This paper will take you inside the main basics of one of the most important and effective political concepts of our modern world - Federalism. The description will start with an overall definition of Federalism as an idea, revealing the main principles standing behind the definition itself. As all of the political philosophy, the deeper look will be taken at its strong and weak sides. The conclusion states that this concept, being the only reasonable logical choice for a newly emerged state, as the US, Federalism has evolved with years into a complex system that allowed the Federal states to stay stable throughout the whole course of history.
Every country that is on the political map of the world has a specific philosophy or a mixture of those that its political activists are using or might be using as the guidelines for legislative processes in their country. And every state should have one, for not to perish into a chaos.
Federalism is a political idea, based on democratic principles, in which a power is divided between member units and common institutions. This term is also used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided at least between two levels: a central governing authority and constituent political units, so that the institutes at each level have final authority and can be self governing in particular issue area, thus securing the citizens’ liberties of such a state on multiple levels. The division of power between the units varies with the country, but typically the central one carries out the defense and foreign policy, whilst the member unit might be working with international roles. Both authorities can collaborate and participate at making decision.
Advantages and disadvantages of Federalism
As any other known political concepts, Federalism has its own strong sides, as well as flaws. I will start this paragraph by pointing out tree main strong sides of it.
- Federalism creates a strong foundation for the democracy development.
It does in the way, that both, state and federal (general) governments can be experimenting with different policies, law practices and it the result they all can learn from their successes and mistakes.
- Federalism leads to political stability in the state
By distributing the power and the responsibilities for particular contentious issue areas between the government units, it allows a state to achieve and maintain a certain political and economical stability, though there are several arguments on whether decentralization helps to accumulate tax payers’ money or actually preventing from it.
- Federalism, ensuring separation and distribution of powers, thus stimulates pluralism, that prevents tyranny
Federal systems usually divide power between the governments on national, state, and even local levels, providing people with an opportunity to appeal to leaders, and be actually involved in the process of policy and law making itself, which in case, if one person or group will try to gain control over of all three branches of the government, which will ensure independent and prejudice free functioning, therefore preventing the takeover and securing the liberties of citizens.
Now, I will continue with the disadvantages of this political concept.
- Federalism prevents the creation of the only national policy
As a result the state might not have a single, working-for-everybody policy that might lead to confusions on different issues, and even disagreements.
- Federalism leads to unnecessary competition between different regions
If a certain government unit disagrees with a common legislature idea, it has a full right not to accept it or simply refuse to obey, which might lead to a dispute between the two that might threaten the state’s political integrity and security.
- Federalism might promote regional inequalities, as a result selfish and self-centered attitude toward other government units.
Natural resources, industries and employment opportunities do differ from a region to region, therefore the revenues will not get evenly distributed, ending with constantly growing gap between the rich and the poor provinces, thus making them concentrate and be worried only about their own progress, putting aside the common wealth.
As to advantages of Federalism, the most important one, from my prospective is the distribution of power and responsibilities, thus encouraging pluralism (democracy) and preventing the tyranny in the country. I am in favor for such attitude in this question, because democracy is the ground rule of success for any modern society, though it is not without its own flaws. And by ensuring the plurality of ideas and opinions, we do ensure the equality and all of the basic liberties of citizens.
Two ways in which American federalism has evolved since the ratification of the Constitution
- Cooperative Federalism (1945–1969)
Federalism over the last century has more closely resembled a melting pot, than a distinctive, layer-by-layer division of power and responsibilities due to the fact that the national government had to cooperate with all of government units in order to be able to implement the equal status for local governments, as those were essential for bypassing the state legislature, therefore making it difficult to draw the clear line between the beginning and the end of government types. In cooperative federalism, funds are being distributed through various aid grants or special categorical grants which give the federal government control over the usage of the money. The formerly distinct division of powers and responsibilities was described as a "layer cake," but, with the duties confused, cooperative federalism was recognized as a "marble cake" instead.
- New Federalism (1969–present)
Since the 1970s, politicians and scholars of the New Federalism concept have been arguing over the question if the national government has been granted with too much power and if some of that power should be returned back to the states. The decision was to leave a strong central government, with some duties being redistributed amongst the state and local governments. Richard Nixon was the first to start supporting the political idea during his presidency (1969–1974), and every single president since him has continued on returning of some powers to state and local government units. Although there are some disagreements on the details, the basic principle is shared and supported by the majority. The main idea of New Federalism is the "devolution evolution" that is the ability of states to take control and responsibility for different programs, allowing state governments to spend more money at their own discretion.
The relationship between contemporary politics and trends in the size and power of the federal government
The relationship between these two is dependable, as one cannot be going a different tendency and path from the other. As the politics becoming more and more complicated, so is the government becoming bigger in size, powers and duties that it carries. More everyday issues are arousing that need competent actions on the behalf of the government units that need to keep up in their development.
In the end I would like to conclude with the words that Federalism has gone a long way from its initial form to the present state. And throughout the long history of the development and evolution it has proved to be one of the strongest political concepts nowadays, which made it possible for the Federal states to sustain their integrity through harsh times in history.
Mayer, A. M., Carnuccio, C. M. (2013, March) Competitive Federalism: Leveraging the Constitution to rebuild America Retrieved from: http://libertyfound.org/wp- content/themes/liberty/images/competitive-federalism.pdf
Doig, W. J., The Benefits & Dangers of Federalism Retrieved from: http://www.ipsonet.org/proceedings/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Syllabus-4.2-Benefits- and-Dangers-of-Federalism.pdf
Mueller, C. D., Federalism: A Constitutional Perspective Retrieved from: http://rdc1.org/class/PublicFinance%20(grad)/Mueller-on-Federalism.pdf