Federalism

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“This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.” These words, spoken by Alexander Hamilton in a speech at the New York Ratifying Convention in 1788, exemplify the vital role of federalism, or the political system in which national and regional governments share governing power and are considered independent equals, in the United States government. After the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the founding fathers rejected other systems of government, such as a confederacy. However, the framers of the Constitution were hesitant to grant the federal government an excessive amount of power as they had just fought a difficult battle for independence from a unitary system of government in Great Britain. In fear of tyranny, the founding fathers eventually compromised on a federal model of government a system of checks and balances and separated powers into the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of federal government. State governments were made equal partners to the federal government, which granted states independent power to make decisions, dividing power even farther between national and sub national governments. Federalism allowed the founders to have a strong national government while also dispersing power to independent smaller state governments, which ensured no one federal branch or state government could overpower any other sector of government. For the United States, a federalist political system has been very beneficial, and has been one of the major reasons America has prospered to such an extent and has now become the world hegemon.

Although the founding fathers of the United States implemented a federalist government, various countries have different systems of government. While it is true that sovereign governments govern most nations, meaning the government doesn’t rely on any other government for power or authority, most political systems have multiple layers and levels. For example, confederacies are political systems in which regional governments wield power. A confederacy is comprised of independent, sovereign governments or states, and the central government relies on the regional governments for power. Prior to the Constitution, the United States was ruled under a confederacy with the Articles of Confederation. In our confederacy, the national government consisted of a legislature and each state had equal representation in the legislature. There was no executive or judicial branch in the federal government, meaning there was no president and there was no Supreme Court. The United States experimented with a confederate system of government for about a decade after the Revolutionary War, and the South implemented a confederate government after its succession from the Union in the Civil War. Although a confederate government didn’t work in the United States due to the lack of a strong central government, countries such as Switzerland and Belgium currently have a confederacy and this form of government has been very successful for them.

Another form of government is a unitary system, which is a government in which power is concentrated in a single central government. In unitary political systems, the central government holds basically all of the authority over the country. Although regional, state, and local governments do exist, they only have power over elements that the central government grants them power over. The local, regional, and state governments are not sovereign governments like we see in the confederate system. Some local and regional governments within unitary systems wield a good deal of power...
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