Skip to content
Noah Feldman

U.S. Federalism Isn’t Great at Handling Pandemics

In times like these, it would be nice to have a stronger federal government.

Local responses to Covid-19 may not be enough.

Local responses to Covid-19 may not be enough.

Photographer: Bloomberg

One of the weirdest things in this weird historical moment is the hodgepodge nature of the coronavirus responses from different state, county, and local governments throughout the United States. In essentially every other country on earth, central government authorities are directing and running the response to Covid-19.

If Italy shuts down, it’s the Italian government that decides to do it. If Germany chooses to end hotel stays, it’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who makes the call. But in the U.S., separate Bay Area counties can go one way, the mayor of New York another, and the governor of Massachusetts yet a third. There’s little if any national coordination.