Essay: Federalism

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  • Published on: July 15, 2019
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  • Federalism
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[CONCEPT] Federalism is a type of government wherein the power is divided between the national government and the other governmental units. It is one of the most important concepts in the U.S. Constitution, although the word itself did not appear there. Federalism in the United States has slightly evolved, ever since it started in 1787. It is one way of allocating and dispersing power. Through the division of political authority and sovereignty between the national government and the states, federalism provides a structural check on natural power in order to protect the rights of the states, especially its individuals. American Federalism turned out as a curious combination of contradictions. It is a political environment built on a delicate compromise within a framework, creating a new consensus that is evolving through the years.

[HISTORY] After the declaration of Independence from England in 1776, the thirteen states operated by themselves without the help of the central government. This was implemented because of the Articles of Confederation which was drafted in 1777 and ratified in 1781. It allowed each state to retain its sovereignty, freedom, and independence with the exception of the few powers that are assigned merely to the national government. The states have appointed delegates to meet in Philadelphia in 1787. They devised provisions to render the constitution of the federal government that are sufficient to the needs and demands of the union. When the draft of the constitution circulated, there were critics who objected that it just created a national government instead of the federal form of government. James Madison, the one who wrote the draft of the constitution, conceded that some features of the constitution gave it a national character, but other provisions vested power directly to the thirteen states. Furthermore, the delegates who represented each state needed to strengthen the national government without sacrificing the separate identity and function of the states. The country conducted an urge for independence and established a confederation form of government. This paved the way for the introduction of the Articles of Confederation. Its insufficiencies caused its cancellation and made way for the ratification of a new constitution, creating a new federal system of government. After its adoption, there began issues concerning state sovereignty and the supremacy of the federal authority, which led to the Civil War.

[PROCESS] From 1789 to 1901, the era of Dual Federalism existed. Cooperative Federalism (1901-1960) marked the great cooperation and collaboration throughout the government. In this era, national income tax and grant-in-aid system were authorized due to social and economic problems that the country faced. Creative Federalism (1960-1968) was incorporated in President Lyndon Johnson’s great society program. It shifted the power relationship between governmental levels to the national government by expanding the grant-in-aid system and the rules.

[TIMELINE] From 1775 to 1789, the period of pre-federalism began. It consists of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Drafting of the Articles of Confederation in 1777 and its ratification in 1781, and the Drafting of the New Constitution. The articles were reconsidered and questioned. This event led to the drafting of a new constitution. From 1789 to 1865, the process of dual federalism started. The constitution was approved by the states in 1789, and the Doctrine of Nullification was launched in 1798. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave was passed by the Congress to preserve the union. After 10 years, the Civil War addressed the issues of the role of federal government and the nature of the union. Slavery created a tension between the central and the state-centered concept of the federal system. Moreover, the role of the national government was finally settled during the Civil War. The presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and his new nationalism initiative had a purpose of expanding the powers of the national government. In 1954, the civil rights and states’ rights were reconsidered. Creative Federalism and Contemporary Federalism came next. These two types of federalism had the purpose of shifting powers and concerned in the regulations of the federal system. Giving birth to the three phases of the New Federalism.

[DIVISION] Not to mention, federalism has changed over the past two centuries mainly because of the profound changes in the economy of the United States. Areas in which state and local government were once equal, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and labor, eventually gave way to the control of the federal government especially when the economic markets assumed a national character. More than 20 percent the budgets of the states and the local government when it comes to health, welfare, education and law enforcement are now the responsibility of the federal state. The Constitution granted the Congress certain enumerated powers that are written in Section 8, Article 1. These powers involve the authority of the Congress to tax, spend and borrow. All the remaining powers belong to the states, as stated in the Constitution. Many powers that belong to the federal government are shared by the state, which is called “concurrent powers.” The state governments have their own judicial system, charter corporations, and regulation of the property rights. Moreover, there are reserved powers that allow the states to legislate in order to protect the safety, health, and morals of its citizens. The framers of the constitution had doubts of centralizing the power within a single governmental constitution. Therefore, when they drafted the constitution, they divided the powers exclusively to the national government, both the national and state governments, and there were powers that are reserved for the state governments only. Many of these changes were explained under the terms of the necessary proper clause, found in Section 8, Article 1 of the Constitution.

[POWERS, PRIVILEGES, DUTIES, AND RESPONSIBILITIES] As a matter of fact, the operation of the federal system here in the United States is solely about controlling and regulating the limits of authority in terms of vertical and horizontal dimensions of power. The federal government consists of three branches which are, executive, legislative and judiciary. The main function of the U.S. federal government is to create laws to maintain an orderly and stable society. The United States constitution shapes the nation’s law-making process and create institution to fulfill its functions. The executive branch, execute the laws under the leadership of the president. The legislative branch, which is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate, create the laws. Last but not the least, the judiciary branch, which includes a court system that is led by the Supreme court which determines the authority of these laws. When it comes to the nation’s economy, the federal government is the one who controls it. Again, the Congress has the authority to levy taxes, borrow money and regulate both the international and interstate trade. Most of all, the Congress was given the authority to print money and manage its value. On the other hand, the government has the major responsibility of protecting its citizens. The Constitution assigns the federal government to be in-charge of the national defense. There is a division of powers between the president and the Congress. The Congress has the right to declare war and maintain the army and navy. The president, being the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military and state militias, has the authority to place the national guards under the federal control. When it comes to the nation’s interests abroad, the federal government represents the country. The Constitution divides the authority of creating foreign policy between the executive and the legislative branches. There is a large network of embassies around the world that the state department maintains, under the instructions and policies of the president. Overall, the main responsibility of the Federal Government is to secure individual liberty of every citizen in the United States.

[IMPORTANCE and ADVANTAGES] It is important to realize that federalism is one of the most significant concepts of the U.S. Constitution. The framers of the constitution produced a federal kind of system that is composed of a national government, strong enough to merge and unite all the states in their goal to achieve the same goals. This should be done without completely robbing the states of their liberty and independence. Federalism is a system of divided responsibility. The advantages it provides the country are one of the reasons why federalism became effective through the years. First, a federal government gives more opportunities for the citizens to participate in the different parts of the government. Since the federal government manages the public policies, it also has the opportunity to lessen the disadvantages of the bad policy, and allow the dispersion of good policies. Equally important, federalism provide citizens the alternatives to work towards policy goals. Governance becomes easier since the country is divided into manageable sections. In federalism, the local issues are given more weight, in order to reflect the needs and interests of a specific region. Another importance of federalism is the encouragement it gives to diversity. This type of government is better for larger nations, since it is ideally suited to big countries like the United States. That is why it remained effective through the years. These benefits are just some of the reasons why federalism has been adopted and applied until now.

[CONCLUSION] Generally speaking, federalism can be very useful in governing large countries like America. It is a productive and effective way of fulfilling the needs of every state without allowing them to lose touch with the central government. Just like any other type of government, it needs support from its citizens too. Federalism may bring its potential for conflict as well as confusion, if it is not managed properly. The framers did not create a perfect political system for the citizens of the America. They just created one that was strong enough to handle all the needs of every state, of every family, of every individual. Sometimes, the best clue at guessing the future could be the result of carefully understanding the past. The struggle to define, organize and accomplish the political power by the government to represent the people are just as remarkable today as at any moment in the history of America. The stake for its nation and its people is very important, depending upon which level of government persuades upon a given issue. There would be conflicts and debates that will be on the edge of deadlock or become dysfunctional. Yet, despite of all these and other issues, the federal system of government remains intact as everyone debates the best way to control and manage the issue and values. At the end of the day, any government will not work effectively without the hard work of the government itself, and of its people.

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