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Federalism: Policy Issues and Recommended Changes Term Paper

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Updated: May 31st, 2021


The peculiarities of countries’ political courses largely determine the sustainability of its different areas, including social, economic, and other aspects of development. In view of this, following a certain movement plays a significant role for both the ruling elites and the population. The concept of federalism is a well-known political trend, and the emphasis on its promotion is the practice that leaders of many states adhere to and develop. This movement has unique features, and its assessment, along with a comparison with other systems of power organization, will make it possible to identify the key strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in it. As a justification base, a variety of sources will be used, including both findings from academic literature and online resources. In general, federalism has more advantages than disadvantages in the case of the competent organization of state institutions’ activities, but some existing shortcomings are significant obstacles to preserving countries’ integrity.

Background Information

Federate government systems are more typical of the modern world than confederate ones. According to Hueglin and Fenna (2015), the mechanism under consideration acts as an intermediate form between confederation and a unitary state. Therefore, this principle embodies a compromise between the provisions of unity and regional diversity of the country, between the need for effective central power and the necessity to limit it. Nevertheless, despite this explanation, each federal system is unique since relations among government boards are determined not only by the constitution but also by the total amount of political, historical, geographical, cultural, and social conditions.

The specific nature of federalism depends on how it exists in the system of the separation of powers. The executive and legislative branches, as is most commonly expressed in the USA, or the parliamentary system, have different approaches to allocating responsibilities. Hueglin and Fenna (2015) argue that, in the first case, the authority in the state is distributed not only along a functional but also territorial axis, and many points of contact arise between the two levels of government. On this basis, the complex models of the interpenetration of the central and local levels of power are manifested. As Riker (2017) notes, parliamentary systems often generate what is called executive federalism, when the balance of the political system is ensured by relations among executive authorities throughout the country. In general, the federal system of government is flexible in comparison with other forms of political control, and the description of its advantages and disadvantages may allow presenting its features in more detail.

Analysis/Competing Arguments (Pro/Con)

In any system of government, an opportunity to directly participate in elections is perceived as a valuable component of democratic freedoms. As Obi (2019) argues, unlike unitary systems, one of the main advantages of federalism is that it constitutionally guarantees the right of a political voice to the representatives of regional and local interests. States or provinces have a number of independent rights and are represented in the central government. Nevertheless, despite this advantage, a fair division of power is a contentious issue. According to Torrevillas (2018), federalism was unable to prevent the general tendency of the 20th century to centralization largely due to economic growth and the expansion of state interventions in different social spheres. A cooperative system was replaced by a coercive principle that allowed the government to dictate its will to states in an authoritarian mode, enacting laws in the interests of the center and recapturing legal prerogatives. Therefore, this nuance is a negative side of federalism, which manifests itself in the conditions of authorities’ interference in most social areas.

Ensuring a balance of obligations and rights is a significant aspect of power in any country. Obi (2019) states that one of the advantages of federalism is that dispersing authority, it creates the checks and balances system that has a positive effect on the protection of individual rights and freedoms. The presence of numerous barriers to the abuse of power complicates the process of monopolization, thereby creating a democratic background. However, as Kincaid and Cole (2015) note, this advantage leads to weakening the system. With an opportunity to control the central government, federalism does not contribute to implementing bold economic and social programs (Kincaid & Cole, 2015). At the state level, the federal course makes it possible to minimize erroneous decisions. However, in relation to the local development of individual regions, innovations are hindered by the lack of concentration on specific industries. As a result, against the background of general sustainability, some problems arise with the promotion of individual social, economic, and other areas in individual state entities.

Due to the relevance of many social issues, the protection of the population classes occupies a significant place in political regimes. According to Leon and Orriols (2016), federalism as a course towards equality provides an institutional mechanism that allows society to maintain unity with all internal differences. In states adhering to this political plan, the social space of conflicts is narrowed. Most often, disputes arise and develop at the regional level; they are autonomous in nature and do not undermine the country’s stability. However, this system does not guarantee complete safety, and there is some danger. In particular, Kincaid and Cole (2015) remark that in the situation of powers separation, local opposition forces may arise, which, in turn, may be fraught with the collapse of the state. In addition, Torrevillas (2018) argues that in some countries, the dynastic nature of federalism is manifested, which is unacceptable. Therefore, it is crucial to prevent the development of opposition and extremist movements that could harm the integrity of states.

As a result, the analysis of federalism as a well-known political movement makes it clear that, despite the merits of this trend, the consequences of certain decisions may be negative. Depending on the economic, social, and other features of countries’ development, the implications of this federate influence on different areas can be distinctive. Control over maintaining the unity of classes and the safety of the population is an essential aspect of political activity. The concentration of power in autonomous circles, as Torrevillas (2018) notes, contributes to democratization and a move away from the monopolistic model of managing the country’s resources. At the same time, total independence is fraught with the emergence of internal opposition forces, which poses a severe danger to state integrity. Thus, the governments of countries adhering to the federal concept of power are to ensure the protection of all social strata interests and avoid disputes at either the national or local levels.

Based on the assessment of federalism as one of the policies promoted by many governments today, conclusions can be drawn regarding its acceptability, as well as potential positive changes. Since this trend involves avoiding centralization and expanding the powers of regional authorities, more productive dialogue among the representatives of the regulatory apparatus should be developed. Torrevillas (2018) argues that this type of governance is financially costly due to the need to establish the activities of individual district missions. Accordingly, in order to minimize expenses and, at the same time, improve the quality of interaction, a curation system may be created. Since the introduction of innovations in individual industries is difficult due to a single state course, individual authorized persons can submit reports with proposals for specific changes. Speeches by the members of regional authorities at the national level will provide an opportunity to draw the attention of the supreme government to certain issues and eliminate serious errors and omissions in a single state policy.

Regarding the issue of state integrity in view of the separation of powers, this problem is also relevant and requires a comprehensive and authoritative assessment. The opinion was given by Kincaid and Cole (2015) about the emergence of possible opposition to supreme governance is reasonable. The powers vested in the regional authorities allow them to regulate local legislative and executive branches, thereby creating potential precedents for disputes and complaints. Moreover, the principle of federalism implying partial autonomy may adversely affect the standard of living of the population. The distribution of budgetary funds is more difficult to control in the context of delimiting particular spheres of influence. In order to minimize the risks associated with these challenges, the supreme government should appoint persons who could maintain strict accountability for all financial issues. In addition, target focus groups monitor such indicators as the degree of public confidence in the authorities, dissatisfaction with certain political nuances, and proposals for improving the system of interaction between the government and people. These approaches can improve the rating of the local administrative apparatus by responding promptly to residents’ requests.

Finally, when analyzing the topic of the continuity of power under federalism and the dynastic approach, the problem of corruption is acute. According to Torrevillas (2018), if the supreme government apparatus fails to control regional electoral systems, this will be fraught with the regress of the institution of power, which leads to the violation of constitutional provisions. In order to prevent any manifestation of unlawful interference in the legality of authority transfer and people’s will, the government should create a flexible system of feedbacks and suggestions from the population. In addition to focus groups, special digital platforms for communication with the members of the ruling boards are to be developed, and each citizen should be able to report the fact of any violation. If such a system is established, this will reduce the level of corruption precedents and enable the authorities to monitor regional administrative units more competently.


The advantages of federalism compared with many other political movements are significant, but in case of the incompetent implementation of its certain provisions, risks may arise. The rejection of monopolization, decentralization of power, and the distribution of authority open up wider prospects for the democratization of society. At the same time, potential problems, such as corruption, a threat to the integrity of the country, and inadequate management decisions may occur. To avoid them, special measures should be promoted, for instance, creating focus groups to establish interaction between the population and the authorities, as well as promoting a system of feedback and suggestions from citizens.


Hueglin, T. O., & Fenna, A. (2015). Comparative federalism: A systematic inquiry (2nd ed.). Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Kincaid, J., & Cole, R. L. (2015). Citizen evaluations of federalism and the importance of trust in the federation government for opinions on regional equity and subordination in four countries. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 46(1), 51-76. Web.

Leon, S., & Orriols, L. (2016). Asymmetric federalism and economic voting. European Journal of Political Research, 55(4), 847-865. Web.

Obi, E. A. (2019). The theory, practice and current trends in federalism. Journal of Social Service and Welfare, 1(1), 10-20.

Riker, W. H. (2017). Federalism. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, 612-620. Web.

Torrevillas, D. M. (2018). Philstar. Web.

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