What is Federalism?

Federalism is a mixture of government types within one single political system.

What is Federalism?

Federalism is a system of government where different sectors (usually the province or the state) share powers with the national government. Federalism is practiced when a sovereign country is made up of numerous smaller states. Each of these states has its own respective laws under which they operate while simultaneously operating under the federal law which binds them together. The system of federalism is commonly practiced in larger countries, both in terms of area and population. These countries include though are not limited to the United States, India, and Russia. While federalism exists in numerous countries all over the world, each country has its distinct definition of the system.

Where Did Federalism Originate?

European federalism originated in post-World War II Europe. However, federalism has been an important part of the government structure of the United States since the time of its constitution.

What are the Different Types of Federalism?

The history of federalism can be organized depending on the time period.

  • Duel Federalism, which was practiced from the time of the founding of the United States of America up until the Second World War
  • Cooperative Federalism, from the end of the Second World War (1945) until the 1960s
  • New Federalism, from around 1969 to present

Duel Federalism

Duel federalism is sometimes referred to as "layer-cake federalism". This is because the state government and federal governments shared mixed duties, where the roles of each branch of government are very defined. Generally, in duel federalism, the federal government is given fewer powers than they would be in other interpretations of federalism.

Cooperative Federalism

In contrast with the "layer-cake" analogy of duel federalism, cooperative federalism is sometimes referred to as a "marble cake". In this type of federalism, the state and federal levels strongly collaborate in order to reach a final decision.

New Federalism

New federalism refers to the type of federalism that is practiced in most areas of the world in the modern day. It is somewhat of a departure of the "marble cake" of cooperative federalism, as it involves the transfer of power back to the state level.

Where is Federalism Practiced?

Federalism in the United States

Federalism in the United States was established as one of the provisions of the Tenth Amendment, drafted in 1791 when the country was gaining independence from Great Britain. However, before its adoption, the bill received resistance from the Anti-Federalism movement whose members rejected the creation of a powerful federal government. Federalism in the United States has been evolving since its adoption and has morphed into various forms including dual federalism and cooperative federalism. In dual federalism, the power is shared between state and national level governments where the terms are very defined and interception on behalf of the federal government is not common. Cooperative federalism is a collective, collaborative approach to the sharing of governmental duties.

Since the late 20th century, federalism in the United States has been moving towards what is referred to New Federalism where power is drawn from the federal government and then transferred to the state governments. The movement began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in what he described as the "devolution revolution".

Federalism in Canada

While federalism was only officially adopted as law in Canada in 1982 as one of the provisions of the Canadian Bill of Rights and Freedoms, the system of government was conceptualized as early as 1864 during the Quebec Resolutions. The early leadership in Canada favored a unitary system of governance, but upon witnessing the American Civil War, they began the process to establish the current federal system. Canada is one of the few countries in the world who practices a federal monarchy where the jurisdiction of the Crown - the sole conveyor of sovereignty in the country - is devolved to all territories and provinces. There also exists 11 crowns which represent the ten jurisdictions present in the country; 10 represent the provinces while 1 represents the country as a whole. In a case where conflict arises between the federal government and the provincial governments, the federal government takes precedence if the constitution offers no solution.

Federalism in the European Union

While the European Union has numerous characteristics of a federation, the system in which the EU operates is a hybrid of supra-nationalism and intergovernmentalism and therefore is not a de jure federation. Some institutions developed by the European Union such as the European Court of Justice have precedence over all member states, a characteristic seen in most federal systems. However, the founders of the EU intended to create a unified European state as one of the solutions to prevent a repeat of the Second World War which was particularly caused by nationalism inspired by extreme ideologies.

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