plsc federalism lesson 3 - Many visitors to the United...

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Many visitors to the United States are surprised and even perplexed over the differences they see amongst the states and how they conduct their affairs. This is because they usually come from nations that have a “unitary” system of government where a single central government has complete authority throughout the entire nation. Of course, The United States has a national government but it also has fifty individual state governments that have authority over their people and territory in certain policy realms. For example, the United States does not have a single, overarching policy toward marriage. Rather, we have fifty different marriage “systems” and each state defines what marriage is and how to license marriages. With Federalism some aspects of public policy are to be determined by the central government – e.g. making treaties with foreign governments-whereas other aspects of public policy are decided at the state level-such as marriage policy as stated above. Separation of powers in the U.S. Government Credit The basis for much of Federalism in the Constitution lies in the 10th amendment, also known as “the reserve clause”. The “reserve clause” states that all powers not directly given
to the national government automatically become the purview of the states. Given our example of marriage, there is no place in the Constitution where marriage is mentioned and so each state manages its own marriage system. In contrast, establishing an army and declaring war are powers explicitly given to the national government. But sometimes the lines between national and state power are not clear. These demarcations have also changed throughout time and continue to do so. An important element of federalism that appears in our constitution is the Supremacy Clause, which states that ultimately if there is a collision or conflict between state and national law, national law reigns supreme. However, there are exceptions to this rule, an

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