Book Review, The US Supreme Court and the Centralization of Federal Authority, by Michael A. Dichio

Publius: The Journal of Federalism (August 2019) (pre-publication version)

George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 19-14

10 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2019

See all articles by Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: August 14, 2019

Abstract

Does the U.S. Supreme Court protect the states from the expansion of federal authority? In this important new book, political scientist Michael Dichio argues that the answer is “no.” To the contrary, he contends that, throughout American history, “the Court …. has persistently acted as an important instrument of the broader central state, expanding federal authority over society.” The theory that the Supreme Court expands federal power at the expense of the states is not a new idea, having been first raised by anti-Federalist critics of the Constitution over 200 years ago. But Dichio provides the most thorough and wide-ranging defense of it to date, drawing on an extensive database of notable Supreme Court decisions from 1789 through 1997. Among other things, he shows that the Court constrained the states in important ways even in historical periods that are often thought of as high points for “states’ rights,” such as the Jacksonian era and the late nineteenth century.

Dichio’s analysis is, in many ways, compelling, and is a major contribution to the literature on federalism and judicial review. But some of his methodological choices overstate the centralizing tendencies of the Supreme Court. He also unduly downplays some key ways in which the Court promotes decentralization of power. While the Supreme Court has never been a consistent ally of state governments seeking to limit federal authority, it is also not quite as consistent a centralizing force as Dichio suggests.

Keywords: Federalism, Supreme Court, Commerce Clause, States, individual rights, judicial review, legal history, Spending Clause, Constitutional moments

JEL Classification: H10, H11, H70, H77

Suggested Citation

Somin, Ilya, Book Review, The US Supreme Court and the Centralization of Federal Authority, by Michael A. Dichio (August 14, 2019). Publius: The Journal of Federalism (August 2019) (pre-publication version), George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 19-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3437525

Ilya Somin (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

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Arlington, VA 22201
United States
703-993-8069 (Phone)
703-993-8124 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://sls.gmu.edu/ilya-somin/

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