POLS Chapter 3 - Ch 3: Federalism - Defining Federalism o...

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Ch 3: Federalism - Defining Federalism o What is Federalism? Federalism is a way of organizing a nation so that two or more levels of government have formal authority over the same area and people It is a system of shared power between units of government. Most governments in the world today are not federal but unitary governments , in which all power resides in the central government. American states are unitary governments with respect to their local governments. States, however, receive their authority not from the national government but directly from the Constitution. There is a third form of governmental structure, a confederation. In a confederation, the national government is weak, and most or all power is in the hands of the country’s components (ex. The states). The workings of the federal system are sometimes called intergovernmental relations. o Why is Federalism Important? The Federalist system in America decentralizes our politics. With more layers of government, more opportunities exist for political participation. Federalism also enhances judicial power. Dividing government power and responsibilities necessitates judges to resolve disputes between the two levels of government. The Federal system not only decentralizes our politics but also decentralizes our policies. The overlapping power of the two levels of government means that most of our public policy debates are also debates about federalism. States are responsible for most policies dealing with social, family and moral issues. The American states have always been policy innovators. The states overflow with new reforms, new ideas, and new policies. Almost every policy the national government has adopted had its beginnings in the states.
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- The Constitutional Basis of Federalism o The word federalism is absent from the Constitution o There was no other practical choice in 1787 but to create a federal system of government. o Division of Power The Constitution carefully defined the powers of state and national government. It guaranteed states equal representation in the Senate. It made the states responsible for both state and national elections. It also virtually guaranteed the continuation of each state. The Constitution also created obligations of the national government toward the states. For example, it is to protect states against violence and invasion. Supremacy Clause: The Constitution, the laws of the national government and treaties are the supreme law of the land.
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This note was uploaded on 10/04/2010 for the course POLS POLS 206-1 taught by Professor Fulton during the Fall '09 term at Texas A&M.

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POLS Chapter 3 - Ch 3: Federalism - Defining Federalism o...

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