States’ rights have historically held an important place in the U.S. political culture. The neglect before the 1950s by the federal government of discrimination against blacks in the southern states illustrates the power of this doctrine. However, from the 1930s and the birth of the ‘modern presidency’ during Roosevelt’s incumbency, states’ rights have been eroded. The ‘modern presidency’ included a significantly expanded legislative role for the president and the establishment of executive agencies institutionalizing the president’s powers. During the Roosevelt Administration the role of the federal government in federal-state relations was enlarged through New Deal programs implemented in response to the Great Depression. National administrative institutions were established and federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments increased: trends which assured that the Roosevelt presidency left an enduring mark on the U.S. political system (Beer, 1978; Polenberg, 1966). The New Federalism policies pursued by the Reagan Administration were designed to reverse this enlarged federal government role to enhance the policy freedom of state governments and to reduce federal grants-in-aid.
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