Historically, the Center’s first mission has been to advance scholarship and public understanding of American federalism and the study of the United States as a federal system. Daniel J. Elazar founded the Center for the Study of Federalism in 1967 as the heir to the Workshop on American Federalism of the University of Chicago. Elazar broadened and deepened the study of American federalism in his early works: American Federalism: A View From the States (1966) and Cooperation and Conflict: Readings in American Federalism (1969). Equally important, the Center expanded the study of American federalism by engaging other scholars in it and by supporting and disseminating their work through grant programs, conferences, and publications.

The Center founded Publius: The Journal of Federalism in 1971. That same year, the Center entered into an agreement with Basic Books to publish a book series, “Studies in Federalism,” which included Supreme Courts in State Politics by Henry R. Glick (1971). The Center also developed a book series, Publius Books, with Transaction Press. Later in 1987, the Center began a co-publishing project with the University Press of America, which included Covenant, Polity and Constitutionalism (1983) edited by Daniel J. Elazar and John Kincaid.

An early example of the Center’s conference-and-publication model was the 1972 Conference on “Key Aspects of American Federalism.” With the support of the National Science Foundation, this conference brought together leading scholars, including Samuel Beer, Martin Diamond, Heniz Eulau, Martin Landau, Richard Leach, Vincent Ostrom, and Robert Pranger, to explore first principles of American federalism. Conference papers were presented and discussed in a collegial atmosphere. Authors then revised their papers for publication. The result was The Federal Polity edited by Daniel J. Elazar – a pioneering collection published in 1974 as a Publius Book by Transaction Press.

Also, Daniel J. Elazar directed and organized some 25 conference programs for Liberty Fund, Inc., exploring the various aspects of a society based on freedom, individual responsibility, and limited government under law. These were not “sponsored” by Liberty Fund; they were part of their total conference program.


John Kincaid testified before the Speaker’s Task for on Intergovernmental Affairs in general support of draft bill H. R. 354 to revive the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which was terminated in 1996. The task force was established by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for the purpose of addressing problems in the country’s intergovernmental relations. Others testifying with Kincaid at the May 17, 2018, hearing were Parris Glendening, former Democratic governor of Maryland, Marcia Hale, former director of intergovernmental relations for President Bill Clinton, Carl Stenberg of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Cliff Lippard, executive director of the Tennessee ACIR.

“Standing up the Feds: State Challenges to Federal Authority.” Panel sponsored by the Center for the Study of Federalism, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, 2017.

“Federal Waivers’ Effects on Policy, Federalism, and the Rule of Law.” Panel sponsored by the Center for the Study of Federalism, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, 2014.

“State-Federal Relations.” From 2001 to 2016, CSF Fellow John Kincaid wrote the annual article on this subject in the Book of the States published by the Council of State Governments, Lexington, KY. Previously, he wrote the articles on state-federal relations for the 1990-91 and 1992-93 Book of the States.

“Federalism and American Liberty,” a Liberty Fund Conference for high-school teachers directed by Daniel J. Elazar, Bloomington, IN, April 13 – 16, 1989.

“Conceptions of Liberty and Responsibility in the Debate over Ratification of the United States Constitution,” a Liberty Fund Conference directed by Daniel J. Elazar, Philadelphia, PA, November 12 – 14, 1988.

“Liberty and the American Constitution,” a Liberty Fund Conference directed by Daniel J. Elazar, Philadelphia, PA, November 8 – 10, 1987.

“Liberty, Democracy, and Political Change,” a Liberty Fund Conference directed by Daniel J. Elazar, Philadelphia, PA, November 30 – December 2, 1986.

“The Continuing Legacy of the Articles of Confederation,” a Liberty Fund Conference directed by Daniel J. Elazar, Philadelphia, PA, August 30 – September 2, 1981. Revised conference papers were published in Publius: The Journal of Federalism 12:4 (Fall 1982).

Third Dialogue held February 1978 on the Practice of American Federalism commemorating the Center’s Tenth Anniversary.

Research project on Intergovernmental Networks of Services for the Aging (1978).

Conference on Government Reorganization at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution (1977).

Toward ’76 Conference Series commemorated the bicentennial of American independence by bringing together scholars to explore federalism as an animating principle of American politics. There were four conferences: “An Agenda for Revitalizing the American Federal System,” April 1972; “The Suburban Reshaping of American Politics,” April 1973; “Serving the Public in a Metropolitan Society,” August 1974, King of Prussia, PA, presentations by Elinor Ostrom, Aaron Wildavsky, Sam Bass Warner, Jr., Norton Long, Martha Derthick, Daniel J. Elazar; and “Partnership within the States: State-Local Relations in the Federal System,” co-sponsored with the National Municipal League, U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR), and Institute of Government Research of the University of Illinois, Chicago, November 1975, which included papers by Thomas Anton, John Bebout, Alan Campbell, and Jefferson Fordham, as well as 12 state case studies.

Federal Grants-in-Aid Project created in 1973 collecting information on individual state responses to categorical grant requirements.

Green Land – Clean Streams was a research project established in 1971 to find ways to address water pollution by using the land as a method of advanced waste-water treatment.

APSA Symposium on “The New Federalist Papers,” written in 1970 by men close to the Nixon White House laying out the Administration’s New Federalism initiative.

Reporting Current Federalism Developments

Fifth Annual CFS Symposium at the 1976 meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Chicago on “The Media and the Intergovernmental System.” Discussion generated considerable interest in pursuing the idea of monitoring current issues and developments in the federal system relating to federalism and intergovernmental relations.

Conference on Federalism Publications, Philadelphia, April 1977, exploring media coverage of federalism with media scholars, state journal publishers, editors of the California Journal, Empire State Reports, Illinois Issues, New Jersey Magazine, and representatives from Congressional Quarterly and The Washington Post. Participants stressed the need for an annual publication that would place yearly news events and developments within the larger historical, theoretical, and political framework of American federalism. The Annual Review issue of Publius: The Journal of Federalism was the result. Titled “The State of American Federalism,” the Publius Annual Review has been published yearly since 1977.