Federalism is a system of government integrated in the US where the constitution divides powers between the state and the federal government (Elkins, 47). It is important to examine the historical features of federalism as a system to govern the state by using the US as the case study. The constitution is important because it ensures law and order in the country through dividing and sharing powers between the state and the national government. This paper will look at how federalism has evolved over the years in the US through looking at power shifts between the state and the federal government.
Over the years, there has been a struggle and controversies between the federal and state government in terms of which type of government should have more power and control. It is important to note that prior to civil war in the 19th century, states had more power (Elkins 52). This is because the national government that unified all states across the country had not been formed. This means that the state government controlled their irrespective states in that they were deemed as sovereign. Given that state governments were sovereign and had been established before national governments, they could not let the national government control them (Elkins 53). Power conflict between the national government and state government contributed in fueling the American civil war. The national government, which was led by Abraham Lincoln who was a republican, felt that all states across the nation should be emancipated regardless of a state declaring themselves as a slave state. Thus, the state government especially in the Southern US felt that the national government was undermining their sovereignty by declaring the states to secede. The Southern state government wanted to retain the power to decide whether they could keep slaves (Fabbrini 78). Thus, the national government and the most Northern state declared war on slavery by engaging in war with the Southern states. This illustrates that the state government had more power compared to the national government in that the federal government had to declare war to Southern states in order for them to secede.
The great depression changed things around in that the national government retained more power compared to the state governments (Fabbrini 81). The great depression deprived most states financially and economically thereby, the national government had to intervene in order to pull the country out of recession. The national government had to create financial incentives to improve the overall US economy despite the state. For example, the national government ensured that interest rate were low across the nation to ensure that the banks could lend money to the people, which would improve the economy through increasing availability of jobs (Elkins 102). The federal government also initiated a social security program that protected the elderly in the nation. This means that the national government had more power compared to the state government.
Given that the US constitution outlines the federal system where different governments in the country are expected to meet their assigned roles, the federal government has created initiatives such as grant-in-aid (Fabbrini 85). For example, the government gives categorical grants to the state government to improve infrastructure, to fund public school, and public hospitals among other things. Though the state government believes that the grants given are too little to cater for the local community’s needs, they also collect the state taxes. Thus, grant-in-aid is an example of financial incentive that the national government helps the state government to ensure an improvement in the overall economy.
Federalism is advantageous to me because the national government gives grants to the state government, which can be injected in improving the education and healthcare facilities (Robertson 45). Given that federalism requires the national government to offer grants to different states, which improves the state’s economy. Federalism is also crucial because the state governments are essential in a country can serve the public better than the national government, which in most cases is concerned with forming ties with the global community (Robertson 47). Thus, federalism ensures that people’s needs are well taken care off.
Under federalism, the government’s role is too big but is divided between the national, state, and local government. This shows that the government is fairly represented to all people including the grass-root (Robertson 114). Given that we live in a democratic society where the government should cater to its people, I think the federalism is advantageous to the country as a whole. In addition, the constitution ensures stability through outlining different responsibilities to different states of the government.
Elkins, Stanley M., and Eric L. McKitrick. The age of federalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Print.
Fabbrini, Sergio. Democracy and federalism in the European Union and the United States: exploring post-national governance. London: Routledge, 2005. Print.
Robertson, David Brian. Federalism and the making of America. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2011. Print