Federalism ‘E Pluribus Unum’-‘Out of Many; One’

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The US Constitution attempted to balance the need for central government control with the desire of the original colonies to protect their own interests. A system of federalism was created, with Power divided between central government (the federal government) and regional government (the states).

The term 'federalism' does not explicitly appear in the US Constitution, but such a structure is implied Article 1 by the enumerated (specified) powers of the federal government. These list powers granted and denied to the federal government and powers denied to the states. These include coining money, maintaining troops, negotiating treaties and taxing imports. Also by the 10th Amendment then guaranteed that all powers not specifically granted to federal government were reserved for the states. These reserved powers are afforded further protection by the need for the states' assent to any constitutional amendment in the Amendment Process. Also the Electoral College preserves a role for the States.

Each state is like a smaller version of the US, with its own Constitution, head of the executive branch (Governor), legislature (State Congress) and Supreme Court. Each state is subject to the Constitutional rules of the US, but has a huge degree of control over its own affairs.

The Constitution is particularly unclear in relation to federalism and the protection of state power. The power of the federal government has grown hugely as a response to economic crisis, increased demands for civil-rights protection and greater provision of social policy. The states are increasingly controlled by federal institutions, but the Constitution has barely changed in these areas.However, the line between federal and state powers has always been rather unclear. This situation largely originates from the so-called 'elastic clause' which gives the federal authorities the power to 'make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers'. In addition, the Supreme Court has, on many occasions, ruled that American citizens have fundamental rights that transcend the powers of the states In these ways, for much of the twentieth century, federal government effectively eroded the supposed 'reserved' powers of the state

The relationship between the federal and state governments has been a constant source of political debate in America since the founding of the republic. It goes to the heart of competing visions of America: either one unified nation state with a marked degree of centralised political control, or a confederation of states all retaining a considerable degree of autonomy. Stereotypically, those on the left tend to favour a stronger federal government, both to manage the economy and stem the excesses of corporate power, and to ensure basic standards of rights and services. In contrast, those on the right see states as retaining a vital role: they were the foundation of the republic, embody the American ethos of rugged individualism and act as a necessary safeguard against the liberal agenda of the institutions of the federal government