•      Divides the power of government within the levels of government (sep of powers) but also across governments (between state and national governments)


•      Federalist 51: federalism = “double security against majority tyranny”


Other Forms of Government

•      Unitary Government

–   Most nations have unitary governments

•    Hierarchical power structure

•    Authority lies with national government

–   Example: Britain

•      Confederation

–   Members join together to achieve common goal

•    Only has power lent to it by members

•    Members can withdraw support at any time

–   Example: NATO, Confederate States of America




•      One national government, 50 state governments

•      Result: Shared power between the federal government and the states.

•      Examples:  (Table 3.1)

–  Dual sovereignty


Validity of Federalism

•      Basic Tradeoff between Unitary Government and Federalism

–  A more centralized system is likely to be more uniform, equitable, and accountable
decentralized system is likely to be more democratic and flexible


Types of Federalism

•      Dual Federalism (United States)

–  Layer cake federalism

–  Each level is independent and separate from the other

•      Cooperative Federalism

–  Marble-cake Federalism

–  Interaction between various levels of government


Ways Federal Power Has Been Expanded

–  Supremacy Clause: national laws superior to state laws

•   McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)


–  Commerce Clause: interstate commerce


–  Spending Clause: power of the purse


–  Necessary and Proper Clause (“Elastic Clause”)



•      South Dakota v. Dole (1987)

–  Drinking age


•      U.S. v. Lopez (1995)

–  1990 Gun-Free School Zone Act


•      Katzenbach v. McClung (1964)

–  Civil Rights Act of 1964


New Federalism

•      Nixon:  New Federalism

–   Underlined notion that states were being returned authority over their own funds, not granted license to spend federal money

–   Decentralization of power

•      Reagan:  New Federalism II

–   Control over federal programs would be shifted more to the states

•      George W. Bush:

–   More state level control over policies (example: No Child Left Behind ΰ More state level involvement and accountability)


Strength of Federalism

•      Local control

–  Citizens place more trust in local government

•      Proximity to Citizens

–  Some argue that local gov’t knows needs of people better than federal government

•      Innovation and Experimental Lab

–  States are “laboratories of democracy”


Weaknesses of Federalism

•      Allows local minorities to block the will of  national majorities (civil rights)


•      Justice varies from state to state (policies)


Effects of Federalism:
Policy Decisions

•      What level of government should make decisions about public policy issues?

–  Death Penalty

–  Gun Control Laws

–  Welfare

–  Education

–  Voting laws

–  Marriage

–  Alcohol/Tobacco/Drugs