Federalist No. 85: Has the National Government Become an “Awful Spectacle”?


Paul C. Light is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service in the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. Before joining NYU, he was vice president of the Brookings Institution’s Governmental Studies Program and founding director of its Center for Public Service. He served as the senior advisor to the 1988 and 2002 National Commissions on the Public Service chaired by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker.


Federalist No. 85 offers a synopsis of the overall case for the Constitution. Describing the dangers of a nation without a national government as an “awful spectacle,” the paper provides a rebuttal to the active opposition to ratification. Focusing entirely on the operations of government, this essay examines contemporary challenges to faithfully executing the laws and offers an analysis of comprehensive reforms for creating greater accountability, efficiency, and productivity.