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There are other concepts of federalism that help describe the complicated relationships between the national and state governments. Judicial federalism involves the struggle between the national and state governments over the relative constitutional powers of each, and over key constitutional provisions including the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.

With its power of judicial review, the Supreme Court is the arbiter of what the Constitution means on various questions, including federalism. In that case the Supreme Court expanded the powers of Congress through a broad interpretation of its "necessary and proper" powers, and reaffirmed national supremacy by striking down Maryland's attempt to tax the Bank of the U. Not all judicial decisions favor national power. In the case, Printz v.

United States , for example, the court invalidated federal law that required local police to conduct background checks on all gun purchasers. The court ruled that the law violated the Tenth Amendment. Writing for the five-to-four majority, Justice Antonin Scalia declared: "The Federal government may neither issue directives requiring the states to address particular problems, nor command the states' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a Federal regulatory program Such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.

Until , federal grants were used only to support agricultural research and education. With the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment in , which legalized the federal income tax, the national government gained a significant source of revenue that it used to shape national policy in a variety of new policy areas. Categorical grants , in which the national government provides money to the states for specific purposes, became a major policy tool of the national government during the New Deal era, and expanded rapidly during the s' Great Society. But state and local officials began to criticize this method of national support because of the costly application and implementation procedures.

They also complained that it was difficult to adapt the grants to local needs. Beginning in the mid s, block grants , which combined several categorical grants in broad policy areas into one general grant, became increasingly popular. States prefer block grants because they allow state officials to adapt the grants to their particular needs. Congress, however, is reluctant to use block grants because they loosen Congress's control over how the money is spent. Revenue sharing was developed during the Nixon administration as a way to provide monies to states with no strings attached.

Using statistical formulas to account for differences among states, the national government provided billions of dollars to the states until the program was abolished in There are several pros and cons associated with U. Some advantages include a greater degree of local autonomy, more avenues for citizens to participate, and more checks and balances against concentrations of power.

Some disadvantages include increased complexity of government that can produce duplication and inefficiency, and increased legal disputes between levels of government. All rights reserved.

Unitary state

Legal Policy. Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum. About Us Video Series Prof. Other Programs 1. However, since the mids Republicans have adopted a pragmatic approach to federalism to accomplish their goals. Several Republican policies now attempt to restrict state power. Americans tend to embrace a pragmatic view of governmental responsibility. State and local agencies can obtain categorical grants only by meeting certain qualifications and by applying for the grants. Congress implemented block grants to support broad programs in areas such as community development and social services.

Block grants provide more flexibility since states and communities have discretion in deciding how to spend the money.


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The percentage of federal aid to state and local governments in the form of block grants began increasing in as the new Republican majority in Congress passed more federal aid in the form of block grants, including grants for welfare programs. These require states to spend money to comply with a law of Congress or, in some cases, a federal court order. Federalism was instituted largely to enhance democracy in America, and it strengthens democratic government in many ways.

Different levels of government provide more opportunities for participation in politics and increase access to government. Since different citizens and interest groups will have access to the different levels, federalism also increases the opportunities for government to be responsive to demands for policies. Moreover, it is possible for the diversity of opinion within the country to be reflected in different public policies among the states. Different economic interests are concentrated in different states, and the federal system ensures that each state can establish a power base to promote its interests.

By handling most disputes over policy at the state and local level, federalism also reduces decision making and conflict at the national level. Conversely, diverse state policies and the large number of local governments also create some impediments to democracy. Since the states differ in the resources they devote to services like public education, the quality of such services varies greatly from one state to another. Diversity in policy can also discourage states from providing services that would otherwise be available—states are deterred from providing generous benefits to those in need when benefits attract poor people from states with lower benefits.

Federalism may have a negative effect on democracy when local interests are able to thwart national majority support of certain policies, and having so many governments makes it difficult for many Americans to know which government is responsible for certain functions. While the national government has grown in scope relative to state governments, it has not done so at the expense of state governments. The latter continue to carry out all the functions they have typically performed. The national government has instead grown as it has taken on new responsibilities viewed as important by the public.

The ideas of the federal government and the State of Arizona have not always been a harmonious one. At the inception of the Arizona Constitution, there was controversy concerning the recall of judges. This aspect of the constitution prompted President Taft to veto the first draft of the Arizona Constitution that was presented to him.

Federations tend to drift toward disintegration in the form of secession, or toward centralization in the direction of a unitary state.

Federalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Such instability should come as no surprise given the tensions typically giving rise to federal political orders in the first place, such as tensions between majority and minority national communities in multinational federations. The details of their constitutions and other institutions may affect these conflicts and their outcomes in drastic ways. Political parties often disagree on constitutional issues regarding the appropriate areas of member unit autonomy, the forms of cooperation and how to prevent fragmentation.

Such sampling bias among states that federalize to hold together makes it difficult to assess claims that federal responses perpetuate cleavages and fuel rather than quell secessionist movements. Some nevertheless argue that democratic, interlocking federations alleviate such tendencies Simeon , Simeon and Conway , Linz ; cf. McKay , Filippov, Ordeshook and Shvetsova The legitimate bases, content and division of such a public dual allegiance are central topics of political philosophies of federalism Norman a, Choudhry The appropriate consideration that voters and their member unit politicians should give to the interests of others in the federation in interlocking arrangements must be clarified if the notion of citizen of two commonwealths is to be coherent and durable.

Another and related central philosophical topic is the critical assessment of alleged grounds for federal arrangements in general, and the division of power between member units and central bodies in particular, indicated in the preceding sections. Recent contributions include Knop et al. Among the important issues, especially due to the risks of instability, are:. How the powers should be allocated, given that they should be used—but may be abused—by political entrepreneurs at several levels to affect their claims. How to ensure that neither member units nor the central authorities overstep their jurisdiction.

Many scholars seem to detect a centralising tendency among such courts Watts How to maintain sufficient democratic control over central bodies when these are composed by representatives of the executive branch of member units? The chains of accountability may be too long for adequate responsiveness. Who shall have the authority to revise the constitutionally embedded division of power? Some hold that a significant shift in national sovereignty occurs when such changes may occur without the unanimity characteristic of treaties.

This principle has recently received attention owing to its inclusion in European Union treaties.

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It holds that authority should rest with the member units unless allocating them to a central unit would ensure higher comparative efficiency or effectiveness in achieving certain goals. This principle can be specified in several ways, for instance concerning which units are included, which goals are to be achieved, and who has the authority to apply it.

Regarding distributive justice, federal political orders must manage tensions between ensuring member unit autonomy and securing the requisite redistribution within and among the member units. A central normative issue is to what extent a shared culture and bonds among citizens within a historically sovereign state reduce the claims on redistribution among the member units.

Federalism raises several challenges to democratic theory, especially as developed for unitary states. Federal arrangements are often more complex, thereby challenging standards of transparency, accountability and public deliberation Habermas The restricted political agendas of each center of authority also require defense Dahl ; Braybrooke One of several particular issues concern the standing of member units for further issues, cf. The power that member units wield in federations often restricts or violates majority rule, in ways that merit careful scrutiny.

Democratic theory has long been concerned with how to prevent domination of minorities, and many federal political orders do so by granting member units some influence over common decisions. Federal political orders typically influence individuals' political influence by skewing their voting weight in favor of citizens of small member units, or by granting member unit representatives veto rights on central decisions.

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Minorities thus exercise control in apparent violation of principles of political equality and one-person-one-vote—more so when member units are of different size. These features raises fundamental normative questions concerning why member units should matter for the allocation of political power among individuals who live in different member units. Many federal political orders accommodate minority groups in two ways discussed above: both through a division of power, and by granting them influence over common decisions.

These measures of identity politics can be valuable ways to give public acknowledgment and recognition to groups and their members, sometimes on the very basis of previous domination. But identity politics also create challenges Gutman , especially in federal arrangements that face greater risks of instability and must maintain citizens' dual political loyalties. Federations are often thought to be sui generis , one-of-a-kind deviations from the ideal-type unitary sovereign state familiar from the Westphalian world order.

Indeed, every federation may well be federal in its very own way, and not easy to summarize and assess as an ideal-type political order. Yet the phenomenon of non-unitary sovereignty is not new, and federal accommodation of differences may well be better than the alternatives. When and why this is so has long been the subject of philosophical, theoretical and normative analysis and reflection.

Such public arguments may themselves contribute to develop the overarching loyalty required among citizens of stable, legitimate federations, who must understand themselves as members of two commonwealths. Taxonomy 2. History of Federalism in Western Thought 3. Reasons for Federalism 3. Further Philosophical Issues 4.

History of Federalism in Western Thought A wide-spread interest among political philosophers in topics concerning the centralised nation state have fuelled attention to historical contributions on unitary sovereignty. Reasons for Federalism Many arguments for federalism have traditionally been put in terms of promoting various forms of liberty in the form of non-domination, immunity or enhanced opportunity sets Elazar a. Further Philosophical Issues Much recent attention has focused on philosophical issues arising from empirical findings concerning federalism, and has been spurred by quite different dilemmas facing—inter alia—Canada, Australia, Nepal, several European states and the European Union.

These tasks must be resolved taking due account of several important considerations noted below. Among the important issues, especially due to the risks of instability, are: How the powers should be allocated, given that they should be used—but may be abused—by political entrepreneurs at several levels to affect their claims. Brutus, Junius Philippe Duplessis-Mornay? Carney transl. Elazar introd. Helmstadt: Sumptibus Hammianis. Vaughan trans. Roosevelt ed. Green and T. Grose eds.

Storing, Herbert, and Murray Dry eds. Cooke ed. Bradley ed. Puech and Th. Ruyssen eds. Riviere, Renner, Karl, , Staat und Nation , Vienna. Pius XI, Burgess and A. Gagnon eds. Elazar, Daniel J. Hueglin, Thomas O. Heidemann and K. Stoppenbrink eds. Contemporary Publius: The Journal of Federalism , regularly publishes philosophical articles.

Anthologies: Bakvis, Herman, and William M. Chandler eds. Bottomore, Tom and Patrick Goode eds.


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