Skip to main content
gavin newson california Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Birthplace of America’s New Progressive Era

At a time of rising inequality, White House tweet storms, and deepening political gridlock in Washington, DC, it is easy to think that the decline of American democracy is inexorable. And yet, as in the early twentieth century, states like California are embracing their constitutional role as laboratories of reform.

BERKELEY – Since the end of 2014, we have been advocating a model of US governance based on the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Increasingly, California has been exercising these constitutional rights.

Until recently, state and local governance seemed quaint and uninteresting. Most pundits covering the 2016 US presidential campaign simply assumed that Democrats would win the White House and possibly both houses of Congress, allowing them to pursue a national progressive policy agenda and to appoint Supreme Court justices.

History did not unfold as predicted. But if there is any silver lining to the past two years of gridlock at the federal level, it is that progressive federalism – that is, state-based and state-led reform – has become all the more appealing.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;

Handpicked to read next

  1. roubini130_GettyImages_iphonehandstealingpiggybank Getty Images

    The Great Crypto Heist

    Nouriel Roubini

    Cryptocurrencies have given rise to an entire new criminal industry, comprising unregulated offshore exchanges, paid propagandists, and an army of scammers looking to fleece retail investors. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of rampant fraud and abuse, financial regulators and law-enforcement agencies remain asleep at the wheel.

  2. ghosh11_GettyImages_thiefworldmoneybag Getty Images

    The Exploitation Time Bomb

    Jayati Ghosh

    Worsening economic inequality in recent years is largely the result of policy choices that reflect the political influence and lobbying power of the rich. There is now a self-reinforcing pattern of high profits, low investment, and rising inequality – posing a threat not only to economic growth, but also to democracy.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.