The Public Interest

The new federalism: can the states be trusted?

Daniel J. Elazar

Spring 1974

ON the day he was inaugurated in 1971, the newly elected Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, walked across the street from the State Capitol to the Atlanta City Hall to tell the then Mayor, Sam Massell, that the state government stood ready to assist the City of Atlanta in any way it could. Though it received scant attention outside the Atlanta area, this was an event of national significance. For Georgia was one of the very last states whose elected officials consistently played to the rural vote by refusing to help Atlanta significantly in coping with its urban problems. Governor Carter’s visit to city hall thus marked the collapse of the last bastion of true urban-rural conflict in American state politics, and the consequent evaporation of the last empirical justification for a myth that has been invoked again and again by those arguing for further centralization of power in Washington and for mechanisms that bypass the states to give federal aid directly to central cities.

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