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Authors

David Fontana

Abstract

This Essay--—prepared for a symposium hosted by the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal on the future of the District of Columbia--—argues that American federal power can be better understood by considering the features of the metropolitan area that houses the most important parts of the American federal government. In other American metropolitan areas and in most capital metropolitan areas elsewhere in the world, local life features multiple and diverse industries. Washington is the metropolitan area that houses the most important parts of the American federal government, and Washington is dominated by the government and related industries. Washington is, in other words, a “political” capital. The ambition of this Essay is to make a descriptive point related to the status of Washington as a political capital. Because of its location in a metropolitan area dominated by a single industry, federal officials and those whom federal officials interact with are a narrower slice of the large and diverse American republic. While the American Constitution might permit a range of federal outcomes, the American political capital narrows that range of outcomes. This narrowing has a number of implications. On the one hand, the American system is less responsive to the range of interests existing in the United States. On the other hand, the American political capital plays a particularly important role in limiting the access by, and creation of, damaging private or governmental forces.

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