Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LaCroix on the History of Federalism

This week, Alison LaCroix, University of Chicago Law School, is posting on the history of federalism on Balkinization. Today's post commences:
Federalism is one of the most important but least understood cornerstones of American law and politics. Current debates over issues as diverse as the healthcare bill, the economic stimulus package, abortion, and medical marijuana confirm this suspicion. Today, most Americans routinely employ the word “federal” to refer to a federal case, federal law, the actions of a federal prosecutor, or to the federal government itself. But what exactly does the term “federal” mean, and how did it come to have that meaning? In my new book The Ideological Origins of American Federalism, which has just been published by Harvard University Press, I investigate the moments of political and constitutional crisis when the federal idea began to be cobbled together, first by colonists opposing the power of the British Parliament and later by the founders as they struggled to set up a workable model of government.