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A Response to Richard Vernon's Article - The Federal Citizen

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Introduction

A Response to Richard Vernon's Article: The Federal Citizen Henning Fotland B00339586 Prof. Mellon 29th January 2003 In this response I will attempt to prove that federalism is not an ideologically determined system, and that the basis of its structure is visible in all types of political orientation, such as the United States, the former Soviet Union and Canada. In this response to Richard Vernon's article The Federal Citizen, I will attempt to prove that the essence of federalism is actually a general theme that is available for extraction in all levels of human interaction, from the individual in society to the highest level of supra-government. As Vernon concludes, the three conceptions which necessitate federalism as a constitutional entity are; "democratic responsiveness, the openness of choice of identification, and the preservation of politics from (unqualified) nationalism."1 To begin an assessment of Vernon's argument for federalism it is first necessary to have a working definition of what this system is and what the goals of its implementation are. It appears to be the idea of 'dual citizenship', which distinguishes the aspirations of federalism from other systems. This entails belonging to an upper-level national government as well as identifying oneself with a sub level provincial or territorial government.

Middle

Only by narrowing the focus and reducing the size of the government and its population can the institution of government be representative of its people. This theory is considered to be a co-operative model of federalism, where all actions of government are a direct result of popular will. Unfortunately, this theory does little to support the case of minority populations and would necessitate an environment of dispassionate compromise and would pose a threat to groups that tried to distinguish themselves culturally or otherwise. This model is contrasted by a political view of pluralism, where divisions of territory are seen not as cultural demarcations but as fractions of the whole system, where power is checked and balanced by other delegates of power. This picture conflicts with the intended co-operative spirit, and would be just as likely to lead to the restraining of beneficial government action as it would be to enabling it. A division of territory will inevitably lead to inequalities between provinces, consequently, if these divisions are placed in conflict with each other there will doubtlessly be victors and vanquished. It seems fantastic that a single political system could sustain being equally present on opposite sides of the political arena.

Conclusion

By setting ideological parameters on a universal principle such as awareness, they blinded their own awareness to the essential truth of what they were exploring. Instead of seeing the ability to juggle several conflicting alliances simultaneously as a natural and necessary condition of human and therefore societal existence, Vernon attempted to establish an absolute truth within a very specific theoretical framework. What he failed to realize was that this basic condition of awareness was the absolute truth and that it existed independent of any political system or framework. I would like to challenge Vernon to find any extant political or social system that could not be interpreted as having his general federalist structure. In conclusion, I would argue that the importance of federalism as a dualist system is a misconception and that all politically aware people exist and view themselves in a multi-levelled society. Vernon's ideological claims are not best represented by federalism from an individualistic, ideological, economic or political standpoint. The basic tenants of federalism, as outlined in his closing remarks are not representative of the broad political spectrum which the system crosses. I believe that for federalism to become a concrete political system would require a much closer definition of its constitutional framework.

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