Executive Summary

  • Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many commentators have questioned the continued viability of federalism in the United States. They have argued that the American federalist system—where power is divided between national and state governments—is outdated and ill-equipped to handle national health emergencies.
  • Critics of federalism mistakenly assume that it requires a weak national government and near total deference to local governments. But federalism permits each level of government to focus on its core competencies, while respecting individual constitutional rights.
  • While federalism remains the best form of government for the United States, policymakers should evaluate our country’s response to the pandemic to identify measures that would improve the ability of the federal and state governments to work together in response to a future pandemic or other crisis.