Federalism in the United States is a complex and ever-changing network of relations between national, state, and local governments. Federalism requires that state and local governments play a role in nearly every policy area. To fight the War on Terror, for example, the FBI, a federal organization, seeks to cooperate with state and local police forces. Worries about an impending avian flu epidemic have state health agencies and local hospitals working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Department of Health. Even federal tax cuts affect state governments because states rely on the federal government for financial help. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to figure out where one level of government ends and the others begin. There are three ways to organize power among national (or central) and state (regional or local) governments: unitary, federal, and confederal. Unitary governments concentrate almost all government power into a single national government, whereas confederal systems disperse government power to regional or local governments. The federal system, also known as federalism, divides power between national and state governments. Under federalism, each level of government is independent and has its own powers and responsibilities, because it is often not clear whether a state or national government has jurisdiction on a particular matter, the national and state governments alternate between cooperating and competing with each other. THREE GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS |
System| Description| Examples|
Unitary| Concentrates all power in the hands of the national government; state governments (if they exist at all) merely follow the orders of the national government| Japan, France, Sweden, Saudi Arabia| Federal| Regional and national governments both have real power, but the national government is usually supreme over the regional governments | United States, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, India, Germany| Confederal| Diffuses nearly all the power to the state governments; the national government merely keeps the states loosely bound together | The Confederate States of America, the United Nations, the European Union| The Constitutional Basis of Federalism: The U.S. Constitution does not use the term federalism, nor does it provide extensive details about the federal system. Nevertheless, the framers helped created a federalist system in the United States, particularly in the ways the Constitution allocates power. The National Government
Article VI of the Constitution declares that the Constitution and any laws passed under it form the “supreme Law of the Land” in a passage called the supremacy clause. This clause implies that the national government has authority over the state governments. The Constitution grants the national government several different kinds of powers and prohibits it from taking certain actions. The Constitution outlines four major types of power: enumerated, implied, inherent, and prohibited. THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT’S POWERS|
Type| Key Clause| Explanation| Examples|
Enumerated (expressed)| Article I, Section 8| Powers explicitly granted to Congress| Declare war, coin money, levy taxes, regulate interstate commerce| Implied| Necessary and proper (Article I, Section 8)| Powers that Congress has assumed in order to better do its job | Regulate telecommunications, build interstate highways| Inherent| Preamble| Powers inherent to a sovereign nation| Defend itself from foreign and domestic enemies| Prohibited| Article I, Section 9| Powers prohibited to the national government| Suspend the writ of habeas corpus, tax exports| Enumerated Powers
In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution specifically grants Congress a number of different powers, now known as the enumerated powers. The enumerated powers include the power to declare war, coin money, and regulate interstate commerce. Because these powers are...