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What do drivers' licenses that function as national ID cards, nationwide standardized tests for third graders, the late unlamented 55 mile per hour speed limit, the outlawing of the eighteen-year-old beer drinker, and the disappearing mechanical lever voting machine have in common? Each is the product of an unfunded federal mandate: a concept that politicians of both parties profess to oppose in theory but which in practice they often find irresistible as a means of forcing state and local governments to do their bidding, while paying for the privilege.
Mandate Madness explores the history, debate, and political gamesmanship surrounding unfunded federal mandates, concentrating on several of the most controversial and colorful of these laws. The cases hold lessons for those who would challenge current or future unfunded federal mandates. James T. Bennett also examines legislative efforts to rein in or repeal unfunded federal mandates. Finally, he reviews the treatment of unfunded mandates by the federal courts. Those who find wisdom in America's traditional federalist political arrangement maintain perhaps with more wishfulness than realism that the unfunded federal mandate has not yet joined death and taxes as an immovable part of the modern political landscape.