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Federalism is allocation or division of power between the state and the nation. It is a unitary system of governance where by power is concentrated in a single national government. Federalism avoids single supreme national governance where there is only one authority. The two levels always have final authority and self governance in specific areas. This means that the citizens always have political responsibility to both governments who also secure their rights in the country.
Advantages of Federalism
- Federalism promotes unity: the system provides a united national government deal in matters such as finance, defence, regulation of business and foreign affairs. Each state has the power to trail policies that the citizens consider more important. Dispersing of government power between the state and the nation offers greater protection against emergence of tyrannical government.
- Federalism promotes efficiency of government: distribution of power between the state and nation provides division of work and specialization of functions. Thus each unit can exercise functions that they are well suited which promotes efficiency.
- Federalism test policies and training of leaders. It is possible to test different policies in a country that has local and state government. If the policy proves to be beneficial, then it can be expanded to be used nationwide. It also offers opportunity to test the courage of selected leaders and to prove whether they are responsible.
- Federalism promotes liberty and self-governance. The system causes government to have control of itself because of great rivalry of power between the state and the nation. An action of one government is always opposed by other government to enforce civil rights in Southern states.
Disadvantages of Federalism
- Many people avoid following laws such as paying of sales taxes to state due to federalism. There are those who purchase goods in neighbouring state to escape sales tax in a particular state.
- It is difficult to enforce law on criminals because of federalism. This is because most people after they have committed a crime in a particular state, they escape and move to other states. Different states also have different laws making it hard to enforce law on visitors who had moved in the state.
- There are increased interstate conflicts due to federalism. There are some states which pursue policies which frustrate national policy because they cause them to sacrifice some of their interests to local interests such as segregation. States also engage in economic competition which causes economic warfare amongst them.
- Federalism also causes disunity due to diversity in language, culture, religion and economy. This normally causes disintegration and internal conflicts among different states (Dye, 114). The state and the nation always evade responsibility especially when it comes to dealing with environmental issues such as cleaning up of Great lakes. Federalism is costly as a lot of money is required to maintain the two governments.
Methods of Dealing with Problems of Federalism
- Each citizen of any particular state shall be entitled to equal rights, privileges and immunities.
- Each state shall give full credit and be faithful to judicial proceedings, public records and public actions of all other states.
- Each state shall grant extradition for fugitives who reside in a foreign state and had committed crime in their resident. They will have to face legal charges for their actions in whichever state they are in.
- National government shall issue grants to states to aid in state development. Each state will receive 22% to 28% funds annually to spend in development.
- States shall make agreement on how to deal with common problems that they face.
National and State Powers in American Federalism
The federal government has got many powers as stated in the constitution. Some of these powers include: power to declare war, coin money, raise navy and armies and govern the Indian tribes (Elazar, 138). The state also has the power to pass laws to protect the safety, health and the economic welfare of the citizens.
Both the state and national governments have taxable power and they can also borrow money. The federal government in America has special authority to control interstate businesses and trade with the foreign countries. The national government is also entitled to forming treaties and conducting foreign policies. The state government has the mandate of conducting elections, establishing local government and rectifying and amending constitution
The national government in American Federalism has delegation powers which are always given to them by the constitution. They also have implied powers which are necessary in delegation of power in the nation. Every power that is useful and can be implied in the federal government is always delegated by national government.
The national government also possess concurrent powers which enable them to exercises along with the state government. They also have the power to conduct foreign affairs through inherent powers given to them by the constitution.
Reasons for increase in the Powers of the Nation since 1788
The only way that American federalism was going to be restored and maintained was by reinstating major principals and empowering the state. This was meant to re-establish proper rule and national governance. In 1788, Fisher Ames of Massachusetts made a declaration to increase the powers of the national government. This was due to several reasons such as:
- Need to regulate interstate commerce power. America wanted to control all the economic activities of the nation and raising the national government powers would enable them achieve it. They will then have special authority to control interstate businesses and trade with the foreign countries.
- The desire to have war powers was also one of the reasons why national government power was increased since 1788. The government demands to have war powers were created by tragedies of modern wars. Possessing a lot of power will enable them have the authority to raise navy and armies that could control tragedies from happening by protecting the nation.
- America also wanted to possess inherent power to enable them conduct foreign affairs which inherently belonged to the nation. This is also one of the reasons as to why national powers were increased.
- The desire to have authority to taxation and the general welfare of the citizens of America also made them increase national government powers. Possessing taxation power under the 16th Amendment of constitution alleged an increase in power to the nation. Funds which consist of trillions of dollars were assigned to nations with taxation power to spend in programs that promote the general welfare of the citizens.
- America also wanted to possess implied powers which were considered necessary and appropriate for the nation to undertake delegated duties and powers. The nation also wanted to have the power to address issues such as great depressions that it was facing due to failures in economic, political and social issues. Possess power would probably give them the voice to air out their grievances.
Dye, Thomas. Politics in America, eighth edition/alternate edition. New York: Pearson/PH, 2009.
Elazar, Daniel. American Federalism: A View from the States. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.