What is Federalism?
• Federalism is a form of government in which
a constitution distributes powers between a
central government and subdivisional
governments, usually called states,
provinces, or republics. Lower entities such
as municipalities, towns, and districts are
created by the states (or other subdivisional
governments) and have no sovereign power
of their own. The national and subdivisional
governments both exercise direct authority
over individuals.
Alternatives to Federalism
• Unitary Systems (centralized powers)
• Confederate Systems (an alliance of
sovereign nations)
• Autocracy (dictatorship)
• Oligarchy (rule by a small group)
• Constitutional monarchy
Government under the Articles of
Confederation, 1781-1788
• The confederation was a union of
states in which the central government
received power from the states and
had no direct authority over the people.
• In practice, it was unable to force
states to pay the taxes they owed and
remained a weak system of
Government under U.S. Constitution (Federation): 1789 -
The Flow of Power in Three Systems of
Advantages of Federalism
• Federalism checks the growth of tyranny
• Federalism allows unity without
• Federalism encourages experimentation
• Federalism keeps government closer to
the people
– Training for national officials
– More arenas for public participation
Federal Systems
• Permits diversity and
diffusion of power
• Local governments can
handle local problems
• More access points for
political participation
• Protects individual rights
against concentrated
government power
• Fosters experimentation
and innovation
• Suits a large country with
a diverse population
• Makes national unity difficult
to achieve and maintain
• State governments may
resist national policies
• May permit economic
inequality and racial
• Law enforcement and
justice are uneven
• Smaller units may lack
expertise and money
• May promote local
dominance by special
Number of Governments in the
United States
Number of Governments
• In America there are close to 89,000
• About half of these units are school or
other special districts, and many of the
remaining governments are townships
and municipalities.
• there are over 3,000 counties
• 50 state governments and one federal
Quick Assessment
1) The advantages of federalism are that
A) creates a unified governmental
B) encourages experimentation
C) checks the growth of tyranny
D) All of the above
2) In a unitary system of government, a
constitution places all governmental
A) with all of the systems of government
B) with the central government
C) with the localities
D) with the state government
An Expanding Nation
• A great advantage of federalism and
part of the genius and flexibility of our
constitutional system—has been the
way in which we acquired territory and
extended rights and guarantees by
means of statehood, commonwealth,
or territorial status, and thus grew from
13 to 50 states, plus territories.
Admission of States to the Union
Louisiana Purchase - 1803
Florida - 1819
Texas - 1845
Oregon - 1846
Mexican Cession - 1848
Gadsden Purchase - 1853
Alaska - 1867
Hawaii - 1898
Philippines - 1898 to1946
Puerto Rico - 1899
Guam - 1899
American Samoa - 1900
Canal Zone - 1904 to 2000
U.S. Virgin Islands - 1917
Pacific Islands Trust Territory
- 1947
Admission of States to the Union
Formal Constitutional
• The national government has only those
powers delegated to it by the Constitution
• The national government is supreme
• The state governments have residual
powers; meaning those neither assigned to
the national government nor denied to the
• Some powers are specifically denied to both
the national government and the state
The U. S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It
sets forth arrangements such as checks and balances,
federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, due
process, and the protection of individual rights.
Distribution of Power
Set time, place, and manner of elections
Ratify amendments to the U.S.
Take measures for public health, safety,
and morals
Exert powers the Constitution does not
delegate to the national government or
prohibit the states from using
Establish local governments
Regulate commerce within a state
Constitutional Division of Power
Powers delegated to the National
• Express powers stated in the Constitution
– Delegated powers
• Implied powers that may be inferred from
the express powers
– Necessary & Proper Clause
• Inherent powers that allow the nation to
present a united front to foreign powers
Delegated National Powers
• National Supremacy
• War Powers
• The power to tax and spend
– Federal Mandates
• The power to regulate interstate
– Commerce Clause
Constitutional Division of Power
Some Powers Reserved for
the States
• To create a republican form of
• To charter local governments
• To conduct elections
• To exercise all powers not delegated to
the national government or denied to
the states by the Constitution
Constitutional Division of Power
Some Concurrent Powers Shared by the
National and State Governments
Power to
Power To Make
Enforce Laws
Power To
Power To
The power to regulate interstate commerce allowed
Congress to forbid discrimination like this in places
of public accommodation in the 1964 Civil Rights
Quick Assessment
1) Congress’s ability to control the production,
purchase, sale, rent, or transport of goods,
services, and properties stems from
A) the power to spend
B) the power to tax
C) the war power
D) the power to regulate interstate commerce
2) The power of congress to tax and
spend money is an example of
A) an implied power
B) an express power
C) an inherent power
D) All of the above
3) The four constitutional pillars include
1) the supremacy clause, 2) the war
power, 3) the interstate commerce
clause, and 4) the power to
A) grant titles of nobility
B) pass bills of attainder
C) tax and spend for the general welfare
D) suspend the writ of habeas corpus
4) Which statement best summarizes the role
of the states in the constitutional division of
A) States have powers not delegated to the
federal government, except those denied by
the Constitution.
B) Within the scope of its operations, the
national government is inferior to the states.
C) States share all the powers delegated to the
federal government.
D) States have inherent powers over foreign
Powers Denied to the States
• Making treaties with foreign governments
• Keeping troops or ships in time of peace
• Authorizing private persons to prey on the
shipping and commerce of other nations
• Coining money, issuing bills of credit, or
making anything but gold and
silver coin legal tender in
payment of debts
• Taxing imports or exports
• Taxing foreign ships
• Engaging in war
Quick Assessment
1) State governments have historically
been strong guardians against
A) segregation
B) discrimination
C) slavery
D) none of the above
2) State governments are
A) stronger than ever
B) continuing to lose power
C) weaker than ever
D) irrelevant
Police Power:
In the U.S., most police power
is reserved to the states.
3) State regulation of their economies
have led some business interests to
call for
A) state compacts
B) decreased federal control
C) increased federal regulation
D) none of the above
Interstate Relations
• Article IV of the Constitution attempts
to resolve potential problems between
states by stipulating the following:
• Full faith and credit
• Privileges and
• Extradition
• Interstate compacts
Political Culture: Reflected in State’s Policies
Gay couples renew their vows to each other in this ceremony in San
Francisco's Metropolitan Community church.
States must give full faith and credit to each other’s
public acts, records, and judicial proceedings; extend
to each other’s citizens the privileges and immunities
it gives its own; and return fugitives from justice.
The Role of the Federal Courts:
Umpires of Federalism
• McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
• Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
• Federal Courts and the Role of States
• The Great Debate: Centralists vs. Decentralists
•The Decentralist Position - favor state or local
action rather than national action.
•The Centralist Position - favor national action over
action at the state and local levels.
The National Courts and Federalism
The Great Debate
• Abraham Lincoln, FDR
• Reject the idea that the
Constitution is an
interstate compact
• National government is
the government of all the
Antifederalists, Thomas
Jefferson, Ronald
Constitution is a compact
among sovereign states
National government
should not interfere with
activities of the states
Devolution revolution,
states’ rights
Defining Constitutional Powers
The Supreme Court and
the Role of Congress
McCulloch v. Maryland
Affirmed that the power of Congress is
not strictly limited to the expressed
powers. Marshall held that Congress
has implied powers to carry out the
expressed powers.
This case set the precedent for the
national government to regulate a wide
range of economic activities.
Chief Justice John Marshall:
© Bettmann /Corbis
“Let the end be legitimate.”
Types of Federal Grants
• In 1996 there was a
shift from categorical
grants to block
• 2 types of
categorical grants:
• Formula grants
• Project grants
in billions
• Block grants
• Far more flexible
Purposes of Federal Grants to
State and Local Governments
Where the Money Goes
Increase in Federal Aid to State and
Local Governments Since 1950
• Categorical “Strings-Attached”
• Formula Grants
• Project Grants
• Block Grants
• Federal Mandates
Utility of Federal Grants
• To supply state and local governments
with revenue
• To establish minimum national
standards for such things as highways
and clean air
• To equalize resources among states
• To attack national problems yet
minimize the growth of federal
Quick Assessment
1) Federal grants serve four purposes,
one of which is to
equalize state revenues.
provide government with a way to
levy more taxes.
supply the Supreme Court with
supply the state and local
governments with revenue.
2) Which type of federal grants "are
allocated by formula and are subject
to detailed federal conditions?"
A) block grants
B) categorical-formula grants
C) project grants
D) revenue-sharing grants
3) If you are not a government agency
but have a proposal for a program, you
might apply for a
A) loan
B) special-funds grant
C) project grant
D) none of the above
4) A rule or regulation handed down to
the states without money attached is
A) unfunded mandates
B) unitary government
C) regulatory infringement
D) line-item regulation
Accomplishments of Federal Authority
• Civil rights & the War on Poverty
• Economic relief
• States favor the status quo
The Shift
Toward Central
The Politics of Federalism, a
Republican Issue
• The Growth of Big Government
• The Devolution Revolution: Rhetoric Versus
• “New Federalism.” Beginning with President Richard
Nixon (1969–1974), the Republican Party championed
devolution, or the transfer of powers from the national
government to the states. They called this policy
federalism, a new use of the term.
• Under current conditions liberals may have pragmatic
reasons to support states’ rights in some instances, such
as in gay rights issues.
A new survey from
the Pew Research
Center finds wide
gaps in how different
generations view
Older voters (Silent)
are more
conservative, more
angry at the
government and less
hopeful about the
future of the country.
The Public’s View of the Role of
Source: Washington Post, 2008
Quick Assessment
1) Americans trust in the federal
government has
A) remained unchanged
B) grown in recent years
C) historically been low
D) declined in recent years
2) Those who favor state or local action
rather than federal action are called
A) patriots
B) decentralists
C) confederates
D) unifiers
3) The "devolution revolution" refers to
A) reductions in the power of state
B) reductions in the value of the
American dollar
C) a movement begun by 1974 to shift
federal responsibilities to the states
D) none of the above
The Future of Federalism
• "Federalism has a dark history to overcome.
For nearly two hundred years, states' rights
have been asserted to protect slavery,
segregation, and discrimination."
• "One national dumb rule is better than 50
inconsistent rules of any kind," says a lawyer
who represents trade groups in the food
industries and medical devices.
• Some evidence suggests that the antiWashington sentiment "is 3,000 miles wide
but only a few miles deep."