In crotchety, leisurely language, full of wit and ironically understated outrage, Mr. Trippett tells the mostly scandalous story of state governments: their decline into indolent and insolent decrepitude, and their chronic microphilia--a word he coined to describe ""obsessive-compulsive attention to microscopically trivial detail."" He is not, he maintains, arguing either for the strengthening or the abolition of the states. His scholarship is idiosyncratic but quite comprehensive; he pokes about in the murky monkeyshines of the legislatures like a jovial coroner performing an autopsy. The individual bodies of state government, he finds, ""fell inexorably into the role of an anti-revolutionary institution in a society whose sometimes slow but persisting impulse is revolutionary."" Agree with the verdict or not, the demonstration is fascinating, and ought to delight anyone capable of regarding history with ""a cool eye.