Federalism - Federalism Reading Assignment Schmidt Shelley...

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Federalism Reading Assignment: Schmidt, Shelley, & Bardes, Chapter Three Federal, Confederal, and Unitary Systems: In 1845, when Texas became part of the United States, it was joining a federal political system (albeit one soon to fracture on precisely this issue). As we saw in a previous chapter, this means that governmental authority was divided by the U.S. Constitution between the state of Texas and other states, and the United States. Two things characterize a federal system of government: (1) the dominant power (or sovereignty) lies with the central government (sometimes called the Federal Government) especially on foreign policy, monetary policy, and civil rights and (2) that point notwithstanding, the state governments have real power to make policy on most domestic issues. There is an inherent tension between these two points, as we shall see. A federal system of government is not the only possibility. A country might choose either a unitary or a Confederal system of government instead. In a unitary system, virtually all power resides with the central government. The French Government is a good example here. On the opposite end, a country may adopt a Confederal system in which the central government does not exercise dominance but the real power resides with the states. The thirteen states experimented with this in the Articles of Confederation as did the Confederate States in the American Civil War. The best way to think of Federalism is as being on a continuum between the two extremes of dominant central government with weak state governments on one end and a Confederal system with strong state governments on the other extreme. The key point made in this conceptualization is that the precise form that Federalism assumes and where the country falls on this continuum can vary over time; sometimes closer to the strong central government pole and sometimes closer to the strong state government pole. And, indeed, this is precisely what has happened in US history. Selectively Quoting the Constitution: The ratification of the US Constitution was a victory for Federalism because certain features of the US Constitution gave clear legal precedence to the Central Government. Perhaps the key provision allocating power to the central government is Article VI , where the supremacy clause makes national law supreme over state law. There were other parts of the Constitution which supported Federal power such as Article IV, Section 2 and especially Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress (national government) a list of enumerated powers. However, the major opposition party of the day, the Anti-Federalists, insisted on certain amendments to the original constitution that tended to give more power to the states. Amendments X and XI Amendment particular was added to check the powers of a central government. Conversely, Amendment XIV will later give more power to the Central Government vs. states to protect individual rights from state encroachment. One can see that there are elements of the amended constitution which support both positions and it is interesting to note that proponents on each side of the Federalism debate tend to
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