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Outline Chapter 3


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CHAPTER THREE : FEDERALISM A. INTRODUCTION Federalism, a central feature of the American political system, is the division and sharing of power between the national government and the states. The balance of power between the two levels of government has spawned some of the most intense controversies in American history. Historically, national interests have clashed with states' rights, and even today, when most Americans think of the government in Washington as vastly more powerful than the state governments, federalism is still one of the most important founding principles of the United States. B. UNITARY, FEDERAL, AND CONFEDERAL POLITICAL SYSTEMS All political systems may be evaluated according to their geographic distribution of power. A unitary system is one that concentrates all policymaking powers in one central geographic place; a confederal system spreads the power among many sub-units (such as states), and has a weak central government. A federal system divides the power between the central government and the sub-units. All political systems fall on a continuum from the most concentrated amount of power to the least. Unitary governments may be placed on the left side, according to the degree of concentration; confederal governments are placed to the right; and federal governments fall in between. |___________________________________________________________________] UNITARY FEDERAL CONFEDERAL SYSTEM SYSTEM SYSTEM (China, Britain, (U.S. Canada) (U.S. under the Articles France) of Confederation, The Confederate States of America during the Civil War) C. THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF FEDERALISM Federalism was carefully defined in the Constitution as a founding principle of the U.S. political system. Even so, the nature of federalism is dynamic and has been shaped through the years by laws, Supreme Court decisions, and debates among prominent elected officials and statesmen.
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D. FEDERALISM AS PROVIDED IN THE CONSTITUTION When the colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776, they reacted against the British unitary system in which all political and economic power was concentrated in London. Although the British did not impose this power consistently until after the French and Indian War ended in 1763, new controls on the colonial governments during the 1760s became a major source of friction that eventually led to war. During the American Revolution, the states reacted to Britain's unitary system by creating the Articles of Confederation that gave virtually all powers to the states. The framers at the Constitutional Convention tried to balance the perceived tyranny of the unitary system with the chaos created by the confederal system by outlining a hybrid federal system in the Constitution. Federalism, then, became a major building block for preserving freedoms while still maintaining order in the new nation. 1.
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