• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Federalism essay

Extracts from this document...


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level United States section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level United States essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Outline how and why federalism has changed since the 1960s.

    5 star(s)

    'The bridge to nowhere' being a prime example where millions were spent on a bridge connecting a small town to it's local airport in Alaska replacing a 7 minute ferry route. Also with the 'spending habit' of the federal government, there were many arguments that stated that the federal government

  2. How and Why has federalism changes sice the 1960s

    were cut, the national government would be forced to do less, and people would increasingly rely on personal resources and their local government. However two developments of the 'dot-com' bubble and the 'War on Terror' meant that he was not able to carry out this agenda.

  1. Examine the effectiveness of the checks and balances system of the American Government. and ...

    The President also has the power to pardon - President Ford pardoned his predecessor President Nixon. The Legislature has the power to change the size of the Federal Court system and the number of justices within the court. Congress has the power to propose constitutional amendments and can reject Supreme Court nominees; they can also impeach and remove federal judges.

  2. US politics.The constitutional system of checks and balances does not work in practice. Discuss.

    As was Clinton impeached tried and removed for perjury and obstruction of justice. Overall the legislature possess more significant powers to check the executive, of which most of them have and can be put to use. The legislature also has powers to check and scrutinise the judiciary, they can propose

  1. How is Britain's constitution changing in the 21st century?

    Measured against international standards, these were seen as submissions of a limiting nature, rather than having the capacity to open out a government and its actions (Hazell, 2001, 45). Labour do seem to have a reluctance to construct a constitution divorced from that which presently adhered to.

  2. The Articles of Confederation.

    This tremendous activity , combined with worry about the well-being of several sons serving in the Continental Army, began to take their toll on Sherman's health. As early as 1777 he wrote, "I must leave Congress soon...for my constitution will not admit of so close an application to business much longer."

  1. Assess the view that the US Constitution often ensures limited government

    They were all picked up within 2 weeks. Roosevelt brought in the attorney general and said: ?They will be tried in a military court, they will be executed, it should happen within 3 weeks, and tell the Supreme Court if they issue a writ of habeus corpus (court summons), I will not honor, and therefore they should not issue it.

  2. Is the USA still a federal state?

    Massive state intervention mainly emerges during financial crises consider the 1930s Great Depression and 2008 credit crises, when state governments show their dependency for support. In times of economic success state governments are capable of self-governing. Bill Clinton in the State of the Unions Address stated that the ?era of big government is over?.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work