Does Federalism Remain A Good Idea?

The recent insurrection has cast a dark shadow on federalism.

Federalism is a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. Generally, an overarching national government is responsible for broader governance of larger territorial areas, while the smaller subdivisions, states, and cities govern the issues of local concern.

Both the national government and the smaller political subdivisions have the power to make laws and both have a certain level of autonomy from each other.

Federalism is like a diet. Both the Left and Right try to stick to it, but each abandons it when its craving for the policy equivalent of fries and a shake grows too strong. The Left, which normally looks to the national government for policy solutions, cheerfully applauds state efforts to deal with the least local of all environmental problems: climate change. Last year, President Trump threatened to use the military to quell looting and overrule the decisions of state governors regarding COVID regulations. But if one really wants to fit into that prom dress or make weight for the wrestling match, one needs to stick to the diet, even when it means leaving tasty policies you crave on the table.

A principled defense of American federalism – even if it deprives one of a delicious policy outcome – is necessary now more than ever. Though difficult, the federalism regimen is worth the sacrifice. Alexis de Tocqueville, to recognize that what had been undertaken for pragmatic reasons was not only theoretically defensible but was also the best means of preserving liberty and enabling a large republic to endure. Tocqueville recognized that American federalism offered a means of resolving what had been an unsolvable dilemma. The dual character of American federalism, combining a powerful central government with a set of smaller republics, enabled both necessary aspects of democratic-republican political life – civic engagement and rule in the general interest – to thrive. Tocqueville recognized that the United States enjoyed a strong central government because of, not in spite of, its limited powers. Liberated from myriad onerous and contentious chores, it could concentrate on those critical tasks for which it was uniquely suited. Though not an admirer of Andrew Jackson, Tocqueville nonetheless pointed to that president’s suppression of South Carolina’s nullification threat as a good example of how a government of limited powers could forcefully act to preserve itself.

Federalism is perfect for the control of government by the wealthy. The sad thing that our educational system has failed its people and ultimately the country. Any thoughts? How about the Constitution was originally an economic document….. Notes for FTE:  Constitution as an economic document The founding fathers were motivated to write the constitution for many reasons. Of course, most of the actual document is devoted the mechanics of how the federal government works, and its relation to the states. The parts that deal with the economy, however brief, are of enormous importance.Some of the economic provisions in the constitution were adopted because of “economic”reasons, that is, shared beliefs that certain economic policies would be good for the country.Other economic provisions were adopted for other reasons altogether. The need to build a stronger central government, and to control the centrifugal political forces that might tear the nation apart, often led the founders to reach compromises with economic consequences.. More on the economic portions of the US Constitution……

With the events of the past 5 years…the question remains….is federalism still a good idea?

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4 thoughts on “Does Federalism Remain A Good Idea?

  1. It might have semed like a good idea, until various regions decided to ‘go it alone’ on very serious issues like pandemic precautions, and climate change. Then it becomes a very bad idea.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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