Competing for the People's Affection: Federalism's Forgotten Marketplace

63 Pages Posted: 5 May 2003

See all articles by Todd E. Pettys

Todd E. Pettys

University of Iowa - College of Law


The United States Supreme Court has begun to reshape the architecture of federalism in a variety of controversial ways but has failed to reveal much about the blueprint with which it is working. In the eyes of many critics, the Court's recent rulings regarding the Commerce Clause, "commandeering," and the states' sovereign immunity are united only by an ideological desire to strip power from the federal government and confer upon the states a hazy aura of dignity. This Article contends that the Court is edging closer to a promising theory of federalism than either the Court or its critics seem to realize.

Returning to forgotten themes in the Federalist Papers, the Article argues that the state and federal governments compete with one another for the "affection" of their citizens and for the regulatory power that often accompanies that affection. The Article further contends that citizens and politicians are able fully to participate in this affection-driven marketplace only if three prerequisites are met: each sovereign must be assured of an opportunity to demonstrate its competence; each sovereign must enjoy a significant measure of autonomy from the other; and the two sovereigns' dealings with one another must be sufficiently transparent to enable citizens to allocate praise and blame in an accurate fashion. The Article then argues that, although the Court has not characterized its federalism rulings in this way, and although one may question whether the judiciary is ultimately competent to play an ongoing, prominent role in preserving the marketplace's vitality, the Court appears determined to ensure that these three market requirements are satisfied. The Article concludes by urging courts and scholars to consider the ways in which the marketplace's health may best be preserved and the ways in which a broad range of legal doctrines and lawmaking practices frustrate or advance federalism's forgotten objective of competition between the two sovereigns.

Keywords: federalism, competition, affection, marketplace, rehnquist court, commerce clause, commandeering, sovereign immunity

JEL Classification: H77

Suggested Citation

Pettys, Todd E., Competing for the People's Affection: Federalism's Forgotten Marketplace. Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 2, 2003, Available at SSRN: or

Todd E. Pettys (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-6814 (Phone)
319-335-9098 (Fax)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics