Donald F. Kettl on Federalism


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By Justin Kempf. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Federalism has become marginalized in academic literature. Everybody knows the United States depends on a federal system, but few talk about it. The nationalization of politics makes federalism feel esoteric and obsolete. My conversation with Donald Kettl explains why federalism remains vibrant and relevant. And it is necessary to understand American politics today as much as it has ever been.
Listeners will find we talk about equality almost as much as federalism. Don writes in his book, The Divided States of America, “Federalism, instead of bridging the gaps in the polarization and inequality of the new century, fed and accelerated them.” He explains why federalism has failed to deliver and how it can be reimagined once again.
This is a wide ranging conversation that spans history and current events. We discuss important topics like healthcare, environmental policy, and the pandemic. These issues all touch on different aspects of federalism.
Donald Kettl is the Sid Richardson Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and the author of The Divided States of America: Why Federalism Doesn't Work. Don has twice won the Louis Brownlow Book Award of the National Academy of Public Administration for The Transformation of Governance (2002); and System Under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics (2005). His book, Escaping Jurassic Government: How to Recover America's Lost Commitment to Competence, won the 2016 award for book of the year from the American Society for Public Administration.
Thanks to Apes of the State for permission to use their tracks "The Internet Song" and "Bill Collector's Theme Song." You can find their music on Spotify or their Bandcamp. Thanks to James Schneider at Princeton University Press for my copy of The Divided States of America: Why Federalism Doesn't Work and for an introduction to Donald Kettl.
Please visit my blog at I have written 70 reviews of both classic and contemporary works of political science with an emphasis on democracy. This week I reviewed Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy by Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman. Please visit the website and read my book reviews. And don't forget to subscribe to keep up with future episodes.

38 episodes