Federalism is the mixed or compound mode of government, combining a general government (the central or ‘federal’ government) with regional governments (provincial, state, cantonal, territorial or other sub-unit governments) in a single political system.
Its distinctive feature, exemplified in the founding example of modern federalism by the United States of America under the Constitution of 1787, is a relationship of parity between the two levels of government established. It can thus be defined as a form of government in which there is a division of powers between two levels of government of equal status.
Federalism differs from confederalism, in which the general level of government is subordinate to the regional level, and from devolution within a unitary state, in which the regional level of government is subordinate to the general level.
It represents the central form in the pathway of regional integration or separation, bounded on the less integrated side by confederalism and on the more integrated side by devolution within a unitary state.
Leading examples of the federation or federal state include the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Australia and India. Some also today characterize the European Union as the pioneering example of federalism in a multi-state setting, in a concept termed the federal union of states.
THE PATHWAY OF REGIONAL INTEGRATION OR SEPARATION:
The terms ‘federalism’ and ‘confederalism’ both have a root in the Latin word foedus, meaning “treaty, pact or covenant.” Their common meaning until the late eighteenth century was a simple league or inter-governmental relationship among sovereign states based upon a treaty. They were therefore initially synonyms.
It was in this sense that James Madison in Federalist 39 had referred to the new United States as ‘neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both’ (i.e. neither a single large unitary state nor a league/confederation among several small states, but a hybrid of the two).
In the course of the nineteenth century the meaning of federalism would come to shift, strengthening to refer uniquely to the novel compound political form, while the meaning of confederalism would remain at a league of states. Thus, this article relates to the modern usage of the word ‘federalism’.
Modern federalism is a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments. The term federalist describes several political beliefs around the world depending on context.
Federalism is sometimes viewed as in the context of international negotiation as “the best system for integrating diverse nations, ethnic groups, or combatant parties, all of whom may have cause to fear control by an overly powerful center.” However, in some countries, those skeptical of federal prescriptions believe that increased regional autonomy is likely to lead to secession or dissolution of the nation.
In Syria, federalization proposals have failed in part because “Syrians fear that these borders could turn out to be the same as the ones that the fighting parties have currently carved out.”
Federations such as Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia collapsed as soon as it was possible to put the model to the test.
EXPLANATIONS FOR ADOPTION OF FEDERALIST SYSTEMS:
According to Daniel Ziblatt’s Structuring the State, there are four competing theoretical explanations in the academic literature for the adoption of federal systems:
i)- Ideational theories, which hold that a greater degree of ideological commitment to decentralist ideas in society makes federalism more likely to be adopted.
ii)- Cultural-historical theories, which hold that federal institutions are more likely to be adopted in societies with culturally or ethnically fragmented populations.
iii)- “Social contract” theories, which hold that federalism emerges as a bargain between a center and a periphery where the center is not powerful enough to dominate the periphery and the periphery is not powerful enough to secede from the center.
iv)- “Infrastructural power” theories, which hold that federalism is likely to emerge when the subunits of a potential federation already have highly developed infrastructures (e.g. they are already constitutional, parliamentary, and administratively modernized states).
EUROPEAN VS. AMERICAN FEDERALISM:
FEDERAL EUROPE AND FEDERALISM IN THE UNITED STATES:
In Europe, “Federalist” is sometimes used to describe those who favor a common federal government, with distributed power at regional, national and supranational levels. Most European federalists want this development to continue within the European Union. European federalism originated in post-war Europe; one of the more important initiatives was Winston Churchill’s speech in Zürich in 1946.
In the United States, federalism originally referred to belief in a stronger central government. When the U.S. Constitution was being drafted, the Federalist Party supported a stronger central government, while “Anti-Federalists” wanted a weaker central government. This is very different from the modern usage of “federalism” in Europe and the United States. The distinction stems from the fact that “federalism” is situated in the middle of the political spectrum between a confederacy and a unitary state.
The U.S. Constitution was written as a reaction to the Articles of Confederation, under which the United States was a loose confederation with a weak central government.
In contrast, Europe has a greater history of unitary states than North America, thus European “federalism” argues for a weaker central government, relative to a unitary state.
The modern American usage of the word is much closer to the European sense. As the power of the Federal government has increased, some people have perceived a much more unitary state than they believe the Founding Fathers intended. Most people politically advocating “federalism” in the United States argue in favor of limiting the powers of the federal government, especially the judiciary.
In Canada, federalism typically implies opposition to sovereigntist movements (most commonly Quebec separatism).
The governments of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, and Mexico, among others, are also organized along federalist principles.
Federalism may encompass as few as two or three internal divisions, as is the case in Belgium or Bosnia and Herzegovina. In general, two extremes of federalism can be distinguished: at one extreme, the strong federal state is almost completely unitary, with few powers reserved for local governments; while at the other extreme, the national government may be a federal state in name only, being a confederation in actuality.
In 1999, the Government of Canada established the Forum of Federations as an international network for exchange of best practices among federal and federalizing countries. Headquartered in Ottawa, the Forum of Federations partner governments include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Switzerland.
To be cont……