Book The Divided States Of America – What Is It About?

The Divided States of America by Donald Kettl is a prime example of the most regrettable kind of book that seizes unacknowledged truth and emphasizes it by bringing it closer to its illogical end, which in this case is an unrestrained view of federal power.


About The Author:

Donald F. Kettl is an honorary professor and the former dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. He served as the Sid Richardson Professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School until his retirement. His works include Escaping Jurassic Government and Can Governments Earn Our Trust. In The Divided States of America, Kettl says, the US Constitution amended to ensure ratification because it centralizing document that is biased in favor of the federal government. Kettl’s thesis relies heavily on the Tenth Amendment, which states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

What Is The Book “The Divided States Of America” About?

James Madison’s greatest contribution was federalism. Federalism was the practical compromise that brought the colonies together to form the United States. It was an innovative system of power-sharing that balanced national and state interests. However, even without considering the issue of slavery, inequality ingrained in the system because, by federalism, a person’s life in America depended on where they lived in many different ways. These disparities have widened state-to-state divisions over time and made federalism inherently unstable. In The Divided States of America, Donald Kettl traces the development of a political structure that once brought the country together. But now poses a threat to its dissolution.

Kettl focuses on key moments when power has shifted between state and federal governments as she examines the full scope of federalism from the founding to the present. These moments range from the violent rebalancing of the Civil War. When the country nearly split in two, to the civil rights era a century later. When there was apparently agreement that inequality was a threat to liberty. And the federal government should set policies for states to enact. Despite this general agreement, state inequality has only gotten worse since then. The quality of public services is deteriorating unevenly across the board. From infrastructure and health care to education and the environment. After exposing Madison’s marvel’s flaws, Kettl suggests that writings by another founder, Alexander Hamilton, offer potential solutions.


Overall, The Divided States of America, which makes an urgent case for federalism reform, demonstrates why and how we should address the crisis of American inequality.