Chapter Three –Federalism–Summary
Chapter 3 explores federalism, the two levels of sovereign government under the Constitution. Most countries are organized under a unitary system and the Chapter explains that on page 77. On the same and following pages, there is an important discussion on the nature of federal-state relationships as well as the obligations that states have to each other. It is important to understand these principles as they are a major part of this Chapter.
Beginning on page 85 there is an extended discussion of the changing relationship between the federal (national) government and the states. The changing role of the states is discussed in historical terms beginning during the 1930s and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (begins on page 92 through page 108) and this is of secondary importance for our purposes.
Take a look at “Who Benefits from Federal Spending?” on page 105.
The discussion about what role the federal government should play in American life compared with state and local governments is an ongoing debate. Reflect on the federal-state relationship and what direction the Constitution might offer in this regard. The weekly essay will focus on this important and dynamic question.
America is a federal republic; that is, there is a national government given supremacy under Article VI of the Constitution and states which also have the sovereign right to exist and govern within their own state jurisdictions. That is why each state has a government–Governor, Legislature and courts systems that mirror what the Constitution creates for the national (or federal) government. There is, it might be argued, a tension between federal and state governments.
There is much discussion–some of it based on political and not constitutional perspectives- about the relationship between the federal government and the states. In particular, there is an ongoing issue regarding how much power under the Constitution the federal government has or should be interpreted to have compared with the powers of the sovereign states (and as an extension) the local governments such as counties and cities.
Thinking in terms of constitutional law and political reality as well as the historical record of federal-state relations, what is the current status of this relationship and what should it be in terms of both the Constitution and the practical application of American governmental powers? Does the current implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) demonstrate strengths or weaknesses in America’s federal system of government? You also might want to consider the current debate over immigration reform. Which level of government is more responsible for immigration, the federal or the states, or is it a combination of both?