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What is Cooperative Federalism?

Cooperative Federalism is a political concept where national, state, and local governments interact cooperatively to solve common problems, rather than making policies separately. This collaborative approach allows for more unified and effective governance. How does this interplay shape the laws and daily lives in your community? Join us as we explore the impact of this governance model.
C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz

Cooperative federalism is a political and constitutional concept developed in the early 20th century that emphasizes the decentralization of power and a not necessarily equal sharing of governmental responsibilities between federal, state and local agencies and institutions. National and state governments tackle issues together in a cooperative fashion as opposed to a system in which policy is imposed on local administrators by an all-powerful federal regime. As a result, both national and state governments are simultaneously independent and interdependent with an overlap of functions and financial resources, but it is difficult for one person or one institution to accumulate absolute power. In addition, this distribution of government provides multiple points of access for citizens interested in influencing state and federal institutions, laws and policies.

The idea was first introduced in the United States during the New Deal era of the 1930s and, as a result, the constitutional concept of dual federalism nearly disappeared. Under dual federalism, the U.S. national government was granted a limited number of powers with the states otherwise sovereign. The states were considered to be as powerful as the federal government within their respective political spheres and each was responsible for specific government functions that did not overlap. States with a vested interest in prolonging an economy based on slavery relied on dual federalism to support their rejection of federal government intervention.

Cooperative federalism is also known as "marble cake Federalism" and is based on a mix of authority and programs among the national, state, and local governments.
Cooperative federalism is also known as "marble cake Federalism" and is based on a mix of authority and programs among the national, state, and local governments.

In the New Deal era, cooperative federalism was best exemplified by federal grant-in-aid programs that encouraged state governments to implement programs funded by the national Congress. Instead of imposing a program nationally, the federal government offered significant financial resources to entice each state to implement and administer the program locally. The now canceled Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) is an example of a grant-in-aid program created in 1935 and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AFDC gave financial help to low-income families with children. Each state that agreed to participate received matching funds from the national government but was subject to federal regulations. Grant-in-aid programs were typically funded and designed by the federal government but administered by participating state governments.

It has been argued since that cooperative federalism in the United States has been slowly eroded by a series of presidents of both mainstream political parties — Republicans and Democrats — that have added discretionary powers to the federal executive branch. Opponents to this perceived expansion of federal power advocate for the autonomy and sovereignty of state governments as described in the Constitution’s 10th amendment. In addition to the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union among other nations and political entities also practice variations of this form of government.

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Discussion Comments


But the founders wanted America to be a place where people could come and live a life of freedom, not a life of enslavement or hate. And yet we Americans still went out and did it anyway! Why?

And we still do this and our government changing ways isn't going to change that. We changed once and still were evil to others.


Cafe41-The Federalist Society is a group of conservatives and libertarians that what to preserve the separation of powers within the branches along withour personal freedom.

They are particular focused on legal measures that blur these areas and take freedom away. They believe in a strict and literal interpretation of the constitution and feel that judges should follow the exact words of the constitution rather than legislating from the bench.


Cafe41-I think that dual and cooperative federalism is just another nice way of saying that the central government will get more powerful at the expense of the state government.

This was the main philosophy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he was the only president that almost served three terms.

It was at his death that an amendment to the constitution was added to only allow presidents to serve two terms maximum.

The reason for this was simple. The same person in power too long could easily turn into a dictatorship and that was a dangerous thing. FDR was the closest thing that our country has ever had with respects to a dictatorship and people were quick to make sure that it does not happen again.


Sunshine31-People feel that changes are being made without the people’s consent and most of the measures taken recently are unfair and unconstitutional.

For example, the Health Care bill where the majority of the American people did not want was passed anyway.

There is currently a legal challenge to this bill because of the constitutionality of it. The clause in which Americans would be forced to purchase health insurance approved by the government is the main constitutional argument.

Critics of this plan say that the plan violates the commerce clause of the 10th amendment. According to the 10th amendment only the states can regulate interstate commerce which buying health insurance or any product for that matter would fit.

If this is how we define cooperative federalism, then I don't want any part of it.


New federalism should really be the wave of the future. New Federalism refers to going back to weakening the national government in order to strengthen the state government.

Our Founding Fathers believed in the federalism and would totally disagree with the cooperative federalism in which the federal government and the state government lines are blurred.

They firmly believed in limited government because they knew that if the government became too powerful it would take freedoms away from the people which is exactly what is going on and why we see resurgence in the Tea Party movement.

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    • Cooperative federalism is also known as "marble cake Federalism" and is based on a mix of authority and programs among the national, state, and local governments.
      By: dreambigphotos
      Cooperative federalism is also known as "marble cake Federalism" and is based on a mix of authority and programs among the national, state, and local governments.