Concepts of Federalism
Jamie Monogan
University of Georgia
September 3, 2014
By the end of this meeting, participants
should be able to:
• Explain how a federal system works.
• Describe the role of the national,
state, and local governments in
Georgia politics.
What Is Federalism?
• Federalism
– System of shared powers between two
or more levels of government
– Lower level of government enjoys
constitutional protection from national
– National government can compel action
– Example: United States under the
Constitution of 1789
Contrast: Confederation
• System of shared powers between
two or more levels of government
• Lower-level governments retain
• National government cannot compel
• Example: United States under Articles
of Confederation
Contrast: Unitary System
• All power centralized with the national
• Lower-level governments (if they exist) only
have powers if the central government
• Example: United Kingdom
– Power centralized in London
– Powers delegated to subnational parliaments
in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales
Centralization of Political
Dynamics of Federalism
Which best describes the U.S. system?
• Dual Federalism
– Separate spheres of power
• Cooperative Federalism
– Shared spheres of power
• Intergovernmentalism
– Mixture of dual and cooperative federalism
– Shared spheres in particular policy areas
Responsibility of
Limits of Federalism
• The Constitution sets some clear limits
– States cannot coin money or negotiate treaties
– Supremacy clause holds that national laws
trump state laws if in conflict
• The Constitution also creates ambiguities
– Necessary and proper clause
– Commerce clause
• Court interpretation has changed over time
– Tenth Amendment
State Governments
• Most are similar in structure to federal
– Bicameral (Exception: Nebraska)
– Gubernatorial powers vary by state
– Professionalization of legislatures varies
by state
– Key distinction is presence of direct
democracy—initiative, referendum,
Local Governments
• More variation than state
– Mayoral—large cities, mayor has
considerable power
– Council-manager—small-to-medium
– Commission—declining in number due
to collective action problems
• For Friday: Read Bullock &
Gaddie, Chapter 8
• For Monday: Read Kollman, pp.
• Chapter 4 concept map exercise
due at 11:59pm in one week
(Wed., Sept. 10).
–Login to ELC to complete.

FEDERALISM - University of Georgia