Chapter 03 - Federalism
1. Governmental Structure
1. The single most persistent source of conflict in U.S. politics since the adoption of the Constitution has been the relations between the national and state governments.
2. Today, an effort is underway to reduce national gov’t powers, giving more strength to the states; this effort is known as devolution.
1. Some proposals give states block grants in which states get money that they can spend in any way they want—as long as it is within broad guidelines set by Congress.
3. Federalism is the political system in which local units of government and a national government make final decisions with ...view middle of the document...
1. Federalism allows people to pass laws according to local interest, and even though some may pass bad laws, others may pass laws to counteract the previous “bad” laws.
2. EXAMPLE: In England and France, local groups would have no success in trying to ban the landing of Concorde jets in local airports, but in the U.S., such groups have actually won.
5. According to James Madison, since there are so many diverse interests, only a large government (like the U.S.) can adequately have the maximum number of sides to be heard, as opposed to small nations, where not as many interests could be known and argued.
6. Federalism is more likely to get the average Joe interested in politics because there is a more likely chance that what Joe does will have an effect on politics and on his life.
1. This is due to the numerous elected representatives in all levels of gov’t.
2. The Founding
1. To the founding fathers, federalism seemed the perfect way to protect personal liberty, since concentrating all power into one hand (even one popularly elected hand) might prove to be tyrannical; while working under a confederation, or an alliance of states where the state governments are more powerful than the national governments, could totally prevent progress.
2. The Founders envisioned federalism as a system in which both national and state governments would have certain powers, but neither would have supreme authority over the other.
1. In Federalist No. 46, Madison argued that state and national governments were simply different agents and trustees of the people, who held the ultimate power.
2. In Federalist No. 28, Alexander Hamilton explained that, in federalism, people would shift their support between national and state governments to keep the two in balance.
3. Actually, this was a brand-new plan in which no one really knew how it would work; little discussion of it actually took place, and few people even used the word “federalism” to mean what we mean today.
1. In fact, it wasn’t until the 10th Amendment that states actually received power; in that amendment, all power not given to the national gov’t are given to the states.
2. On the other hand, it seems that the national government has usually retained these “other powers” anyway, despite what is said, due to support from the courts.
3. The language used to describe national/state government relationships was vague, and it was later left up to the courts to interpret it.
4. Knowing that they could not possibly list every single power that Congress could have, the Founding Fathers added the elastic clause: “Congress shall have the power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”
1. Coming out of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, different views...