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An Inside Look At Federalism Essay

1061 words - 5 pages

Taken at face value, federalism seems to be innately detrimental to the legislative powers of the central government. Sacrificing a degree of authority to a subnational unit can (but not always) lead to a central government that, in simplest terms, doesn’t always get what it wants. This revelation then begs the question, why would constitutional designers even bother with federalism? Especially since oftentimes the shapers will be or are part of the government as well. The answer isn’t always straightforward, but the short version is that federalism is crucial to democracy. That is, placing limits on the authority of the central government as to prevent tyranny. If this limitation comes at the behest of investing some degree of authority into separate subnational units, the main conundrum we then face is how powerful should these states be? Does it matter whether the constitution outlines their authorities or not? I argue that the specification of powers is indeed important because at the crux of federalism the main behavioral determinant is to whom are the subnational governments are responsible.
Federalism can be analyzed in two sects: administrative versus federal units. Administrative meaning the subnational units are constructed solely for means of organization and implementation. In this model, the central government is completely powerful and subnational governments merely carry out decisions made at the national level. There is a great advantage associated with this type of federalism – the legislative process carries out comparatively smoother (in reference to federal units). The reason here being there are simply less obstacles to overcome. When the central government makes a decision, it is passed down to the subnational level and while they do hold some implicit authority in implementation, they lack the ability to challenge or question the policy. The executives dominate the political arena and the subnational level is therefore responsible only to the central government. This dynamic makes it somewhat difficult for local concerns to infiltrate the national agenda. A constitution that lacks provisions for any state autonomy creates an environment for an overreaching and overbearing central government, not one specifically responsive to local concerns.
Devolution may be appealable in certain instances, but it also has its drawbacks. Once again, since it is the state dolling out the authority and not a written document, it can lead to inconsistencies. Primarily, devolution can result in unequal power distribution amongst the subnational units. Nationalism in Quebec is increasingly strong, due mostly in part to the fact that they receive considerably more attention in the Canadian national government than do other provinces. This discrepancy in the allocation of power can create resentment or divisions in a nation. Also, since the authority is established by the national government, the provincial units may find trouble in...

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