Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1984

Publication Title

Public Administration Quarterly





First Page


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It is stated by some authors of state and local government textbooks that if states did not exist in America they would have to be created. Undoubtedly this is to underscore the importance of the geographical decentralization of government in a country with such an extensive area a.s the United States. What the cliche does not explain is that governmental decentralization accomplished through a federal system is far different from governmental decentralization by a central government decision in a unitary system. Shifting the focus from the constitutional, legal aspects of federalism to the political, policy aspects--from layer cake federalism to marble cake or picket fence federalism-has obscured the fact that the fifty states are separate entities of government, each with its source of power in the United States Constitution. While that document imposes certain uniform requirements and certain uniform prohibitions and lays the groundwork for additional uniform requirements to be promulgated by the national legislature, executive, and judiciary in fulfillment of their respective constitutional objectives and obligations, the state governments are no mere creatures of the central government as is the case in a unitary system.