Reviewed by John Dinan (Department of Political Science, Wake Forest University)
Published on H-Law (December, 2011)
Commissioned by Christopher R. Waldrep (San Francisco State University)
Interstate Conflict and Cooperation in the U.S. Federal System
Although scholars of intergovernmental relations traditionally focus on interactions between state and federal governments, Joseph F. Zimmerman has for many years called attention to the importance of interactions among state governments. Zimmerman, a professor of political science at the University of Albany who has written numerous books exploring federal-state relations and especially federal preemption, turns in Horizontal Federalism: Interstate Relations to provide a comprehensive examination of interstate relations in the U.S. federal system.
Zimmerman’s primary aim in Horizontal Federalism is “to provide detailed information on interstate relations and to analyze their various facets” (p. x). To this end, the bulk of the book consists of chapters examining specific constitutional clauses and particular problems of governance involving interstate relations. The interstate compact clause, full faith and credit clause, privileges and immunities clause, and rendition clause are all treated in separate chapters, along with interstate trade barriers, economic competition, and tax revenue competition.
The purpose of each of these chapters is to identify the various questions that have arisen throughout American history concerning each of these facets of interstate relations and to discuss the ways these questions have been resolved, frequently through Supreme Court decisions or congressional statutes. Each chapter contains a wealth of illustrative state acts, Supreme Court rulings, and congressional statutes chronicling the development of interstate relations and highlighting issues of continuing importance. In fact, no other contemporary scholar of American federalism is able to draw on such a wide range of cases and examples covering the full sweep of American political development. Moreover, he demonstrates that legal and political questions concerning interstate relations are at the heart of a number of recent political developments and controversies, whether regarding regional greenhouse gas emissions initiatives, recognition of same-sex marriages, or business relocation incentives.
Zimmerman’s secondary aim in the book is “to advance recommendations to improve the economic union and the political union” (p. x). Although he offers assorted recommendations along these lines throughout the book, he outlines most of his proposals in a brief discussion in the concluding chapter. He encourages state legislatures and governors to take several steps to “promote interstate cooperation and to eliminate or reduce interstate controversies” (p. 208), by establishing legislative committees on interstate relations (one of four suggestions for state legislatures) and creating executive offices of interstate relations (his main suggestion for governors). He also offers nine recommendations for Congress, such as removing trade barriers between states, limiting interstate tax competition, and creating a joint congressional committee on interstate relations. He also urges the president to include a discussion of interstate relations in his annual state of the union address. Through these and other recommendations, Zimmerman hopes to bring interstate relations “out of the twilight zone and onto the center stage of the political arenas” (p. 208), although he concedes that “political realities, however, suggest few will be implemented in the near future” (p. 212).
Horizontal Federalism is a valuable resource for students of American federalism, who will benefit from Zimmerman’s comprehensive and detailed analysis of a relatively neglected aspect of the field of intergovernmental relations. Scholars are most likely to encounter interstate relations in constitutional casebooks that excerpt leading Supreme Court interpretations of relevant constitutional clauses. Zimmerman’s principal contributions are situating these key Supreme Court rulings in historical and analytical context, examining many other less familiar rulings, and exploring the many instances of interstate conflict and cooperation that have not generated judicial rulings but have nevertheless figured prominently in the resolution of policy questions throughout American history.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-law.
John Dinan. Review of Zimmerman, Joseph Francis, Horizontal Federalism: Interstate Relations.
H-Law, H-Net Reviews.