Federalism Essay

1547 words - 6 pages


Federalism denotes a form of decentralised government where legally at
least the component parts of the federation (states, provinces, Länder
or cantons) have statehood of their own and often have historically
existed prior to the federation. The central body is frequently called
the federal government. The precise allocation of responsibilities and
powers varies infinitely. The USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and
Switzerland are examples of federal arrangements. The UKis not a
federation although every so often proposals are made for varying
degrees of devolution that might inevitably lead to a federal

The European Union is not a federation because the Union institutions
are supreme in the restricted fields over which the Member States
irrevocably granted them jurisdiction, making the EU a supranational
body. The European Court of Justice decides points of Community Law
applicable in all the member states. In modern times however, there
has been discussion amongst observers of the prospect that constant
enlargement may well mean that a federal arrangement would be required
to cope with the diversity of views and cultures at national level.

The birth of the federal state coincides with the foundation, in 1787
of the American Federation. The text of the Constitution of the United
States of Americaapproved by the Philadelphia Convention, 17th
September 1787 in fact represents the first historical example of a
federal constitution. In the 20th century the federal model
subsequently spread around the world, especially to the countries of
the Commonwealth, to a few European countries to Brazil in Latin
America and to Nigeria in Africa. The principal characteristic of s
federal state is the fact that in it, in addition to the functional
division between legislative, executive and judicial powers, there
exists a territorial division of powers between the various levels of
government which are simultaneously independent and coordinated. In
existing federal states, there are essentially two specified levels of
government: (a) the federal state and (b) the member states. However
over recent years a very strong demand has developed, particularly in
western Europe, to organise also the member states on the basis of
federal institutions. Unlike unitary states the central government in
federal states possesses only the necessary powers to guarantee the
political and economic unity of the federation, while the other levels
posses full capacity for self-government in all other spheres. In its
own sphere no government level must be subordinate to the level above.

Federalism implies a wide distribution of power among many centres and
thus goes a long way to providing the checks and balances required to
effectively control power[1]. The more decentralised political...

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