How Federalism Promotes Unity Through Diversity

George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 23-23

Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 47, pp. 65–74 (2024)

Adapted From Speech Delivered at Federalist Society National Student Symposium Panel: “Does Federalism Lead to a More United or Disunited Democracy?”

11 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2023 Last revised: 21 Mar 2024

See all articles by Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Date Written: October 30, 2023

Abstract

Does federalism promote unity? In one obvious sense, the answer is surely “no.” Federalism necessarily reduces unity because it leads to divergence on at least some policy areas. If there were no significant policy differences between the various state and local governments, then there would be little point in having federalism in the first place.

But the diversity federalism creates can also help promote unity, by reducing the conflict that arises when the federal government has the power to impose one-size-fits-all policies throughout the country. Decentralizing authority can mitigate that conflict. It can also empower people to make better choices by “voting with their feet.” As a result, more people can live under policies that they prefer, and the choices they make are likely to be better-informed. There are some limitations to the idea that federalism can promote unity and better decision-making through diversity. But it has tremendous value, nonetheless.

Keywords: Foot voting, Voting with your feet, federalism, democracy, judicial review, unity, diversity, abortion

JEL Classification: K10, P14, P16, P48, R11, R5, H10, H11, H40, H70

Suggested Citation

Somin, Ilya, How Federalism Promotes Unity Through Diversity (October 30, 2023). George Mason Legal Studies Research Paper No. LS 23-23, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 47, pp. 65–74 (2024), Adapted From Speech Delivered at Federalist Society National Student Symposium Panel: “Does Federalism Lead to a More United or Disunited Democracy?”, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4617609 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4617609

Ilya Somin (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

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703-993-8069 (Phone)
703-993-8124 (Fax)

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

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