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“The Myth of the Laboratories of Democracy”
October 19 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Significant attention has focused on how to preserve and revitalize American democracy. A classic constitutional parable teaches that the American states function as essential “laboratories of democracy.” This tale has been passed down from generation to generation, often to justify constitutional protections for state autonomy from the federal government. But scholars have failed to explain how state governments manage to overcome numerous impediments to policy experimentation, including resource scarcity, free-rider problems, and misaligned incentives. Dean Gerken, one of the nation’s leading experts on constitutional law and federalism, will argue that the real laboratories of democracy today are the third-party organizations (such as interest groups, activists, and funders) that fuel policy innovation, and she will sketch the outlines of a jurisprudence that endeavors to create ground rules for regulating competition between political networks rather than continuing futile efforts to protect state autonomy.
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