Laboratories of democracy

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Laboratories of democracy is a phrase popularized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann to describe how a "state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."[1] Brandeis was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939.

This concept explains how within the federal framework, there exists a system of filtration where state and local governments act as “laboratories,” where law is created and enacted from the lowest level of the democratic system, up to the top level.

The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution makes all “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is a basis for the laboratories of democracy concept, because the Tenth Amendment hands a number of responsibilities down to the state and local governments. Policy is experimented on the state level first, before it is on the national level, and because these governments are only tied together by the federal level government, a diverse patchwork of lower government practices is created.

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