Can the states do it better?

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  • This program explores the history and anatomy of the ongoing political debate over the idea of shifting power and authority from the federal government to the states and individuals. The program goes back to the founding of the country and examines the split between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over how much power the federal government should have, through the Civil War, to the rapid expansion of federal powers during the Great Depression and World War II, to the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson, to the present. The program looks at the idea of "devolution" today, and examines in detail two of the most contentious aspects of it: welfare reform and school vouchers. The program draws on documentary footage and archival materials, and features numerous experts including several governors and a wide range of leading academics.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on May 12, 2005.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.


  • Devolution: Power Closer to People (2:37) -- Limit to Federalism: How Much Power? (3:48) -- Dividing the Powers of Government (4:51) -- State and Federal Power Struggles (3:16) -- Judiciary and Original Understanding (3:25) -- Federal Powers Increase 1887 to 1916 (3:49) -- Devolution: Paradigm Shift (3:19) -- Crisis Swells Government's Size (3:03) -- Desegregation and the Great Society (3:23) -- Is the Era of Big Government Over? (8:20) -- Making Welfare Work in Wisconsin (6:18) -- Parental Choice and School Vouchers (6:09) -- Revitalizing Democracy (1:44)
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