What Is Federalism?

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What Is Federalism?

Federalism is a form of government wherein the constitution provides that power is divided or shared between a central form of government and regional governments like states.  Through laws and officials, both governments act directly on the people but also have to agree on any changes to the constitution.

The division of power between the central government and its regional subdivisions may vary among different countries. In areas like defense and foreign policy, some regional governments may join the central government in making decisions.  Some say that federalism came about because too much power is concentrated on the central government and many regional governments wanted to retain local power and pride.  This setup is particularly helpful in countries with large territories.  Federalism is also seen as a possible solution to address differences among populations divided by cultural or ethnic backgrounds, but still seeking common law and order.

Experts and historians have defined many types of federalism.  It is said to be the “cooperative type” if the central and regional governments are essentially partners.  “Dual Federalism” involves the two levels of government functioning separately, while “Creative Federalism” provides for common decision-making and planning.  “Vertical federalism” on the other hand, is the traditional form wherein the constitution provides that the action of the central government is supreme.

There is no absolute formula or basis on how the power is shared or divided in a federalist form of government.  People have been fundamentally dependent on others for the provision of goods and services, and so we required some sort of government or community to address our own needs.  But historically, each form of community or government sought for autonomy from other associations or governments.  Different types of government were formed to address the different needs of the people.   Federalism is just one form of government, and is adapted by many countries to prevent wars, promote economic growth, and protect individual rights.

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