What is the meaning of Federalism?
Federalism is a system of government. Federalism means dividing a nation up into various zones. Often, these zones are called states.
The federal system of government is where a country is divided up into several different regions, each of which is able to govern itself, to some extent.
Under a federal system of government, each of the self governing units is answerable to a central authority. So, in this way the whole country is unified under a common constitution or other legal system, despite being separated out into separate regions.
One example of the federal system of government is the United States of America. Here, the country is divided up into several different states, each of which have (to some extent) their own laws and self governing ability. However, all of the states are part of the same country and governed by the central authority of the White House.
Advantages of Federalism.
- Governance becomes easier. It is very hard for a central authority to govern the entirety of a large country at once. Splitting the country up into manageable chunks makes it easier to govern. Further, it’s easier to give specific directions if you can narrow things down by state boundaries.
- Local issues are given more weight. Federalism enables local government to govern in a way that reflects the needs and interests of their specific region. Under a federal system, federal governments can pay attention to the issues that matter most to the people in their region – and then respond to these issues in the way that they create and implement laws.
- Diversity. A federal system encourages diversity within a country. Different federations may have different ways of doing things, but they will all be respected equally.
- Ability to choose. It enables people to choose the best place for them to live. Citizens of a federal country can choose which region’s way of doing things suits them best – and then move to live or work in the region that best suits their life style.
- Citizens feel more in touch with their governors. It can be hard to feel connected to the people governing you when they live many hundreds of miles away in the HQ of a central authority. However, under a federal system, your federal governors will always live in your region.
- Constitutionality. A federal system is not one that aims to overthrow the central government. Rather, all federal governments will be answerable to the country’s national legal system and/ or constitution. So in this way a federal system provides unity for its people as well as diversity.
- People have more power. When people can vote to change federal laws, or when they can vote to replace federal governors, they have more immediate power over the issues that concern them and their region.
- Agriculture. Large countries may have entirely different climates in different regions of the country. Thus, a federal system is useful as federal laws relating to agriculture and similar issues can be tailored to suit the particularities of a region’s climate.
- Federal governors have a better understanding of their region. It is very difficult for a centralized government to have an in depth knowledge of all of the regions of the country. A federal government, on the other hand, will have an excellent knowledge of the region.
- Keeping centralized power in check. When a centralized government is not the only power in a country, it can be kept in check better. Different federations can act as checks and balances for each other and give each other ideas about how to govern. This also helps to balance out the power of a central government.
- Better for larger nations: This system is ideally suited to big countries. It can be easier to govern several smaller states than one large nation alone. Large nations work better when they are divided up into smaller federations as this makes governing them easier.
- Local character: Recognizing distinct federations helps to preserve the local character of each federation.
Disadvantages of Federalism.
- Parochialism. It could be argued that federal governments become overly parochial, putting the interests of a relatively small region of a country ahead of national interests in a counterproductive way.
- Potential for conflict between federations. When several federations deeply disagree on legal matters, conflicts can arise. Conflict and disputes between states can cause friction.
- Conflicts of authority. In a federal government, federal governors and the central government may become engaged in conflicts of authority about what is best for a given region of the country.
- A lack of unity. A federal system of government may feel very fragmented – the country can seem broken up into various parts without real unity between them.
- Feeling out of touch with each other. Citizens may feel out of touch with other citizens in different parts of the country, making it harder for them to relate to people from different states or federations.
- Feeling out of touch with the central government. When your most visible system of government is the federal government, you may feel out of touch with the central government, especially when it is far away.
- Confusion and inconsistency: Different laws for different states can be confusing. It can be argued that it’s better to have a consistent system for all areas of a nation.
- Complex: Federalism can be complex to navigate.
Federalism can be a very useful solution to the issue of governing a large country. It is a way of meeting each region of the country’s needs without allowing those regions to lose touch with the central government. However, federalism can carry with it the potential for conflict and confusion if it is not handled properly.