Concepts of Federalism (Part 1)

According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Edition, Bryan A. Garner Editor in Chief. Page. 644. Federalism is the legal relationship and distribution of power between the national and regional governments within a federal system of government in such a way that each level of government is independent and autonomous.

And the purpose is to keep their spirit of nationalism. It deals with distribution of powers, taxes, and finances, people are sources of power, and it’s stipulated in the Constitution i.e written. A federal system of government is also defined as “a system in which the powers of government are constitutionally shared between the central government and the regional units in such a way that each level of government is independent and autonomous.

Examples of countries with a Federal system of government includes; United States of America and Nigeria.Here, the country is divided up into several different states, each of which have (to some extent) their own laws and self-governing ability or powers. However, all of the states are part of the same country and governed by the central authority. The Constitution has full filled most of the conditions of a Federal government. And in India, the powers to govern are also properly distributed between the central government and the state governments.

And government is the “structure of principles and rules determining how a state or organization is regulated or the sovereign power in a nation or state or an organization through which a body of people exercises political authority or collective political organs of a country regardless of their functions or level and regardless of the subject matter they deal with”.

While “Quasi-federalism; is when a state has the appearance of being divided authority. quasi means “that which appears to be something but is not really so”, example; the states have limited powers of having their own judiciary, even in recruiting police constables, prisons, wildlife and fire brigade.Example; Canada after confederation in 1867, although it appeared to be a Federal state that was divided into separate units with different governing bodies, it did not have the divided jurisdiction or authority because of a lack of power in the sub-units.

The Republic of South Sudan, part of the Republic of the Sudan that became independent on the 9th July 2011 through a referendum;in 2005-2011, the system of government in the southernSudan was more of confederation, two armies and two governments. But after independence up to date, the Republic of south Sudan has decentralized system of government thus quasi-federal. This is in light with article (47) of the 2011 Transitional Constitution as amended.

Local government is also defined as; the government of a particular locality, such as a city or county; a governing body at a lower level of the state government. The term includes a school district, fire district, transportation authority and any other special purpose district or authority.The states shall enact laws for the establishment of the system of local government based on urban and rural Councils for which they shall provide structures, compositions, finance and functions. This is in light with Article 166 clause (1) of the 2011 Transitional Constitution as amended.

Types of Federalism;

There are three main types of Federalism;

1-Dual Federalism; this is wherethe Federal government and the state or unit share power but the Federal Government holds more than the individual states or regions.

2-Cooperative Federalism; is the concept that the federal government and the state government share power equally. It has never been attempted in practice but it seems unlikely that it would work as the state governments and the Federal government would be locked in a stalemate unable to reach compromises over important legislation.

3-Fiscal Federalism is the one in which the money bag controls everything. In the United States of America, this gives Congress massive amounts of power as it is responsible for the American treasury. It can therefore limit the budget of any other political department or body.It does not believe is working towards the best interest of America. There have been several circumstances in the history of United States of America, however of times when Congress has given full of the treasury to the President. One example of this would be the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964 which gave President Johnson the powers to, “expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in SouthEast Asia”. Which as anyone could see leaves a wide space open for legal interpretation. To quote Dr Berry in his words, it was essentially a “blank check”.

History has shown that human actions have created a few new forms of Federalism in the world, especially in American’s times of crisis.

4-Creative Federalism is common in the United States even now, while New Federalism was dominant type of governmental federalism from 1960 to 1980, and particularly during the Johnson administration in the 1960’s. Creative Federalism or “picket fence federalism” is that the federal government determined the needs of the states and provided services for them. In this case, the federal government works directly for the states or units, and caters to their needs.  This involves common planning between the federal and state governments to achieve goals that work for the states. These days, creative federalism seems to have been diminished by cooperative federalism and the rise of the federal government’s power which started during FDR’s presidency and escalated from there. 

5-New Federalism was created in response to the power the state governments lost due to the enforcement of civil rights and President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1960’s.  This type of federalism returned rights to the local and state governments and turned federal government powers over to the lesser governments.  President Nixon prominently enforced this by returning the provision of block grants and revenue sharing to the state and local governments in the United States of America.

Advantages of a Federal system of government;

In a Federal system of government, powers are divided between federal constituent units at the national, state and county levels. Allow me to provide you with the advantages and disadvantages of a Federal system of government.

Prevents dictatorship; federal system of government serves a check on the emergence of dictatorship in a state. The components of government have some amount of powers and this enables them to prevent the Federal government from effective operation. Keeping centralized power in check; when a centralized government is not the only power in the country, it can be kept in check better. Different Federal systems can act as checks and balances for each other and give each other ideas about how to govern. This also helps to balance out the power of the central government.

Unity in the country and good governance; under a Federal system of government, each of the self-governing units is answerable to a central authority. So, in this way the whole country is unified under a common constitution or other legal system, despite being separated out into separate regions. Majority group cannot take over powers from the minority groups and all will recognize their involvement in the nation building. One of the condition for the adoption of a Federal system is the presence of diverse religious, ethnic and cultural differences. A Federal system, so established is able to bring together the people with these differences.

Governance becomes easier; it is very hard for a central authority to govern the entirety of a large country at once, splitting the country up into manageable chunks makes it easier to govern further, it’s easier to give specific directions if you can narrow things down by state boundaries. There is better division of powers and good governance in the Federal system of government. For example; each level of governance has sovereignty in some areas and shares powers in other areas. Both the national and the state governments have the power to tax and generate revenue to deliver services but only the national government can declare war. This can be seen in the Obama on the Health Care Ruling, June, 28th, 2012 in the United States of America. The Court’sruling was the most significant Federalism decision since the New Deal and the most closely watched case since Bush vs. Gore in 2000. It was a crucial milestone for the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, allowing almost all- and perhaps, in the end, all – of its far- reaching changes to roll forward. The decision was a victory for Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats, affirming the central legislative achievement of Mr. Obama’s presidency. Held; the Affordable Care Acts’ requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax, “ Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness. “That the congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce was justified”.

Common defense against external aggression and better security; Federalism enables the Federating units to come together to defend themselves against external attack. “A” stand alone as a nation is incapable of defending herself against other nations when she is attacked militarily. There shall also be a peaceful co-existent among the multi-ethnic diversities of pastoralist and the farmers.

Promotionoflocal participation; Federalism also allows people at the local level to take part in the political process of their country. This is so because, there is government at the regional level which is closer to them than the central government and they they can participate in the political process closest to them.

Pooling of resources; economically, it is advantageous because it allows the various Federating unit to pool their resources together for development of the entire country. This would not have been possible if the country is standing alone. Hence, encouraging rapid social and economic development; Federalism promotes rapid social and economic development in all the Federating unit. Resources aredistributed by the Federal government in all the states in a way that ensure equity in social and economic development.Concentration of resources in the central government is eliminated. Problems which might exist in the decentralized system of government in light with article (47) of the Transitional Constitution 2011, as amended shall be effectively addressed. Power sharing is also addressed too under a Federal government, tensions and conflicts are reduced and well mitigated.

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