Federalism which is an important aspect of the U.S constitution is a system of government whereby power is divided between the central government and regional governments. It consists of the 50 recognized states and the national government and the 50 states. It can also be seen as a compromise between the most powerful and the loose alliance of independent states to govern diverse people spread out over a large area. It has the aspect of allowing the central government to handle issues and still maintain traditions, local pride, and power. German and Canada are among other nations with a federal system, and in which each government has its authority.
In the post-modern days, most governmental functions remained with the states. However, this day with the American federalism these functions are much more centralized. It has subordinated the state to the central government in by regulating businesses between states and managing foreign affairs. It is as a result of federalism that there is real cooperation between state and national governments in projects concerning education, interstate road construction, environmental conservation and health.
According to the U.S. Constitution, its federal government was created to serve a community of states. The Framers of this new government did not rely on political theory in the creation of the federal system of governance; rather it was just a political concession aimed at reaching an agreement among them (Kozlowski & Weber, 2010, p. 95). Under the federal system powers assigned to the Senate are called enumerated powers and are stated under Article I of the Constitution. The states’ powers are reserved powers while the powers shared by both the federal and state governments are referred to as concurrent powers.
As it is in Section 8 of Article I, these powers cover a wide range and entail the authority of Congress to collect the tax, spend, and borrow. All the other powers belong to the states.
However, the federal system of power division is not very clear; this is because the enumerated powers can be enlarged by the knowledge that it possesses implied powers also, which are not explicitly stated.
Authority to tax, spend and borrow funds is among these powers. Charter corporations and judicial are run by entity state governments. Moreover, more authority was preserved for by the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to state governments.
These are set aside for the states. Although they are not listed individually, they are guaranteed by the 10 amendment. They include regulating commerce within a state, establishing local government, and holding elections. They are also called police powers since they protect safety of citizens. Before the federalism period, America waged to struggle for independence and customizes an alliance form of government. Back in 1861- 1865, some of the issues that triggered to the Civil War were associated with federalism. Most citizens saw it worthy for decisions such as legalizing slavery not to be left in the hands of the state government alone. Humanitarians believed that the reason the state governments had power over the federal government was because the states had endorsed the Constitution to allow the existence of the federal government in the first place. This brought about many Southern states to withdraw from the Union as they believed their withdrawal would guarantee the protection of their rights. However Abraham Lincoln held on to the Union and its triumph gave the federal governments more power over the states.
In the late 1780s, Hamilton proposed a Second Report on the Public Credit where he suggested of chartering a nationwide bank. According to him, the national bank was not to be lending out money but to store federal funds. The source of the money was the general public, but willing private investors would loan it. The bank was to serve as a reservoir to deposit collected levy and issue soft loans to the government in cases income shortages. Rivals to these viewed as hazardous as according to them it was made to only benefit interest of Southern agricultural growth at the expense Northern business (Ewald, 2009). These disagreements about the National Bank went further to questioning the as Hamilton rivals also argued that Congress did not have the mandate to establish a financial institution. Their argument was hit a hard rock on the tenth amendment which clarified all privileges that were not endowed to Congress go directly to the states.
About 30 years before 1819 Framers’ vision of federalism was quite clear as the Constitution was being approved and it is referred to as an era of the State-Centered Federalism. During this period state government was to have complete sovereignty over all matters that dealt with health, security and welfare of individuals. It was undeniably hard to imagine the Constitution being confirmed by the fundamental number of states if it called for any further subordination of customary state authority. The national government had limited powers during the infant stage of Constitution’s history. Nevertheless, it is this period that states maintained their principal authoritativeness for American’s. And at least, each state controlled its issues, with very minimum meddling from the federal government.
In conclusion, a proper distribution of powers between the national and state governments will accommodate the needs of a diverse range of citizens. For instance, a citizen of the United States can also feel proud of being a citizen of California or any other state that has an entirely different culture. In addition, a proper division of power strengthens liberty as it makes it hard for any corruption or embezzlement between the separate branches of governments to last long. Thus the existence of distinct levels of government, combined with the independent judicial, executive, and legislative powers wit, guarantees the protection of individuals.
- Ewald, A. C. (2009). Criminal Disenfranchisement and the Challenge of American Federalism.Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 39(3)
- Kozlowski, D. J., & Weber, J. L. (2010). Federalism. New York: Chelsea House.