Since the birth of the United States, the issue over how strong the national government should be has always been a controversial one. While some believe that decentralization will inevitably lead to chaos, others contend that a powerful central government will inevitably become a tyranny. Although the United States would wholeheartedly embrace the idea of a loose alliance of independent states at first, the many glaring problems that the nation faced under the Articles of Confederation would quickly change the minds of many Americans. Indeed, the nation's confederal system of government was eventually rejected and replaced by federalism, a political philosophy that calls for a sharing of power between the national government and the smaller state and local governments. But how should this power be shared? Who should have the final say in the event of a dispute? As they have throughout history, these questions continue to divide Americans to this day. In this essay, three of the problems that the Constitution solved will be described in detail and the modern issue of the rights of the disabled will be used as an example of a disagreement between national authorities who are interested in fulfilling the needs of the entire country and state authorities who do not want the central government to undermine their right to address regional problems on their own.
When the United States won its independence from Great Britain, her leaders were quick to throw out the idea of a powerful central government. After all, the people of every prior civilization in history that chose to adopt a unitary system of government would find themselves subjected to despotism after a very short period of time. The Americans, a people whose desire for liberty motivated their fight for self-determination, were desperate to make sure that they would never follow that path. It therefore seemed that a confederation with an extremely weak central government was the only logical choice for the Americans. After only a few years under the Articles of Confederation, however, it became apparent that the confederal system that the Americans had adopted had many serious problems. These problems would soon cause the nation to spiral into pandemonium. It quickly became clear to the leaders of the United States that a more powerful national government would be needed if their newly founded nation was to survive. Supporters of a strong federal government met in Philadelphia, where they would draft the Constitution, a groundbreaking document that introduced the policy of federalism, which called for equally powerful national and state governments that would be able to cooperate with each other and check each others' power. After several months of heated debate, the leaders of every state would ratify the Constitution and agree to make the Constitution the most important legal document in the country. The Constitution was able to solve many of the problems that came with decentralization. For example, disputes between different states over issues such as trade often crippled the nation before the ratification of the Constitution. States did everything in their power to make their rival states suffer economically and politically and there was absolutely nothing that the ineffective central government could do about it. After the Constitution was adopted, disputes between different states would never be able to escalate out of control again due to the fact that the Constitution grants the national government the power to settle conflicts between states. In addition, the Constitution addressed the economic issues that the United States was dealing with. After the expensive Revolutionary War, the United States was left with many debts to pay off. According to the Articles of Confederation, however, states did not have to give any money to the federal government. Because of its lack of taxing power, the national government had no means by which to earn revenue or pay...
Cited: "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Aug. 2006. Wikimedia Foundation. 3 Sept. 2006.
"Tennessee v. Lane." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 11 Aug. 2006. Wikimedia Foundation. 3 Sept. 2006.
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