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Ryan Wiseman
When it comes to the system of federalism that we practice in the United States, there are many advantages as well as
disadvantages. Some of the pros and cons of federalism will be given, with reasons as to why it is believed that the
benefits of federalism outweight its detriments.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of federalism, as a form of government, and do the advantages outweigh the
disadvantages? There are many advantages and disadvantages to our federal system of government, the benefits of
which many believe outweigh the negatives. Below are the reasons why this may be the case, but before we dive into why
the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages of federalism, let's first look at the list of the positives and negatives, the
pros and cons, of federalism, many of which are listed elsewhere.
Benefits of Federalism:

As a Protection Against Tyranny One of the most important points of federalism in dividing the power between
the national government and state governments, and spreading the national governments power among three
branches that serve as a check and balance on each other, is that it serves as a deterrent to tyranny and runaway
power. The protections we have in our system against a tyrannical, runaway government are one of the most
important points to why the system was designed the way it was.

Diffusing Power The form of federalism that we have in our country, where power is shared with state
governments, and where the federal government is separated into three branches, serves as a means to make
sure that all power is not centralized into a single person or group of people, since excessive power among a
single group tends to be corrupting.

Increasing Citizen Participation By not centralizing all power into the hands of a national government, but
sharing that power with state governments, which are closer to the level of the common citizen, our founders
actually increased a citizens ability to effect their government, government policy, and lawmaking.

More Efficient When some of the power of the government is dispersed among the states, giving states the
right to solve some of their own problems, you allow for more efficiency within the system. To try to have a
national solution to all problems, which could be refered to as a cookie-cutter method of law and policy making,
you end up with solutions that are more effective in some states, and less effective in others. To allow states to
create solutions to their own problems, using policies and laws that work best in their state, means that each state
can come up with its own solution, making government more efficient.


Conflict Management By allowing different communities and states to create their own policies, they allow for
people with irreconcilable differences, or very strong disagreements, to live in separate areas, and create their
own solutions, or policies, that would be totally disagreeable to the other people in other states or regions of the

Innovation in Law and Policy is Encouraged By allowing for many state governments, different sets of
policies can be tried, and the ones found most effective at solving its problems can then be implemented in other
states, or on the national level. Imagine Christopher Columbus trying to get funding to voyage across the Atlantic
Ocean if there was a unified Europe back then, with its head saying no! to him; instead, he had several
governments from which he could try to get his funding he got turned down by several governments before
Spain gave him the okay. The same principle applies today with our many states something that is rejected in
one state can most likely be tried in another state, with competition leading the way, based on effectiveness of
those laws.

State Governments Can be More Responsive to Citizen Needs The closer a government entity is to its
citizens, the more likely it is the respond to the needs of citizens. States are more likely to listen to citizen needs,
and respond to them, than the national government would be.

Negatives of Federalism:

It had a History of Protecting Slavery and Segregation This is often cited as one of the main detriments of
the system of federalism that we have in this country, that since slavery was a state issue, it was something that
could not be removed on the national level.

It Allows for Inequalities Between Different States For example, instead of education funding throughout the
country being the same, since it is a state issue, some states will spend more, per capita, on education than other
states, causing what could be considered a disparity. The same goes for other things, as well, such as taxes,
health care programs, and welfare programs.

The Blockage of Nationalist Policies by States States can fight against the existence of certain national laws
by challenging them in court, or going out of their way to not enforce those national laws, or even deliberately
obstructing enforcement of national laws.

Racing to the Bottom One argument given is that states will compete with each other in an oppositional way,
by reducing the amount of benefits they give to welfare recipients compared to, say, a neighboring state,


motivating the undesirables to go to the neighboring state, thereby reducing their welfare costs even more. This
reduction of state benefits to needy has been deemed the race to the bottom.
Now you know what some of the arguments are for and against the type of power-sharing system of federalism that is
found in the United States. Since many Americans are strong supporters of this type of federalist government, let's give
some counterarguments to the negative arguments given.
Counterarguments to the Negatives of Federalism:

The Protection of Slavery and Segregation My argument against this is that the ability for a national
government to share its power with state powers is a completely separate issue than the issue of slavery that
the U.S. Constitution could have, if our founding fathers were able to (which they werent), put the issue of slavery
and segregation on the national level, and eventually eliminating it nationally, rather than the state level, all while
continuing to have the national government share power with state governments. In other words, the effectiveness
of federalism is a different issue than the issue of slavery.

Inequalities Between States Of course there are going to be inequalities between states. For example, you
may have a state full of people that are hard-working and self-sufficient, who have citizens who have a philosophy
of approaching their closely-tied family members when in trouble, rather than the distant and impersonal
government, because they dont want to become slaves of their government, and so welfare benefits and tax
policy will tend to be lower in that state. There is also a tendency for politicians, when times are good, and tax
revenue is higher than state spending, to, instead of lowering taxes at that point, or putting that extra money away
for a rainy day (economic downturn), to use that surplus to create a new government program, to motivate the
voting public to want to vote him/her back in office during the next election cycle, thus creating a culture of
government dependency, which puts them in a different boat than the lower-taxed, less-government states.

States Blocking National Policies We can see that even today as we watch states challenging the health care
reform laws passed by the federal government under President Obama and the formerly Democratic-controlled
legislative branch. I would argue that this is not a bad thing, but is, in fact, a benefit of our system of federalism. If
we had only a national government, there would be no states to challenge what some might consider to be bad
law of course, special interest groups have had a history of challenging laws they dont like, so if no states were
able to challenge national law, then there would still be the chance that a special interest group would step in and
do that. In other words, I dont see states blocking national policies as a negative, but as a positive, as another
hurdle that laws have to go through to determine whether they are good laws or not, thereby putting another


check and balance in place hindering bad law it doesnt matter whether it is a conservative state challenging
liberal federal laws, or liberal states challenging conservative federal laws.

Racing to the Bottom Yes, there is a competition between states that drive them to lower taxes as much as
possible, and give as many tax breaks to businesses moving in as possible, in order to draw businesses from
other states to that state. This competition can be seen as a means to keep the taxes low, much like competition
in the free market helps to keep prices low and quality high this same scenario can be beneficial to state
governments competing as well. As for welfare and government programs that some states have more of than
others that tend to drive up tax costs (*see note below), like Ive said before, these programs tend to be higher in
states where politicians have had more chance to use surplus tax revenues as a reason to create new
government programs, and thus increase the possibility to create dependency on government, as a means to get
re-elected. Whether lowering welfare benefits causes welfare recipients to move to another state there's really
not very much of this going on; besides, if a person doesnt want to work, do you think theyll work hard to get to
another state? Sometimes its better to force a person to go out and get a job rather than sit on their duff and
depend on government provisions it will help keep those people out of trouble because theyre working now, and
increase state, and federal income tax revenues, as well as sales tax revenues, while lowering welfare

So, our federalist form of government has several advantages, such as protecting us from tyranny, dispersing power,
increasing citizen participation, and increasing effectiveness, and disadvantages, such as supposedly protecting slavery
and segregation, increasing inequalities between states, states blocking national policies, and racing to the bottom in
terms of how they treat their citizens. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? I believe so. I support the system
of federalism, agreeing with the benefits, and doing my best to give counterarguments to the disadvantages, in order to
negate them. All in all, I think our system is superior even to the parliamentary and cabinet system found in the United
Kingdom, as well the confederation system found in Canada, as well as the one preceding our present system.
*NOTE: Politics, as I see it, goes through a certain cycle, which is just as likely to occur on the state level as it does on the
national level. The cycle goes something like this: 1) taxes are set at a certain level to pay for government and its present
programs; 2) then the economy picks up, and tax revenues provide a surplus to the state (this includes revenues that
come from federal government grant-in-aid programs that are formula-driven matching grants) ; 3) then the politicians,
instead of lowering the tax rate, or saving excess monies for a later time of economic downturn, decide to use that extra
money to create a new government program that wins over the voting public so that they can re-elect him/her; 4) the
voting public starts to get used to the new government program, depending on it and eventually taking it for granted; 5)
then when the next economic downturn arrives, since the state now is running a deficit, the politicians have to convince
the voting public that they need to raise taxes to cover the deficit, or face losing a program that they now depend on, in


which case the public usually concedes to higher taxes in order to keep that program running; 6) then the taxes are once
again set at a proper level to pay for government and its present programs, causing the cycle to start over once again.
This cycle tends to be more likely in more liberal states, and in states that are more likely to be affected by recessions of
that states primary economic sectors, have less of a culture of self-sufficiency, and dont have term limit laws, as well as a
host of other similar things. The result is that, over time, the tax rate in all of the states continues to get higher and higher
without end, never getting lower, but always higher.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism

Advantages and Disadvantages

Federalism is a form of government that allows for more than one central entity to have power. What this means is that
there is a federal government who is above all others, and smaller, more localized forms of governments that take control
of local and regional issues. The idea behind this is to be able to better suit the needs of each area of the country, but
some issues certainly arise. The over all idea of a federalist government is a great one, but lets take a look at both sides
of the issue.

The Advantages of Federalism

1. A Better Understanding
The central government has no true way to understand what issues and changes need to be made in every area of the
country. This is why federalism is such a great advantage. The smaller branches of the local governments are right in the
middle of the local society. They are better suited to deal with the true things that need to be changed.
2. Separation of Power
One huge characteristic of federalism is the checks and balances that are in play. By not allowing one body of government
to hold all power over the country, you help to prevent any harmful and negative things from happening to some areas of
the country. This is why having multiple sectors of the government is so important in federalism.
3. People Feel More Involved
In a democracy people have a large say in what happens within the government. Federalism creates smaller local
governments, and allows people to feel even more involved in the decisions and every day workings of their government.
This makes people much more proud and excited about their country.

The Disadvantages of Federalism

1. Conflict of Authority
The biggest problem that arises when you have two bodies in power is the power struggle. Each sector wants to assert


their power over the other. This can cause things like strikes and make the government much less effective than it could
normally be.
2. Regionalism Over Patriotism
The mark of a great country is just how patriotic and prideful the citizens are to be a part of it. Federalism, since it
promotes smaller level of government, it also promotes smaller levels of pride. It can begin to pit one region against
another and take away from the feeling of patriotism that should be present all over the entire country.
3. A Lack of Accountability
With the responsibility of the government being shared, it becomes very easy for one sector to release responsibility for
the other, and vice versa. This can become a very large problem because if something goes wrong, both sides of the
government can relinquish control for the responsibility.
4. Compromise Isnt Good
With two bodies of power fighting against each other, many things result in a compromise on important issues.
Compromise, while sometimes can be a good thing, when you are dealing with life changing and vital policies,
compromises will just not cut it.
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Important Facts About Federalism

Alexander Hamilton was the person whose beliefs and ideas federalism was based off of.
The three powers that federalism is split into is national, state, and concurrent.
States are considered their own government entirely.
However, state governments are no where near equal to a national government.

Advantages v Disadvantages of federalism

advantages of federalism

it provides more protection for individual rights

it provides more protection against dangerous leaders (demagogues or tyrants) and gridlock, the
inability of government to advance policies and solutions


it is more responsive to the needs and desires of its citizens, it can match policies to local
conditions and values without having a "one size fits all" national policy

it gives people more choices; each state can offer different services at different costs (taxes) to
support them

disadvantages of federalism

can foster problems with coordination between national and state authority. Each level of
government can have overlapping rules and regulations or a patchwork of inconsistent policies
that leaves its citizens in bewilderment

with 50 different states some of them will have poor policies while others will have good policies.
Some states will be corrupt, unresponsive, or just ineffective

can lead to inequities between the levels of government with vast differences in laws and
methods of enforcement

competition between the states can lead to fewer services for the poor to favor lower taxes in
order to attract more and better businesses

Why do we have state and local governments? Why not govern the entire nation from Washington? Why not have a
unitary governmenta centralized regime responsible to all the people and capable of carrying out uniform policies
throughout the country? Advantages of Federalism The argument for American federalismfor dividing powers between
national and state governments (and for further dividing state powers among many types of local governments)centers
on the advantages of decentralization, which are as follows: 1. Federalism permits diversity. Local governments may deal
directly with local problems. The entire nation is not straitjacketed with a uniform policy to which every state and
community must conform. State and local governments may be better suited to deal with specific state and local
problems. Washington bureaucrats do not always know the best solution for problems in Commerce, Texas. 2. Federalism
helps manage conflict. Permitting states and communities to pursue their own policies reduces the pressures that would
build up in Washington if the national government had to decide everything. Federalism permits citizens to decide many
things at the state and local levels of government and avoid battling over single national policies to be applied uniformly
throughout the land. 3. Federalism disperses power. The widespread distribution of power is generally regarded as a
protection against tyranny. To the extent that pluralism thrives in the United States, state and local governments have
contributed to its success. State and local governments also provide a political base for the survival of the opposition party
when it loses national elections. 4. Federalism increases political participation. It allows more people to run for and hold
political office. Nearly a million people hold some kind of political office in counties, cities, townships, school districts, and
special districts. These local leaders are often regarded as closer to the people than Washington officials. Public opinion
polls show that Americans believe that their local governments are more manageable and responsive than the national
government. 5. Federalism improves efficiency. Even though we may think of eighty thousand governments as inefficient,
governing the entire nation from Washington would be even worse. Imagine the bureaucracy, red tape, delays, and
confusion if every government activity in every community in the nationpolice, schools, roads, fire departments, garbage
collections, sewage disposal, street lighting, and so onwere controlled by a central government in Washington. Even in
the Soviet Union, where centralized discipline and party control are a matter of political ideology, leaders have been forced
to resort to decentralization simply as a practical matter. Moreover, federalism encourages experimentation and innovation


in public policy in the states. Disadvantages of Federalism However, federalism has its drawbacks. 1. Federalism allows
special interests to protect their privileges. For many years, segregationists used the argument of states' rights to avoid
federal laws designed to guarantee equality and prevent discrimination. Indeed, the states' rights argument has been used
so often in defense of racial discrimination that it has become a code word for racism. 2. Federalism allows local leaders
to frustrate national policy. They can obstruct not only civil right policies but also policies in areas as diverse as energy,
poverty, and pollution. 3. Federalism allows the benefits and costs of government to be spread unevenly. Some states
spend more than twice as much per capita as other states on education. Even in the same state, some wealthy school
districts spend two or three times as much as poorer districts. The taxes in some states are much higher than in other
states; five states have no state income tax at all. 4. Federalism creates disadvantages in poorer states and communities,
which generally provide lower levels of education, health, and welfare services; police protection; and environmental
protection than wealthier states and communities. 5. Federalism obstructs action on national issues. Although
decentralization may reduce conflict at the national level, some very serious national issues may be swept under the rug.
For many years, decentralizing the issue of civil rights allowed segregation to flourish. Only when the issue was
nationalized in the 1960s by the civil rights movement was there any significant progress. Minorities can usually expect
better treatment by national agencies than by state or local authorities. CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF FEDERALISM
The importance of formal constitutional arrangements should not be underestimated. However, the American federal
system is also shaped by the interpretations placed on constitutional principles. The real meaning of American federalism
has emerged in the heat of political conflict between the states and the nation. Implied Federal Powers Political conflict
over the scope of national power is as old as the nation itself. In 1790 Alexander Hamilton, as secretary of the treasury,
proposed the establishment of a national bank. Congress acted on Hamilton's suggestion in 1791, establishing a national
bank to serve as a depository for federal money and to aid the federal government in borrowing funds. Jeffersonians
believed that the national bank was a dangerous centralization in government. They objected that the power to establish it
was nowhere to be found in the delegated powers of Congress. Jefferson argued that Congress had no constitutional
authority to establish a bank, because a bank was not "indispensably necessary" in carrying out its delegated functions.
Hamilton replied that Congress could derive the power to establish a bank from grants of authority in the Constitution
relating to money, in combination with the clause authorizing Congress "to make all laws which will be necessary and
proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers." Jefferson interpreted the word necessary to mean indispensable,
but Hamilton argued that the national government had the right to choose the manner and means of performing its
delegated functions and was not restricted to employing only those means considered indispensable in the performance
of its functions. The question eventually reached the Supreme Court in 1819, when Maryland levied a tax on the national
bank and the bank refused to pay it. In the case of McCulloch v. Maryland, Chief Justice John Marshall accepted the
broader Hamiltonian version of the necessary-and-proper clause; "Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of
the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adopted to that end, which are not prohibited but
consistent with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional." The McCulloch case firmly established the
principle of implied powersthat the necessary-and-proper clause gives Congress the right to choose its means for
carrying out the delegated powers of the national government. Today Congress can devise programs, create agencies,
and establish national laws on the basis of long chains of reasoning from the most meager phrases of the constitutional
text, all because of the broad interpretation of the necessary-and-proper clause. National Supremacy The case of
McCulloch v. Maryland also made a major contribution to the interpretation of the national supremacy clause. Chief
Justice Marshall held that a Maryland tax on the national bank was unconstitutional on the grounds that it interfered with a
national activity being carried out under the Constitution and laws "made in Pursuance thereof." Thus Maryland's state tax
law was declared unconstitutional because it conflicted with the federal law establishing the national bank. From
Marshall's time to the present, the national supremacy clause has meant that states cannot refuse to obey federal laws.
Secession and Civil War The Civil War was the greatest crisis of the American federal system. Did a state have the right to
oppose national law to the point of secession? In the years preceding the war, John C. Calhoun argued that the
Constitution was a compact made by the states in their sovereign capacity rather than by the people in their national


capacity. Calhoun contended that the federal government was an agent of the states and the states retained their
sovereignty in this compact; and that the federal government must not violate the compact, under penalty of state
nullification or even secession. Calhoun's doctrine was embodied in the constitution of the Confederacy, which began with
the words "We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in
order to form a permanent federal government. . . ." This wording contrasts with the preamble of the U.S. Constitution:
"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union. . . ." What was decided on the battlefields
between 1861 and 1865 was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1869: "Ours is an indestructible union, composed of
indestructible states." Yet the states' rights doctrine and the political disputes over the character of American federalism
did not disappear with General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth
amendments, passed by the Reconstruction Congress, were clearly aimed at limiting state power in the interests of
individual freedom. The Thirteenth Amendment eliminated slavery in the states; the Fifteenth Amendment prevented
states from denying the vote on the basis of race, color, or previous enslavement; and the Fourteenth Amendment
declared: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United
States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." These amendments delegated to Congress the power to
secure their enforcement. Yet for several generations, they were narrowly construed and added little, if anything, to
national power. By tacit agreement, after southern states demonstrated their continued political importance in the disputed
presidential election of 1876, the federal government refrained from using its power to enforce these civil rights. Civil
Rights After World War II, however, the Supreme Court began to build a national system of civil rights based on the
Fourteenth Amendment. The Court had held that the Fourteenth Amendment prevented states from interfering with free
speech, free press, and religious practices. Not until 1954, however, in the desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of
Education of Topeka, did the Court begin to call for the full assertion of national authority on behalf of civil rights. When the
Court decided that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited the states from segregating the races in public schools, it was
asserting national authority over deeply held beliefs and long-standing practices in many of the states. The Supreme
Court used the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure a national system of civil rights supported by the power of the federal
government. This was an important step in the evolution of the American federal system. The controversy over federally
imposed desegregation in the southern states renewed the debate over states' rights versus national authority. The
vigorous resistance to desegregation in the South following Brown testified to the continued strength of the states in the
American federal system. Despite the clear mandate of the Supreme Court, the southern states succeeded in avoiding all
but token integration for more than ten years. Yet only occasionally did resistance take the form of interposition. Governor
Orval Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent a federal court from desegregating Little Rock Central
High School in 1957. But this interposition was ended quickly when President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the National
Guard removed and sent units of the U.S. Army to enforce national authority. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy took a
similar action when Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi personally barred the entry of a black student to the University
of Mississippi despite a federal court order requiring his admission. Governor George Wallace also literally stood in the
doorway to prevent desegregation at the University of Alabama but moved aside several hours later when federal
marshals arrived. These actions upheld the principle of national supremacy in the American political system. Interstate
Commerce The growth of national power under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution is also an important
development in the evolution of American federalism. The Industrial Revolution in the United States created a national
economy with a nationwide network of transportation and communications and the potential for national economic
depressions. Industrialization created interstate business that could be regulated only by the national government; this
reality was recognized in the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. Yet for a time, the Supreme Court placed
obstacles in the way of national authority over the economy and by so doing created a crisis in American federalism. For
many years, the Court narrowly construed interstate commerce to mean only the movement of goods and services across
state lines, and until the late 1930s, the Court insisted that agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and labor relations were
outside the reach of the delegated powers of the national government. However, when confronted with the Great


Depression of the 1930s and the threat of presidential attack on its membership, the Court yielded. The Court recognized
the principle that production and distribution of goods and services for a national market could be regulated by Congress
under the interstate commerce clause. Thus, the national government was given effective control over the national
economy, and today few economic activities are outside the reach of congressional power. Loss of Reserved Powers For
two hundred years, American federalism incorporated the idea of constitutionally protected state powers. The federal
government could not directly interfere with the independent powers of state governments and vice versa. An early
Supreme Court decision asserted that: "Neither government can intrude within the jurisdiction of the other or authorize any
interference therein by its judicial officers with the action of the other." This meant that Congress could not directly coerce
the states in the performance of their traditional functionseducation, streets, police and fire protection, water and
sewers, and refuse disposal. Rather Congress sought to influence state and local affairs by granting or withholding federal
aid dollars depending on whether state and community governments conformed to federal guidelines. However, in its
1985 Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority decision, the Supreme Court reversed itself and removed all
barriers to direct congressional legislation in matters traditionally "reserved" to the states. The Court dismissed the
argument that the nature of American federalism and the reserved powers clause of the Tenth Amendment prevented
Congress from directly legislating in state and local affairs. The Court held that it would no longer intervene to protect state
powers, that judicial intervention was "unworkable," and that Congress should decide how far its powers extended to state
and local affairs. Federalism's Constitutional Status Today What is left of federalism today? If there are no real
constitutional restraints on the powers of the national government, if people look primarily to the national government to
solve their problems, if the national government's superior fiscal resources give it powerful leverage over states and
communities, what remains of the federal division of power between the states and the nation? Are there any guarantees
of state power remaining in our federal system? The notion of representational federalism denies that there is any
constitutional division of powers between the states and the nation and asserts that federalism is defined by the states'
role in electing members of Congress and the president. The United States is said to retain a federal system because
national officials are selected from subunits of government; that is, the president is selected through the allocation of
electoral college votes to the states, and the Congress through the allocation of two Senate seats per state and the
apportionment of representatives to states based on population. Whatever protection exists for state power and
independence must be found in the national political processin the influence of state and district voters on their senators
and representatives. Representational federalism does not recognize any constitutionally protected powers of the states.
The Supreme Court appears to have adopted this notion of the representational federalism, especially in its Garcia
decision when it declared that there were no "a priori definitions of state sovereignty," no "discrete limitations on the
objects of federal authority," and no protection of state powers in the Constitution. According to the Court, "State sovereign
interests . . . are more properly protected by procedural safeguards inherent in the structure of the federal system than by
judicially created limitations on federal powers." The Court rhetorically endorsed a federal system but left it up to
Congress, rather than to the Constitution or the courts, to decide which powers should be exercised by the states and
which should be exercised by the national government.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism

What is Federalism?
Federalism is a political system in which the powers are divided between the central government and numerous regional
A majority of democracies around the world have a unitary system of government, wherein power is centered around the
national government. In federalism, there is a written constitution which formulates this power sharing arrangement
between the state and its units. These units, referred to as the provincial or regional governments, have the power to act
independently in certain areas of governance. In the United States too, the power is shared between the national and
regional or state governments. The local governments have exclusive powers to issue licenses, provide for public health,
conduct elections and form local governments, look after the intrastate trade, etc. This political system was adopted to
ensure greater safety and autonomy against internal and external threats.


At present, federalism is being followed not only in First World countries like USA, Australia and Canada but also in
developing countries like Mexico, India and Brazil. Contemplating a change in the governing set up of the nation, some
countries like Sri Lanka and Philippines are intently scrutinizing its advantages and disadvantages. In today's changed
environment though it does make sense to question the pros and cons of the following the federal system of governance.
Localized Governance
Every province has political, social and economic problems peculiar to the region itself. Provincial government
representatives live in proximity to the people and are most of the time from the same community, so that they are in a
better position to understand these problems and offer unique solutions for them. For example, traffic congestion in Oahu,
Hawaii is a problem that can be best solved by the local government, keeping local factors in mind, rather than by
somebody living in New York.
Local Representation
Federalism offers representation to different populations. Citizens of various provinces may have different aspirations,
ethnicity and follow different cultures. The central government can sometimes overlook these differences and adopt
policies which cater to the majority. This is where the regional government steps in. While formulating policies, local
needs, tastes and opinions are given due consideration by the state governments. Rights of the minorities are protected
too. For example, in states like Arizona where there is a large Hispanic population and therefore, a large number of
schools provide bilingual education.
Freedom to Form Policies
State governments have the freedom to adopt policies which may not be followed nationally or by any other state. For
example, same-sex marriages are not recognized by the federal government of USA but they are given legal status within
certain states like Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts.
Optimum Utilization of Resources
Division of work between the central and the regional governments leads to optimum utilization of resources. The central
government can concentrate more on international affairs and defense of the country, while the provincial government can
cater to the local needs.
Scope for Innovation and Experimentation
Federalism has room for innovation and experimentation. Two local governments can have two different approaches to
bring reforms in any area of public domain, be it taxation or education. The comparison of the results of these policies can
give a clear idea of which policy is better and thus, can be adopted in the future.
Federalism no doubt has many positives vis-a-vis communism or imperialism but still, some political scientists often raise
questions about its advantages.
Conflict of Authority
Sharing of power between the center and the states includes both advantages and disadvantages of a federal
organization. Sometimes there can be overlapping of work and subsequent confusion regarding who is responsible for
what. For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit Greater New Orleans, USA, in 2005, there was delay in the rescue work,
as there was confusion between the state governments and the federal government on who is responsible for which
disaster management work. This resulted in the loss of many lives.
Can Lead to Corruption
Federal system of government is very expensive as more people are elected to office, both at the state and the center,
than necessary. Thus, it is often said that only rich countries can afford it. Too many elected representatives with
overlapping roles may also lead to corruption.
Pitches State vs State
Federalism leads to unnecessary competition between different regions. There can be a rebellion by a regional
government against the national government too. Both scenarios pose a threat to the country's integrity.
Uneven Distribution of Wealth
It promotes regional inequalities. Natural resources, industries, employment opportunities differ from region to region.
Hence, earnings and wealth are unevenly distributed. Rich states offer more opportunities and benefits to its citizens than


poor states. Thus, the gap between rich and poor states widens.
Promotes Regionalism
It can make state governments selfish and concerned only about their own region's progress. They can formulate policies
which might be detrimental to other regions. For example, pollution from a province which is promoting industrialization in
a big way can affect another region which depends solely on agriculture and cause crop damage.
Framing of Incorrect Policies
Federalism does not eliminate poverty. Even in New York, there are poor neighborhoods like Inwood. The reason for this
may be that intellectuals and not the masses are invited by the local government during policy framing. These intellectuals
may not understand the local needs properly and thus, policies might not yield good results.
Thus, it is understandable that there have been both pros and cons of federalism in the USA. There is a general feeling
that the rights of the minorities, like blacks, are compromised in USA. But at the same time, the United States now, has a
democratically elected African-American President. Similarly, there have been advantages and disadvantages in other
countries as well. For this to be truly successful, it should be accompanied by other ideals like secularism, democracy and

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Federal Government

Politics Essay
Published: 23, March 2015
Before examining the advantages and the disadvantages of the federal state we must first define the meaning of
Federalism. "In Europe, federalist is sometimes used to describe those who favour a common federal government, with
distributed power at regional, national and supranational levels. Most European Federalists want this development to
continue within the European Union. European federalism originated in post-war Europe; one of the more important
initiatives was Winston Churchill's speech in Zurich in 1946." [1] At the same point, Federalism is a global political system
in which it contain two governmental levels by virtue of the same geographical area and the same population. Those
federal states governmental structure based on each of the central government and governments exist in the smaller
political units called States or regions, and these small political units to give some of its political power to the central
government to work for the citizens.
In the federal system, each of the central government and the state government is both drafting the laws, in the United
States for example; it is imperative on the population to obey the law approved by the authority of local legislatures and
the Congress. The federal system dividing the countries power and resources between the central government and state
governments according to specific criteria, these criteria tend towards the central government in the country and some
state governments in another country, but most federal systems provide some sort of autonomy for the states. Some other
examples of federal states such as Australia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Nigeria and Switzerland. Most of the world states
do not follow the federal system in managing their affairs, instead, they depend on the central system where all the
authorities under the central government to be responsible for provincial administrations to carry on business with local
survival of full legality. Thus, central authority system have greater force than the federal system.
Moving on to the advantages of the federal government, first of all we have to mention that the federal critics argued that
federalism is complex, slow to change, abide an uneven evolution, leading to a disparity between regions, leading to a
doubling of services and duties, a costly material, the subject of responsibilities and resources to the laws of governments


is difficult and unstable. [2] Moreover, with regard to the criticisms, although some of them are logical and correct, they do
not live up to the negatives experienced by the Central States, and is nothing compared with the positive pattern provided
by the federal government, especially for multiple countries, cultures and peoples.
Another advantage is that " Federalism offers representation to different populations. Citizens of various provinces may
have different aspirations, ethnicity and follow different cultures. The central government can sometimes overlook these
differences and adopt policies which cater to the majority. This is where the regional government steps in. While
formulating policies, local needs, tastes and opinions are given due consideration by the state governments. Rights of the
minorities are protected too." [3] What is more, the second good advantage of federal government is that of it existence in
a state; the central government can concentrate more on International affairs while the regional government can
concentrate on organizing the local needs. Also, " Federalism has room for innovation and experimentation. Two local
governments can have two different approaches to bring reforms in any area of public domain, be it taxation or education.
The comparison of the results of these policies can give a clear idea of which policy is better and thus, can be adopted in
the future." [4]
We can summarize the benefits of federal systems in the fact that it helps to Lead to the spread of security and internal
peace, Develop common values, Encourage or lead to democratic pluralism, Protect and lead to a moderation between
the differences, The losers are turning to the winners at the level of the region and finally, it get the government closer to
the people.
On the other hand, the federal government comes with also some disadvantages. Federal system can lead to duplication
of government and inefficient, over-lapping or contradictory policies in different parts of the country. Also, It can lead to
inequality between the states and lead to damaging competition and rivalry between them. [5]
" Sharing of power between the centre and the states includes both advantages and disadvantages of federation.
Sometimes there can be overlapping of work and subsequent confusion regarding who is responsible for what." [6] At the
same point, " Federal system of government is very expensive as more people are elected to office, both at the state and
the centre, than necessary. Thus, it is often said that only rich countries can afford it. Too many elected representatives
with overlapping roles may also lead to corruption." [7] Not to mention, the raise of the competition amongst different
regions, so ; there can be a rebellion by a regional government against the national government too. Both scenarios pose
a threat to the countries integrity. [8] Another disadvantage is that, " Federalism promotes regional inequalities. Natural
resources, industries, employment opportunities differ from region to region. Hence earnings and wealth are unevenly
distributed. Rich states offer more opportunities and benefits to its citizens than poor states can. Thus, the gap between
rich and poor states widens." [9]
After examining both sides a main question is considered here, why not let the international and the local organizations
monitor and provide the citizens with their needs? no need to pressurize the country fund and overload it with an
expensive system in which it result for accomplishing stability is not guaranteed. Further, too much changes in any country
government can lead to corruption and distrust from it nation and that will result the collapse of government.


To conclude from all that, It must be noted that 40% of the world's population live in federal countries and this number is
growing day by day with every transformation of new states to the federal system. Federal is a historical product, so it is
the forms and variety of functioning stemming from the current situation in countries that have pursued federalism. Also,
there aren't any ready specific features of the federal system, but there are models in formation with economic and social
conditions, political and cultural conditions prevailing in these countries, which means that each country keen to its own
model of federalism. Federalism is not a magic recipe, where it by itself or on its own is not the solution, however, It is less
worse solutions, which is the best existing alternatives, it is the second option of all for countries that suffer crises.
Federalism is the only primarily form to the settlement where there is no party in a position to win the absolute.

Our Federalist System: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages of federalism
Federalism, is a political system in which the powers are divided between the central government and regional
governments. Federalism is a happy medium between a unitary system, which concentrates all the power in the hands of
the national government, and a confederal system, which gives all the power to the state governments. In the United
States for example, local governments have the power to provide for public health and safety, conduct elections, regulate
interstate commerce and form local governments. However, the central government still has the power to print money,
declare war, establish an army and create laws. There are also shared powers between the two, which include collecting
taxes, building highways, borrowing money and chartering banks and corporations.
Federalism works because it offers representation to different groups of people. Instead of being controlled by only the
states or only the central government, federalism offers a shared power that allows for equality between the citizens and
our national government.
More importantly, federalism ensures that government remains close to the people. Every region has problems that are
specific to that particular region. That is why federalism allows local governments to address such issues because they
are more likely to understand the situation. For example, traffic congestion in Miami would definitely be solved best by
local government, rather than someone living in Washington D.C. who has never been to Miami. Additionally, central
governments also have a tendency to cater to the majority. Regional government helps by making sure that minorities
rights are protected. For instance, South Florida may provide more bilingual education than other states because there is
such a large Hispanic population.
Federalism also allows states to adopt policies that may not be supported by other states. Same-sex marriage is one of
those issues. While same-sex marriages are not recognized by the federal government, they are given legal status in
many states including Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
However, a federalist system does have its disadvantages as well. First of all, it is very expensive. Under a federalist
system of government, often more people are elected at the state and national level than necessary. This is why many
developing countries are not under a federalist system. Moreover, federalism can lead to regional inequalities. Because
many issues vary from region to region, a gap between rich and the poor states could be created. Take education, for
example. Massachusetts has always been at the top of the list when it comes to education, while southern states such as
Alabama and Mississippi always fall near the bottom. Earnings and wealth may be unequally distributed in regions which
could cause controversy.
There are definitely pros and cons of the federal system we live under. Nonetheless, our federal system has been in place
for hundreds of years and has allowed our nation to become a democracy that strives to grant all citizens equal rights and
equal opportunity.
Federalism Pros and Cons List
Federalism, like anything else, can be good for your country or state, but it can also be harmful in many ways as well. For
those who are unfamiliar with the laws of federalism, it basically means that states will have say so in most minor issues
and can dictate to a degree what residents are allowed and not allowed to do. Basically meaning that not all the


governmental power is in one place, but instead dispersed through regions etc. Below are some basic pros and cons
related to Federalism and what it means for you.
1. State Control
States are allowed to put into motion certain policies that affect only them. For example the death penalty. Most of the
southern states such as Texas have the death penalty for criminals, but most of your northern states like Michigan and
Iowa have not adopted this policy.
2. Focus on Larger Issues
With responsibilities being dispersed into other branches your government who holds higher ranking can focus more on
the larger issues. Including foreign policy, terrorism and epidemics. While your local government can focus on their own
local region. Land owning is an example of this, outlawing a type of fertilizer or crop dusting can affect the farming states
such as Ohio, but this policy wont do any good to people in New York.
3. Dispersed Power
One of the biggest advantages of federalism is the power that one group can hold. Americans are constantly saying that
the government has too much power over what we do, however think what it would be like if there were no state leaders
and legislatures. You never want to put all your eggs in one basket, as this could very easily lead the country into a
dictatorship type state.
1. Wealth Factor
Probably one of the biggest cons to federalism is the wealth factor. For example, states with national monuments such as
the Grand Canyon in Arizona draw in a lot of tourist, which draws in more money than other states. Federalism keeps
money within the states, so basically wealthy states get richer, and poorer states may end up in poverty one day. The gap
between rich and poor grows more and more every year as well.
2. Confusion with Governmental Rule
Federalism also causes confusion between the local governments and the national government as well. If an epidemic of
aids broke out in one quadrant of the US, the National government may not know when to step in and take responsibility
as they would think the locals are taking care of it. However, the locals may think the national government will help out. In
history, this has happened with hurricane Katrina as well as 911; no one was quite sure who would step in first.

The pros and cons of federalism have been the subject of

debate since the creation of the republic.
Federalisms Advantages
Proponents argue that federalism does the following:


Fosters state loyalties:Many Americans feel close ties to their home state, and federalism maintains that
connection by giving power to the states.

Practices pragmatism: Running a country the size of the United States, with such a diverse population, is
much easier to do if power is given to local officials. Likewise, state and local officials are closer to the
problems of their areas, so it makes sense for them to choose policies to solve those problems.

Creates laboratories of democracy: State governments can experiment with policies, and other states (and
the federal government) can learn from their successes and failures.

Example: California has frequently led the nation in environmental regulations: Many measures adopted by California are
subsequently adopted by other states. And during the 1990s, Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson experimented with
welfare policy, and those experiments influenced federal welfare reform.

Leads to political stability: By removing the national government from some contentious issue areas,
federalism allowed the early U.S. government to achieve and maintain stability.

Encourages pluralism: Federal systems expand government on national, state, and local levels, giving
people more access to leaders and opportunities to get involved in their government.

Ensures the separation of powers and prevents tyranny: Even if one person or group took control of all three
branches of the federal government, federalism ensures that state governments would still function
independently. Federalism, therefore, fulfills the framers vision of a governmental structure that ensures

Federalisms Disadvantages
Critics argue that federalism falls short in two ways:

Prevents the creation of a national policy: The United States does not have a single policy on issues;
instead, it has fifty-one policies, which often leads to confusion.

Leads to a lack of accountability: The overlap of the boundaries among national and state governments
makes it tricky to assign blame for failed policies.

Citizen Ignorance
Critics argue that federalism cannot function well due to ignorance. Most Americans know little about their state and local
governments, and turnout in state and local elections is often less than 25 percent. Citizens consequently often ignore
state and local governments, even though these governments have a lot of power to affect peoples lives.