Explain the role and importance of Federalism in the Constitutional system of government.
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Robin Walden Politics in the USA Tutor: Donna Jackson Explain the role and importance of Federalism in the Constitutional system of government. When the founding fathers constructed the American constitution in 1787, Federalism was absolutely crucial to the basis of the revision of the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution itself was testament to the Founding Fathers' will to implement a central government, for the Articles of Confederation had proven ineffective in providing a unifying leadership. The system of Federalism addressed this problem whilst remaining wary of the possible abuse of this authority, represented through the political power distributed to the States. This preservation of democracy represents the Founding Fathers biggest concern and this legacy of freedom and liberty remains today as essential to the American character. Not only was it important to separate the powers to protect democracy, but cultural and political differences between the states demanded that local governments oversee local issues. The changing role and definition of Federalism from 1789 to present is also important to consider, with special consideration required in the transformation it has undertaken in the twentieth century. Federalism has always been at the cornerstone of democracy in the United States and this surely remains the case today, for the American people have always identified themselves as an American and as an American of a particular state.
He is surely referring to the fact that there is no one overwhelming authority, instead there is a series of authorities between state and central government, discouraging and indeed making improbable, any abuse of power. Samuel H. Beer believes that not only does Federalism discourage tyranny but "the social plurism of the general government will counteract tendencies toward a factional abuse of power in the subordinate governments."13, thereby acting as a check on the system, reducing further the risk of abuse. The power distributed to the States ensure that power "cannot legitimately be centralized or concentrated without breaking the structure and spirit of the constitution"14, once more ensuring that no kind of autocracy could be implemented established within America. The powers of the States are substantial; with the most important role being the ratification of constitutional amendments. As long as the States remain a part of the Constitutional process, there is no possibility that their influence will disappear, or diminish significantly; their rights and responsibilities are constitutionally protected and for this reason the role of the States is of huge importance. This example conforms to and adheres to Tocqueville's views that the republic is well protected through Federalism, once more deflecting the possibility of tyranny.
Therefore the role and importance of Federalism to the Constitutional form of government must not be understated. The significance of the separation of powers is based in the Founding Fathers fear of tyrannical, undemocratic government, and their will to stop any such government emerging in America. Also of motivation in the Constitution's construction was the will to preserve the individual states identity through their self-governance within this Federalist system; Federalism's capacity to allow both overall and individual government is essential to this. Despite the modern reduction in the influence of State government, the Constitution preserves the states' rights, ensuring their influence will remain and they will act as a check on the central government. Whether or not the Founding Fathers would concur with the current state of Federalism in America is debateable, yet the circumstances of the twentieth century undeniably demanded the increase in the role of Federalism. Current intergovernmental relations may revert to a more 'classical' form of federalism as and when circumstances allow, yet the fact that these debates remain underlines the continuing importance of Federalism. The separation of powers and consequent protection of democracy remains essential to the American political system, and the Founding Fathers legacy remains today in the form of Federal government.
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