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Federalism essay

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Federalism essay: It is clear when we look at the globe that many countries are too large for all the administration to come from the capital. The process of de-centralization (distributing the functions of the government) is, therefore, a more agreeable option. There are various forms of de-centralization. These can be through systems of Local Government, which is multi-functional with 'significant' autonomy in decision making. The most important of these forms of de-centralization, however, is that of federalism, where legal sovereignty is shared between central and regional governments. In this essay I am going to explain Wheare's definition of federalism, provide some criticism to it, and try to apply it to federal states. Wheare's definition is a principle by which governmental powers are divided so that the general and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. In my opinion this definition is relatively vague, but Wheare accepts that many students will not accept his definition. In his book on the subject of 'Federal Government' he outlines the meaning of the federal principle and comes to the definition as a conclusion to this. I am going to outline his arriving at this decision. Wheare gives a loose meaning of the term federalism. He says that the majority of people who use the term all agree that it is "...an association of states, which has been formed for certain common purposes, but in which the member states retain a large measure of their original independence" (Chapter 1 of Federal Government; K. C. Wheare). ...read more.


The Basic Law for the Federal Republic was adopted in 1949, and was not intended as a definitive constitution, only as a temporary framework for a new democratic system. Its authors wanted to make sure that the disasters of the previous constitution, which led to the Nazi domination of Germany, were not repeated. The Basic Law became a solid framework, and its requirement for reunification was fulfilled in 1990. Germany is a federal state based on the rule of law and social justice. It opted for indirect representative democracy. Public authority must be recognized and approved of by the people, but they have no direct say in the exercise of that authority, except in elections. The constitutional decision is in favour of a federal state. The sixteen Lander have some of the features of a state, as does the central federal government. Each state has its own powers which are restricted to certain spheres. At the centre of the Basic Law is the concept of the rule of law, and this incorporates the separation of powers. The executive, legislature, and judiciary exercise public authority, and are independent to each other. This is also mirrored in the system of checks and balances that exists in Germany as it does in the US. In my research I have realized that the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America are very similar in practice. But, unlike the US "...German federalism from its inception has stressed interdependence, not independence between the two levels" (Hoetjes 1993). In America, however, federalism exists as a "contract in which the states come together to create a central government with limited functions." ...read more.


It is not independent to the state governments, due to the many checks and balances that exist in the Constitution, but because of these checks and balances is co-ordinate with them. Despite this the state governments have a lot of freedom in legislation for internal affairs. European federalism is different. In Germany the state governments do not seem to have as much freedom as the individual states in the US have. The concept of federalism exists on mutual co-operation between the various levels of government. The Lander contribute to the success of Germany as a whole. They are co-ordinate with the central, federal government. Switzerland is, by definition, a confederation. This is like an alliance between states, which is a more or less permanent union. In a confederation the central government has less power than in a federation, and "unanimity [between the states] may be a condition of collective action" (Comparative Government and Politics: Hague, Harrop and Breslin). Because of this the cantons in Switzerland are more independent than the Lander or states in the US, but they do co-ordinate with the central government. To construct a successful federation it is necessary to keep within a framework. The state and federal governments must have things in common, but also significant differences. It is a constitutional settlement, which forces the politicians to operate with considerable restraint. Federalism is a constitutional phenomenon, but as social and economic situations change, so does the federal constitution. Personally I do not think that Wheare's definition is adequate due to the ambiguity of the term 'spheres'. But I do agree with him in the fact that both governments are, to different extents in each country, co-ordinate and independent. ...read more.

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