The U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations: Unique Artifact of a Bygone Era


John Kincaid is the Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service and director of the Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He also is senior editor of the Global Dialogue on Federalism, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and coeditor of Constitutional Origins, Structure, and Change in Federal Countries (2005), Interaction in Federal Systems (2008), and Local Government in Federal Systems (2008).


The U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) befitted an era marked by low party polarization, bipartisanship, and cooperative federalism. Although the ACIR’s work was valuable, the growth of federal power, rise of party polarization, and the decline of bipartisanship, along with many other political, governmental, and social changes during its 37-year life (1959–96), marginalized the ACIR to the point of political vulnerability. These historic changes make it unlikely that the ACIR will be resurrected in a comparable or partial form.