Federalism: Federation and Government Essay

Submitted By farmerboy94
Words: 1549
Pages: 7

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of federalism for the United States? Compare American federalism with other systems of government (i.e., unitary and confederal)? Federalism is our system of government in which power is distributed between a central governing authority and sub-divisional (state) governing authorities. While it may seem that only lately there has been a significant debate over the role of government and their scope of power, in reality federalism has always been a fusion of other preexisting government systems and finding a healthy medium has always been a challenge. The advantages and disadvantages of federalism are what make The United States unique and a prime example of a living, changing government that has withstood the test of time in the global stage. Additionally, federalism varies in many significant ways from other functioning government systems such as unitary and confederal, and this is another factor in setting the U.S. apart from other world leaders. In our written foundation of our government, the Constitution, our system of federalism was born and shaped into what runs today’s most powerful government in the world. Article VI of The Constitution states that any laws mentioned in the article and any laws later passed under it shall become “law of the land.” This is known as the supremacy clause, and is the foundation for the practice of the national government having authority over state governments. Furthermore, in the tenth amendment to the Constitution, it states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is the clearest way of showing that the powers not granted to the national government (and are not prohibited to state governments) are therefore in the hands of the lower, state governments. This tier system is unique from other systems, such as Unitary. The United Kingdom is a unitary state, in that while lower courts and districts may hold some powers similar to our states, the central national government has final say and authority over all other sub-governmental authorities. While we read about devolution being the legal granting of power from the national government authority to smaller state or district authorities, in unitary states this does not exist like it does in the U.S. While these differences may seem minor, the distribution of power away from one centralized authority is arguably what has kept the U.S. modernized and able to change with the advancement of technology and public opinion on roles of government. In America at Odds by Sidlow and Henschen, federalism is described as “government powers [being] divided between a central government and regional, or subdivisional , governments. (pg. 49)” While this seems pretty easy to understand, the fact is that federalism was not a concept during the drafting of the Constitution, and the advantages and disadvantages of this system were not known until it was put into practice over the beginning decades of our country’s independence. One of the first advantages of federalism that enabled the U.S to become the leader that it is today is compatibility with size. When the U.S. first gained independence, the thirteen colonies were large in comparison to other functioning governments, and the tiered broken-down system of federalism “keeps government closer to the people and helps make democracy possible (pg. 51).” By having local authorities that ultimately had some power, each colony/state was able to enforce laws enacted by the central government as well as create and pass laws that were relevant to them that the central government may not be concerned about. Today this advantage still holds true, as seen with maritime laws passed by coastal states that would waste our national government’s time drafting and enforcing on land-locked states such as Kansas. Additionally, by having