Why States Matter: An Introduction to State Politics

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9780742570375: Why States Matter: An Introduction to State Politics

When it comes to voting, taxes, environmental regulations, social services, education, criminal justice, political parties, property rights, gun control, marriage and a whole host of other modern American issues, the state in which a citizen resides makes a difference. The idea that states matter is the fundamental concept explored in this book - by accomplished scholars and authors Gary Moncrief and Peverill Squire - and has been an essential truth embedded within America's governing philosophy since the Colonial Era. Considerably less attention is paid to the gritty but essential political battles fought at the level of America’s states than to the endless and infamous turmoil inside the beltway, but the political decisions made by those in state-level offices are of tremendous importance to the lives of people whose states they govern. This book introduces students to the very tangible and constantly evolving implications, limitations, and foundations of America’s state political institutions, and accessibly explains the ways that the political powers of the states manifest themselves in the cultures, economies, and lives of everyday Americans, and always will.

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About the Author:

Gary Moncrief is University Foundation Professor of Political Science at Boise State University and the author and editor of numerous books, including Reapportionment and Redistricting in the West (Lexington Books, 2011).

Peverill Squire holds the Hicks and Martha Griffiths Chair in American Political Institutions, and Frederick A. Middlebush Chair in Political Science at the University of Missouri. Among his recent books is The Evolution of American Legislatures: Colonies, Territories, and States, 1619-2009 (University of Michigan Press, 2012).

Review:

Many believe that all policies flow from Washington, DC, yet individual states adopt different and distinctive approaches to solving local problems. States, not the federal government, determine many policy issues such as education, health care, marriage, abortion, concealed weapons, environmental standards, voting, and political party related matters. Moncrief and Squire discuss key roles states play and identify policy areas that are changing or potentially will change in the future. The book guides the reader outside the organization of the legislature and into broader areas of federalism, policy making, American institutional development, electoral systems, and fiscal policy. Readers of this work will have the tools necessary to begin analyzing the central role that states play in shaping public policy. In addition, they will be prepared to assess the actual influence states reserve over their citizens. The authors' well-documented analysis persuasively illustrates that, beyond recent controversial headlines, states are more capable today of governing themselves. Students and general readers alike will gain insight from this balanced, objective work on why states matter. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduate students, and professionals. (CHOICE)

Why States Matter by Gary Moncrief and Peverill Squire not only answers the question of why, but even more important, why we should care. Today, with many Americans’ knowledge of government limited to news clips and sound bites about the breakdown of the federal government, a full understanding of how state governments influence citizens’ daily life, as well as the country’s big picture, is woefully lacking. Why States Matter provides a solid framework for why states are an essential part of the nation’s federal system. Moncrief and Squire explain in a straightforward fashion why and how states differ, how innovative policies that originated at the state level have rippled through the entire country, and why all this is important. . . . The book is a great tool for the average citizen wanting to understand state government or the new lawmaker seeking to articulate better exactly why states matter. (State Legislatures Magazine)

Moncrief and Squire provide a detailed look at state policymaking in the American federal system. They explore not only the historical roots of the relationship between the states and federal government but also the current issues facing the states today. They offer a detailed and accessible account of the important issues facing the states and clearly show why the states matter. Given the recent Supreme Court rulings in areas from voting rights to same-sex marriage, Why States Matter gives a timely critique of the American federal system that reemphasizes the importance of state policymaking and politics in America today. (Jonathan Winburn, University of Mississippi)

Moncrief and Squire offer a different approach from the standard textbook on state politics. Rather than provide a generic overview of institutions and processes, they focus on the central role that states play in shaping public policy in America today. In so doing, the book provides a superb text for getting undergraduates to understand how state governments work, how these governments have changed over time, and why state politics matters. (Richard Clucas, Portland State University)

This important book is premised on the idea that it is not enough to understand government at the national level. State government practices, policies and politics vary greatly across the country, and the differences are important and necessary to the understanding of American governance. The book is succinct, accessible, contemporary and even at times humorous. It should be read not only by students of politics but by practitioners, especially elected officials, in our federal system of government. (Karl Kurtz, Director, Trust for Representative Democracy, National Conference of State Legislatures)

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