Some might argue that James Madison was one of the most original thinkers among the founders. From his fertile mind came concepts like separation of powers, the encouragement of a marketplace of religious ideas and federalism. And while many focus on the contentious relationship of the executive and legislative branches of our government as one of his innovations most deserving of attention, our guest, Donald Kettl, says look again. Madison’s concept of federalism is the real flashpoint for our nation. Look no further than the recent coronavirus crisis to see the built in tensions between the federal government and the states. Is the federal government doing too much or too late? Are the states supposed to compete among themselves for resources or cooperate in pressing for a more aggressive federal response? In his book, ‘The Divided States of America: Why Federalism Doesn’t Work’, Professor Kettl says that Madison’s tactical construct in the moment, designed to avert the original 13 colonies from becoming a patchwork of discreet political enclaves, is not up for the job any longer. And to whom does he turn for strategic thinking that might be more appropriate for these times? None other than the newly re-emergent founder, Alexander Hamilton. His case is a clear and compelling one.
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