

the people continues to this day.
State governments often complain that the national government is either taking over respon-

sibilities that belong to them under the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment, which reserves to them
all powers not given to the national government, or controlling too much of what they do. Yet, in
policy areas such as civil rights, educational opportunities for people with disabilities, and hand-
gun control, the states have been slow to respond, and the national government has taken steps
to deal with these issues.

At the same time, states retain enormous authority under the Constitution to regulate life
within their borders. Working with the local governments they create, states police the streets,
fight fires, impose their own taxes, create most of the laws that govern their citizens, define
the meaning of marriage, set the rules for elections and register voters, run the public schools,
and administer most of the programs to help the poor, even when the money for those pro-
grams comes from the national government. This broad scope begs the question, where does the
national government end and state government begin?

This question involves a host of questions that involve how far states can go in drafting their
own laws and how aggressive they should be in enforcing national laws. Under Article I, for
example, the Founders gave Congress the power to set the rules regarding naturalization, which
is the process by which immigrants are given U.S. citizenship and the rights that go with it.

2.1

Interpret the
definitions of
federalism, and
analyze the
advantages and
disadvantages of
the American sys-
tem of federalism,
p. 59.

Differentiate
the powers the
Constitution pro-
vides to national
and state govern-
ments, p. 66.

2.2

Assess the role
of the national
courts in defining
the relationship
between the
national and state
governments,
and evaluate
the positions of
decentralists and
centralists, p. 72.

2.3

Evaluate the
budget as a tool
of federalism, and
its impact on state
and local govern-
ments, p. 76.

2.4

Describe the rela-
tionship between
the national and
state governments
and the chal-
lenges for federal-
ism, p. 81.

2.5

T

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57 57

Alabama’s tough immigration law requires police, schools, and hospitals
to ask citizens for proof of their citizenship, even if the ones provid-
ing the proof are in grade school. One of the parents of this Alabama
student is a U.S. citizen, while the other is an undocumented immigrant,
meaning that one of her parents could soon be deported if the Alabama
law remains in force.

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58

2

So what? If American government was a type of cake, what cake would it be?
using marble cake as a metaphor, author Paul C. Light explains the importance of
understanding America’s “blended” government so that students can determine
which level or branch can best address their concerns.

6

In the Real world Should the federal government be allowed to mandate
health care reform or should that power belong to the states? hear supporters
and detractors of obamacare explain their opinions, and learn about the recent
Supreme Court decision that handed this power to the federal government.

In the Real world
health care reform or should that power belong to the states? hear supporters
and detractors of obamacare explain their opinions, and learn about the recent
Supreme Court decision that handed this power to the federal government.

5

Thinking Like a political Scientist find answers to the most current questions
that scholars of federalism are raising in the areas of welfare reform and state
rights. barnard College political scientist Scott L. minkoff explores the challenges
faced by state-rights advocates once they are elected to Congress.

4

In Context what is the primary mechanism for federalism in the united States?
In this video, barnard College political scientist Scott L. minkoff explains how the
national government tries to force state governments to adopt its policies and how
state governments respond.

In Context
In this video, barnard College political scientist Scott L. minkoff explains how the
national government tries to force state governments to adopt its policies and how
state governments respond.

3

The basics Are you a states-right advocate? This video will help you understand
how powers and responsibilities are divided between the national and state
governments. You’ll also discover how the powers of the national government have
expanded and consider whether this is in the best interests of the people.

The big picture Is the national government the same thing as the federal
government? Not quite. Author Paul C. Light explains the difference, as well as
the types of government that make up America’s federal system—from national
to local and from executive to judicial.

1

MyPoliSciLab Video Series Watch on MyPoliSciLab

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59

2.4

2.2

2.5

2.3

2.1
In recent years, however, many states have passed laws that challenge the national gov-

ernment’s supremacy in setting rules covering undocumented immigrants who reside in the
U.S. illegally. With the nation and most states suffering from high unemployment starting in
2008 and continuing to this day, some states have argued that undocumented immigrants are
taking jobs that would go to U.S. citizens. They have passed laws that put tight restrictions on
state benefits such as public education and college tuition benefits for the children of illegal
immigrants. Although some of these laws have been declared unconstitutional by the national
courts, states continue to try new ways of reducing illegal immigration. In 2006, 84 immigra-
tion bills were enacted by state legislatures and signed into law; by 2010, the number had
climbed to 364, with further increases in 2011.2

In June 2011, for example, Alabama enacted one of the most restrictive immigration
laws in the nation. Under the law, illegal immigrants are considered state criminals who are
subject to arrest and possible imprisonment. Most significantly, the law requires that public
schools must check the immigration status of all their students. Under the provision, school
children were required to reveal the immigration status of their parents.

In revealing their own immigration status, students had little choice but to tell school
administrators whether their parents were in the United States legally. Although any child
born in the United States is automatically deemed a citizen under national law and the
Constitution, some Alabama school children were born to illegal immigrants. As a result,
many parents kept their children home on October 1 when the law took effect, and some
fled the state to avoid the law.3 The same law also contained a provision that required
residents of mobile homes to prove their legal status before renewing their annual home
registration tags.

Even as the Alabama law was going into effect, an equally tough Arizona law was mov-
ing toward the Supreme Court. After hearing arguments in April, a 5 to 3 majority declared
that the national government, not the states, had the “broad, undoubted power over the
subject of immigration and the status of aliens.” The national laws were supreme to any
state laws,rendering most of Arizona’s law unconstitutional. At the same time, the Court
did permit Arizona to implement its “show me your papers” provision, which gives police
the authority to ask drivers for their citizenship papers when stopped for other reasons. The
Court ruled that the provision was a constitutional exercise of state powers. It is still not
clear how much of Alabama’s law will survive further tests based on the Court’s decision.
For now, Alabama says it is still in force.4

In this chapter, we first define federalism and its advantages and disadvantages. We
then look at the constitutional basis for our federal system and how court decisions and
political developments have shaped, and continue to shape, federalism in the United
States. Throughout, you should think about how you influence the issues you care about,
even in your local city council or mayor’s office. The Constitution clearly encourages, and
even depends on, you to express your view at all levels of government, which is why
action in a single state can start a process that spreads to other states or the national
government.

Defining Federalism
Interpret the definitions of federalism, and assess the advantages and disadvantages of
the American system of federalism.

2.1

ars have been fought over what federalism means in part because the term
itself is laden with ideological interpretation.5

Federalism, as we define it in nonpartisan terms, is a form of govern-
ment in which a constitution distributes authority and powers between

a central government and smaller regional governments—usually called states or
provinces—giving to both the national and the state governments substantial respon-
sibilities and powers, including the power to collect taxes and to pass and enforce laws

federalism
A constitutional arrangement in which
power is distributed between a cen-
tral government and states, which are
sometimes called provinces in other
nations. The national and states exer-
cise direct authority over individuals.

W

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60

2.4

2.2

2.5

2.3

2 .1
regulating the conduct of individuals. When we use the term “federalism” or “federal
system,” we are referring to this system of national and state governments; when we use
the term “federal government” in all other chapters of this book, we are referring to the
Congress, presidency, and judiciary created under the U.S. Constitution.

The mere existence of both national and state governments does not make a system
federal. What is important is that a constitution divides governmental powers between the
national government and state governments, giving clearly defined functions to each.
Neither the central nor the regional government receives its powers from the other;
both derive them from a common source—the Constitution. No ordinary act of legis-
lation at either the national or the state level can change this constitutional distribution
of powers. Both levels of government operate through their own agents and exercise
power directly over individuals.

Constitutionally, the federal system of the United States consists of only the
national government and the 50 states. “Cities are not,” the Supreme Court reminded
us, “sovereign entities.”6 This does not make for a tidy, efficient, easy-to-understand
system; yet, as we shall see, it has its virtues.

There are several different ways that power can be shared in a federal system, and
political scientists have devised terms to explain these various, sometimes overlapping,
kinds of federalism. At different times in the United States’ history, our system of
federalism has shared power based on each of these interpretations:

• Dual or “layer-cake” federalism is defined as a strict separation of powers between
the national and state governments in which each layer of has its own responsi-
bilities, and reigns supreme within its constitutional realm. Dual federalism was
dominant from the 1790s until the 1930s.

• Cooperative or “marble-cake” federalism is defined as a flexible relationship between
the national and state government in which both work together on a variety of
issues and programs.7 Cooperative federalism was dominant from the 1930s
through the 1970s.

• Competitive federalism is defined as a way to improve government performance by
encouraging state and local governments to compete against each other for resi-
dents, businesses, investment, and national funding.8 Competitive federalism has
coexisted with other definitions of federalism since the 1980s.

State and local governments are responsible for policing the streets but not for enforcing federal laws.
Still, they often work with national agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug
Enforcement Administration. This kind of joint action is an example of cooperative federalism.

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61

2.4

2.2

2.5

2.3

2.1
• Permissive federalism is defined as a strong national government that only allows,

or permits the states to act when it decides to do so. Although federalism gener-
ally assumes that the national and state governments will share power, permissive
federalism argues that the power to share belongs to the national government, and
national government alone.9 Permissive federalism has been dominant on specific
issues such as civil rights since the 1960s.

• Coercive federalism is also defined as a strong national government that exerts tight
control of the states through orders or mandates—typically without accompanying
financial resources. If states want federal grants, they must follow the mandates.
Coercive federalism is sometimes called centralized federalism, which focuses on
the national government’s strong voice in shaping what states do. Coercive feder-
alism has also been dominant on specific issues such as public education and the
environment since the 1960s.

• New federalism is defined as a recent effort to reduce the national government’s
power by returning, or devolving responsibilities to the states. It is sometimes
characterized as part of the devolution revolution discussed later in this chapter.
The new federalism has been seen as a modern form of dual federalism based
on the Tenth Amendment, and was first introduced by President Richard
Nixon in 1969.

Alternatives to Federalism
Among the alternatives to federalism are unitary systems of government, in which
a constitution vests all governmental power in the central government. The central
government, if it so chooses, may delegate authority to constituent units, but what it
delegates, it may take away. China, France, the Scandinavian countries, and Israel have
unitary governments. In the United States, state constitutions usually create this kind
of relationship between the state and its local governments.

At the other extreme from unitary governments are confederations, in which
sovereign nations, through a constitutional compact, create a central government
but carefully limit its authority and do not give it the power to regulate the conduct
of individuals directly. The central government makes regulations for the constitu-
ent governments, but it exists and operates only at their direction. The 13 states
under the Articles of Confederation operated in this manner, as did the southern
Confederacy during the Civil War. The closest current example of an operating
confederacy in the world is the European Union (EU), which is composed of
27 nations. Although the EU does bind its members to a common currency called
the Euro, and does have a European Parliament and European Court of Justice and
European Commission, members such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain retain
their own laws and authority. The EU may look like a confederation, but it acts more
like a traditional alliance such as the United Nations, or the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization.10

Even among all the nations that call themselves federations, there is no single
model for dividing authority between the national and state governments. Some coun-
tries have no federal system at all, whereas others have different variations of power
sharing between the national and state governments. Indeed, even the United States
has varied greatly over time in its balance of national–state power.

Britain’s government, for example, is divided into three tiers: national, county, and
district governments. County and district governments deliver roughly one-fifth of all
government services, including education, housing, and police and fire protection. As a
rule, most power is reserved for the central government on the theory that there should
be “territorial justice,” which means that all citizens should be governed by the same
laws and standards. In recent years, however, Great Britain has devolved substantial
authority to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

unitary system
A constitutional arrangement that
c on c e n t r a t e s p owe r i n a c e n t r a l
government.

confederation
A constitutional arrangement in which
sovereign nations or states, by compact,
create a central government but care-
fully limit its power and do not give it
direct authority over individuals.

M02_MAGL4008_25_SE_02.indd 61 11/19/12 1:44 PM

62

2.4

2.2

2.5

2.3

2.1 The Global Community
Global Opinion on the Role of Government

State and local governments are on the front lines of most programs for helping the needy. They provide
much of the money and/or administration for unemploy-
ment insurance for the jobless, health care clinics and
hospitals for the poor, school lunch programs for hun-
gry children, and homeless shelters. Although many
U.S. citizens see poverty firsthand as volunteers for
local charities such as food pantries, some have doubts
about how much government should do to help poor
people who cannot take care of themselves. According
to the Pew Research Center’s Spring 2007 Global
Attitudes Survey, citizens of other nations vary greatly
on the question of whether “It is the responsibility of
the (state or government) to take care of very poor peo-
ple who can’t take care of themselves.”

These opinions reflect very different social and eco-
nomic conditions in each country. Japan has a culture
of self-reliance that puts the burden on individuals to
help themselves, while Nigeria continues to suffer from
some of the highest poverty rates in the world. In this
regard, U.S. citizens tend to mirror the Japanese—they
want government to help the less fortunate but also
want the less fortunate to help themselves. As a gen-
eral conclusion, citizens of wealthier nations think poor
people should take advantage of the opportunities that
already exist in their economies, whereas citizens of
poor nations believe that government should be more
aggressive in providing support.

This does not mean wealthier nations are uncaring
toward citizens in need, but it does suggest that they
sometimes view poverty as the fault of the poor. In the
United States, these opinions reflect the importance of
equality of opportunity as a basic social value, mean-
ing that all individuals regardless of race, gender, or
circumstance have the same opportunity to participate
in politics, self-government, and the economy. Most
Americans want to help the less fortunate, but only
when they are truly needy, not when they fail because
they will not help themselves.

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS
1. What are the advantages and disadvantages

of having the government provide services for
the poor?

2. Why might more wealthy nations be more
likely to believe that individuals ought to take
care of themselves and not rely on the state?

3. Which level of government might be most
effective in providing services to the poor?

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

B
ri

ta
in

C
h

in
a

P
e
rc

e
n

t

In
d

ia

J
a
p

a
n

M
e
x
ic

o

N
ig

e
ri

a

U
n

it
e
d

S
ta

te
s

Completely Agree Mostly Agree

It is the responsibility of the government to
take care of the poor.

Advantages of Federalism
In 1787, federalism was a compromise between centrists, who supported a strong
national government, and those who favored decentralization. Confederation had
proved unsuccessful. A unitary system was out of the question because most people
were too deeply attached to their state governments to permit subordination to central
rule. Many scholars think that federalism is ideally suited to the needs of a diverse peo-
ple spread throughout a large continent, suspicious of concentrated power, and desiring
unity but not uniformity. Yet, even though federalism offers a number of advantages
over other forms of government, no system is perfect. Federalism offered, and still
offers, both advantages and disadvantages.

FEdERALISm CHECKS THE GROwTH OF TyRANNy Federalism has not always
prevented tyranny, even in the United States, when Southern states seceded from

SOURCE: Pew Research Center, Global Views on Life Satisfaction,
National Conditions, and the Global Economy: Highlights from the 2007
Pew Global Attitudes 47-Nation Survey (Pew Research Center, 2007).

M02_MAGL4008_25_SE_02.indd 62 11/19/12 1:44 PM

63

2.4

2.2

2.5

2.3

2.1
the Union rather than end slavery. Today, however, U.S. citizens tend to associate
federalism with freedom.11 When one political party loses control of the national
government, it is still likely to hold office in a number of states and can continue to
challenge the party in power at the national level. To the Framers, who feared that
a single interest group might capture the national government and suppress the
interests of others, this diffusion of power was an advantage. There are now nearly
90,000 governments in the United States, including one national government,
50 state governments, and thousands of county, city, and town governments, as well
as school boards and special districts that provide specific functions from managing
hospitals or parks to mosquito control.12 (See Figure 2.1 for the number of govern-
ments in the United States.)

FEdERALISm ALLOwS UNITy wITHOUT UNIFORmITy National politicians
and parties do not have to iron out every difference on every issue that divides us,
whether the issue is abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, capital punishment,
welfare financing, or assisted suicide. Instead, these issues are debated in state leg-
islatures, county courthouses, and city halls. Information about state action spreads
quickly from government to government, especially during periods when the national
government is relatively slow to respond to pressing issues.

FEdERALISm ENCOURAGES ExpERImENTATION As Justice Louis Brandeis
once argued, states can be laboratories of democracy. 13 If they adopt pro-
grams that fail, the negative effects are limited; if programs succeed, they can be
adopted by other states and by the national government. Georgia, for example, was
the first state to permit 18-year-olds to vote; Wisconsin was a leader in requir-
ing welfare recipients to work; California moved early on global warming; and
Massachusetts created one of the first state programs to provide health insurance
to all its citizens.

FEdERALISm pROvIdES TRAINING ANd CREATES OppORTUNITIES FOR
FUTURE NATIONAL LEAdERS Federalism provides a training ground for state

Special districts

School districts

Townships or towns

Municipalities

Counties

States

National

13,506

16,504

3,034

50

1

35,052

19,429

F I G U R E 2 . 1 NumbEr of SEPArATE GovErNmENTS IN ThE fEDErAL SYSTEm

◼ How do the levels and numbers of governments in the United States help to prevent tyranny?

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States, www.census.gov/prod/2012/tables/12s428.pdf.

M02_MAGL4008_25_SE_02.indd 63 11/19/12 1:44 PM

64

2.4

2.2

2.5

2.3

2.1
and local politicians to gain experience before moving to the national stage.
Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush pre-
viously served as governor of the respective states of Georgia, California, Arkansas,
and Texas. All totaled, 20 of the nation’s 44 presidents served as governor at some
points before winning the presidency. In addition, three former governors ( Jon
Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney) ran for the Republican Party nomina-
tion for president in 2012, and several were heavily recruited for the campaign but
declined.

FEdERALISm KEEpS GOvERNmENT CLOSER TO THE pEOpLE By providing
numerous arenas for decision making, federalism provides many opportunities for
Americans to participate in the process of government and helps keep government
closer to the people. Every day, thousands of U.S. adults serve on city councils,
school boards, neighborhood associations, and planning commissions. Federalism
also builds on the public’s greater trust in government at the state and local levels.
The closer the specific level of government is to the people, the more citizens trust
the government.

disadvantages of Federalism

dIvIdING pOwER mAKES IT mUCH mORE dIFFICULT FOR GOvERNmENT
TO RESpONd QUICKLy TO NATIONAL pRObLEmS There was a great demand
for stronger and more effective homeland security after the September 11, 2001, ter-
rorist attacks, and the national government created a new Department of Homeland
Security in response. However, the department quickly discovered that there would
be great difficulty coordinating its efforts with 50 state governments and thousands
of local governments already providing fire, police, transportation, immigration, and
other governmental services.

THE dIvISION OF pOwER mAKES IT dIFFICULT FOR vOTERS TO HOLd ELECTEd
OFFICIALS ACCOUNTAbLE When something goes well, who should voters re-
ward? When something goes wrong, who should they punish? When Hurricane
Katrina hit New Orleans and the surrounding areas in late August 2005 (and
Rita less than a month later near Houston), many thousands of people lost their
homes and billions of dollars in damage was done. Who was responsible? Did
the national government and agencies like the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) drop the ball on relief efforts, or was it the state or local govern-
ment ’s responsibility? Did the mayor and/or governor fail to plan adequately for
such a crisis, or should the national government have had more supplies on hand
in advance?

THE LACK OF UNIFORmITy CAN LEAd TO CONFLICT States often disagree on
issues such as health care, school reform, and crime control. In January 2008, for
example, California joined 15 other states in suing the national government over
a ruling issued by the national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For
decades, the EPA had allowed California to enact tougher air quality restrictions
through higher mileage standards than required by the national Clean Air Act (first
enacted in 1970). The Bush administration rejected a similar request for permission
to raise mileage standards in 2008, only to be reversed by the Obama administra-
tion in 2009.

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65

OF the People Diversity in America

The United States is a nation of immigrants who have arrived from many parts of the world.
Throughout the decades, the portrait of immigrants has
been changing from mostly white to mostly minority. In
2009, for example, 38.5 million Americans, or 12.5 per-
cent, were foreign born, consisting of 16.8 million natu-
ralized citizens, 10 million long-term visitors, and less
than 11 million undocumented immigrants. The number
of unauthorized, or illegal, immigrants has fallen some-
what in recent years due to the economic recession,
which has depressed employment opportunities.

Many foreign-born residents live in the nation’s larg-
est cities. The New York City-area population includes
more than 3 million foreign-born residents, while Los
Angeles includes another 1.5 million; Miami, slightly
more than 2 million; Chicago, just under 600,000, and
San Francisco, 275,000. Although inner cities host
a majority of foreign-born residents, there has been
recent movement of immigrants to the suburbs and
some movement toward certain areas of the country
such as the southwest.

The changing face of America brings great diver-
sity in all aspects of life, from schools to farm fields
and small businesses. It also enriches the quality of life
through the mix of old and new cultures, and can often
be a source of innovation in how the economy operates.

However, this diversity also provokes complaints
about undocumented immigrants. Some groups com-
plain that undocumented immigrants take jobs that
should go to U.S. citizens, whereas others worry about
the costs associated with high poverty rates.

Governments at all levels must reconcile these
pros and cons …

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