Home > Federalism Matters

Federalism, self-governance and elected representation at the national and state level were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution in 1789, while elected local governments as governments “of the people, for the people and by the people” have been part of the American experience since before the country’s founding.

Despite our country’s commitment to federalism and representative democracy, there is no agency or organization uniquely devoted to strengthening federalism, intergovernmental relations and multilevel democracy in our country since the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations was abolished in 1996. Nor is there—despite good research being done on intergovernmental relations by numerous scholars and organizations—a systematic effort to comprehensively collect and make available data on issues of federalism, intergovernmental relations and multilevel democracy.

Without comprehensive and consistent data, basic questions about federalism, intergovernmental relations and multi-level governance in the United States are difficult to answer. Question such as: How many elected officials are there in the United States to ensure that citizens are represented in an inclusive manner at the federal, state and local level? How much does the public sector spend each year—across different government levels—on education, transportation and other public services to ensure that America remains competitive in the global economy? How are these public services funded? How do governments at different levels coordinate to ensure that public services are delivered in an efficient, equitable and sustainable manner?

In the absence of an informed community of practice that champions federalism, effective intergovernmental relations, and multilevel democracy, it is easy for public opinion and public policy decisions to be driven by misinformation and narrow interests rather than by evidence and well-informed public policy arguments.

This website aims to strengthen federalism, intergovernmental relations and multilevel democracy in the United States by promoting a deeper understanding of federalism, participatory and inclusive governance, and effective multi-level governance arrangements that improve the ability of federal, state, and local governments to work together cooperatively, efficiently, and effectively.

This website seeks to bring together researchers, policy makers, government officials and citizens to:

  • Bring together and share existing knowledge on federalism, intergovernmental relations and multilevel governance;
  • Engage in evidence-based research and analyze the state of  federalism and representative democracy in the United States;
  • Promote representative democratic systems at all government levels;
  • Identify emerging intergovernmental issues, trends, and turning points;
  • Stimulate thought about American federalism and intergovernmental relationships;
  • Educate leaders and the public about the impacts of multilevel governance and intergovernmental reforms;
  • Promote stronger intergovernmental communication, cooperation, and coordination as the critical basis for an effective federal system across all government levels.