The concept of federalism
Federalism is a government system where power is shared between the national government and other smaller entities such as states or provinces within the same constituent. Under the principle of federalism, power and authority are shared such that each unit is delegated with the power that only it can exercise while other powers are shared. Usually, the overarching national government is supreme and is accorded broader governance and holds power on certain issues while states and cities are left to handle local matters.
The government of the United States of America operates under the principle of federalism. It encompasses over 83,000 separate units at the municipal, regional, state, federal, and other smaller units, including school districts and special districts such as water and land conservation. From the Supreme court to the local government, federalism allows all the different units to exercise authority separately while still working together to better the nation.
But the United States has not always been a republic. Initially, it operated under the articles of confederation, where each state had its own autonomous government. Even today, federalism is still not mentioned in the US constitution, but it is implied through its articles. The constitution addresses the relationship between federal and state governments, but the Americans are subject to different jurisdictions. This means that they have to obey the laws of national and local governments. For instance, citizens are subject to both national and local income taxes.
The concept of federalism was created by some of America’s leading thinkers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton when the United States’ first constitution was being drafted. Hamilton and other Federalists advocated for a stronger national government while their opponents, the anti-federalists, wanted the state to retain most power. In the end, the federalists won the argument, and federalism was born after the constitution was ratified in 1790. Through the seven articles, the constitution specifies the division of powers between the federal and state governments. However, while the state and local governments retain some power, federal laws always supersede all other laws.
Federalism was a compromise between national and local governments to balance federal and state power and eliminate the disadvantages associated with Unitary and confederal governments. But even though federalism portrays a perfect balance between national and state governments, power struggles are still very common. In the United States, the issue has, for decades, been debated without any proper consensus. Today, only under thirty countries, including the United States, Australia, Germany, Canada, and Mexico, have adopted federal government systems.