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American Politics and Power Decentralization Essay (Article)

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This is a research article on the decentralization of power by the U.S federal government founded on the case studies on specific policies of the government. The investigation done on policymaking for the period of 1947-1998 presented enough information on the subject of national government to decentralize its power to state government. The data obtained was utilized in assessment of the delegation of powers among governmental levels. Conversely, the gathered material indicates that neither Reagan nor Nixon’s national plans purposed to delegate policymaking powers to subnational government have achieved systematic and relentless delegation in America federalism. However there has been argument over which mode of government to be adopted with some centralizer proposing national government with more power and authority via localities and states. On the other hand, (de)centralizers support change in authority in favor of subnational government.

To begin with, the article points out that there have been political debates relating to the kind of American federalism and concerned development. The division of power advances became an effective and popular way for political scientists to examine ascendancy originating from fresh institutionalism point of view. The case study tried to understand the extent of America government policy consolidation which can be determined by actions of the executive orders and federal statutes. From this study, the degree of actual changes in policymaking power among levels of America government is in charge of the law. Therefore, the dealings demonstrate federal government’s concrete devotion to policy decentralization and centralization.


Data collection and the objectives

The research focused its attention on the policymaking power within specified levels of the government particularly between the legislature and the chief executive. However this kind of approach undermined the likewise significant vertical separation of authorities that takes place between levels of government as centralized government and subnational matching parties vie for supremacy which is of elementary importance to the understanding of federalism. The comprehensive case study on the federal system entailed examination on specific commands issued by presidents or sections of the legislature. This gave insight into America federal system and how it operates on organized level.

First, appropriate step was taken by building up a yearly time series evaluation of policy federal based on combination of important executive orders and U.S public law from 1947 to 1998. This approach gave a clear understanding of the balance of America policymaking power inside a federal system of governance. The data was obtained from the yearly compendia of executive orders and U.S public laws originating from the Federal Register and United States Statutes at Large. Respectively. Each appropriate executive order and law was substantiated on condition of substance and capacity to gauge its value. This approach explores the extent to which federal government has sought to consolidate its power against its intergovernmental laws and programs. It gives a leeway for analyzing the degree of federal government handing over policymaking rights to local governments and state.

“Gifts” by emerson and “becoming american is a constant cultural collision” by t.T. Nhuthe stylized facts of postwar american federalism: Evidence from “small n” qualitative research.

Political scientists are concerned about the centre of authority and the intergovernmental delegation of power. For example, the writers of this article scrutinize the distribution of policymaking power from Congress to administrative branch agencies. Notably, federalism theory talks about the delegation of power in reaction to critical circumstances as the core value of federalism. “Small N” qualitative practical investigation on the issue of federalism gave forth to two major stylized information concerning advancement of American federal for the period of postwar era. First, the material on the American centralized system indicates that the model of power has been on rise of centralization with irregular decentralization programs. Consolidation of power has numerous causes namely the establishment of federal grant-in-aid system, supportive accommodating judgment of the U.S Supreme Court structure and congressional eagerness for preventive regulatory statutes organization.

On the positive side dating back to Eisenhower administration, modest attempts were carried out to offset the centralization brought forth by the New Deal policies (plans) and plans of the Roosevelt and Truman governance. During Kennedy-Johnson era, the earlier efforts to decentralize were weighed down by their consolidation acts, but apparently decentralization again gained momentum under Reagan-Bush and Nixon years of administration. Based on these historical events that unfolded, we are left with a big question whether there has been any decentralization by the federal government?

A second subject in the text is that, federal allocation of policymaking power to subnational administration has turned out to be the custom as from the Nixon presidency. For example, research on the welfare policy, asserts that the government is in the process of “devolution revolution”. Based on specific sections of legislation and exact U.S Supreme Court judgments, scholars have hypothesized a modern era in which a shift in emphasis from consolidated to unconsolidated government has occurred. Conversely, do such assumptions remain applicable when investigating broader realism of intergovernmental policymaking power?

Ways of assessing policy consolidation in a federal government system

To evaluate policy (decentralization) entails numerous factors namely the subject matter to be assessed, time period and measurement plan. The extent of federal government policy unification can be determined through executive and legislative branches’ actions precisely executive orders and federal statutes. The action between stages of the government that is the actual moves in policymaking power explains the federal government’s genuine commitment to policy delegation. It is important to examine such moves over a satisfactory period of time (in this case 1947-1998).

Finally, this paper will examine the measure used in the study. To begin with, every executive order and U.S public rule instituted between 1947 and 1998 was evaluated to gauge whether it had intergovernmental component. Those that had intergovernmental applications were further investigated and content coded depending on the subject matter and the range of the article. During this case study it is important to note that the legislation that only extended previous public was for example P.L. 94-222, which “extend[ed] through September 12,1976 the current prohibition against certain types of state and local taxes being levied on out-of-state financial institutions” (Bowman and Krause 307) were left out. In addition, reconciliation acts, appropriations, land transactions and omnibus budget were excluded.

Examples of De (centralization) by the Federal Government

Free centralizing (= +2) entails the federal government centralizing power away from local governments and States allocating them only insignificant discretion as they follow central government requirements. Therefore, unrestrained centralizing legislation sets specific procedures to be followed by the states and forbids diversions from the instructions. Two well-known examples of this are P.L. 88-201 that launched homogeneous national standards for vehicles seat belts and P.L. 88-352, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Controlled centralizing (= +1) implies the central government consolidating authority away from local governments and state however giving them a number of substantive discretion. An illustration of controlled centralization can be established in the Children’s Justice and Assistance Act of 1986 which formed a centralized program but granted states some leeway in achieving the federal government set standards.

We also have neutral (coded as = 0) implies authority shift in both bearings, with net outcome of zero that is executive orders and neutral statutes and contain equal weight. For example The Crime Identification Technology Act of 1998 is contained both Decentralizing Act and a Centralizing act. Guarded decentralizing (= –1) is where the central government delegates power to the local governments and state with substantive limitations (subject to guidelines set by the central government. For example Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, that certified states to come up with state plans and function their own agendas, at the discretion of federal review.

Graphical and univariate analysis of U.S. Federal policy centralization measures

In early 1960s indicates steady increase in policy consolidation during Kennedy administration and as Congress embarked on revising the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. However gathering of power by the federal government and went down in1963 and 1964. Between 1960 and 1968, the government had centralized power with a greater number of unrestrained centralizing. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The peak of decentralization is exhibited in the years 1953, 1955, 1972, and 1981 which are characterized by Republican presidents. Based on executive orders and public laws shown, it is observed that 1947-1998 can be described as period of shift in policymaking power towards the federal level. In general the policies that were the focus for de(centralization) include education, health, natural resources acts and energy related actions. From the graphs, averagely, transfer of power to the federal level been persistent but irregular, in spite of policy type. The data points out that the decentralization actions of the state government in past 51 years have been not real, even though there have been declarations to the contrary.


Even though there has been substantial research on American federalism, Comprising of intergovernmental policies and their power, modest systematic empirical investigation has occurred. Furthermore, a small number of the population has understood this idea of vertical division of powers relating to the sharing of power across governmental ranks. The issue of de(centralization) has been tackled by generating measures of policy consolidation that takes into account the degree to which the centralized government is ready to entrust policymaking authority to subnational equivalent.

Predictably, regardless of occasional hard work by leaders to decentralize power, for example or the congressional Republicans “Contract with America,” initiative or Reagan’s New Federalism, consolidation of power triumphs in the end. The pattern, on the other hand, does not show evidence of monotonic boost in policy centralization (Bowman and Krause 320). The data obtained was utilized in assessment of the delegation of powers among governmental levels. Conversely, the gathered material indicates that neither Reagan nor Nixon’s national plans purposed to delegate policymaking powers to subnational government have achieved systematic and relentless delegation in America federalism. There are irregular intervals in which centralization decreases and decentralizing gains momentum. Across definite policy areas, the tendency of federal voted representatives to hunt for the centralization of power at the state level is unmistakable, even though it does not progressively go up with time. From the gathered material indicates that neither Reagan nor Nixon’s national plans purposed to delegate policymaking powers to subnational government have achieved systematic and relentless delegation in America federalism.

Based on data collected, of the 460 public laws contained in the data set, 20 (4.35%) involved unrestrained decentralizing actions, 24 (5.22%) neutral proceedings, 173 (37.61%) controlled consolidating actions, and finally 141 (30.65%) unconstrained consolidation actions. the case study was carried out on 95 executive orders. We can confidently that 6 (6.32%) involved free decentralizing actions, 5(5.26%) neutral deeds, 21 (22.11%) controlled decentralizing deeds and 32 (33.68%) constrained consolidating actions,

During research efforts to reduce the likelihood of miscoding were achieved implying results obtained can be were reliable conclusion and recommendations can be made. Apart from substance and scope, each executive order and public law were treated similarly Introduction of differential weights on subjects that are “more important” compared to others under the equivalent geographic range (scope) is extremely subjective and potentially deceptive. For instance, in this study, the Model Cities Act, was exceedingly outstanding and noticeable Bill, but P.L. 90-576, which revises the Vocational Education Act of 1963 was of same impact or perhaps superior intergovernmental significance albeit its less prominence. This bill represented change in the equilibrium of national-state power. Therefore, the determination errs on the conformist part by weighting individual executive order and public law an indistinguishable fashion. In essence more need to be done so that decentralization plans by the government can be realized. The elected governmental representatives need focus on the realization this dream devolution of power from the central government.


Bowman, Ann and Krause, George. Power Shift: Measuring Policy Centralization in US Intergovernmental Relations, 1947-1998. American Politics Research. 2003, 31(3): 301-325

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