How the United States Government does not truly re Essay
flect a federalist systemI believe that the United States Constitution does not truly reflect a federalistsystem. In fact, I believe that the federalist system, in which states haveconsiderable power to exercise, was all but abolished by the United StatesConstitution. In answering this question, American Government, by Peter Wolf,gives a few examples of what Federalism meant back in the late 1700s, and why,during the framing of the Constitution, there was a big debate between federalistsand anti-federalists. That Federalism furnishes the means of unitingcommonwealths into one nation under one national government withoutextinguishing their separate administrations, legislatures, and local patriotisms(Wolf, 63).
Back in that time period, the anti-federalists wanted many limitations,if there was to be one national government, where as the federalists wanted onenational government controlling all the states. Federalism as a whole attracted greater attention than any other subject during the framing of the Constitution. Itis easy to understand why the anti-federalists didnt want to get involved withanother central government considering they had sought freedom from anoppressive British government.
But, in 1787, the federalists won the debate duringthe Constitutional Convention, which resulted in sovereign states giving up asignificant portion of their authority to a new national government… (Wolf, 51). In the beginning, though, only a few powers were granted to the nationalgovernment. This was before the establishment of the executive and judicialbranches of our government that we are familiar with today.
With the creation of the three branches of our government, I believe thatstates had lost some considerable power. The executive and judicial branches arefederal branches of government, while the legislative branch is the only branchthat is represented by each state. Some may argue that this is the most powerfulbranch of our government, but I believe that the executive branch has the most power. Congress does have considerable power to make laws, but the presidentcan veto, which in my opinion is the biggest force that you can hand to one person. After being vetoed, Congress could still make the law, but it is very hard to get atwo-thirds vote, especially when there are representatives who have the sameviews, and belong to the same political party, as the president. This limits thestates powers tremendously, not to mention that any law that is created will be aAnother example of the United States Constitutions lack of reflecting ananti-federalist system, is that states do not have the right to override a federal law. Recently, there has been discussion in Alaska, and also California, to legalizemarijuana for medicinal purposes. Even if Alaska decided to go through with this,then the United States government would intervene and tell them that it isunconstitutional to overrule our national government. This is a glaring exampleof how the states do not have considerable power to exercise, as would beaccepted by an anti-federalist system. If we were in this type of system, stateswould be able to decide what is right and wrong, and be able to establish laws, andenforce them, using their own discretion. Also, state administrators are ultimatelyresponsible for implementing many federal policies, whether they are grant orregulatory programs adopted under federal guidelines. In this day in age there arefifty states, and state responses to joint programs vary tremendously.Even backwhen there were just colonies and commonwealths, individual responses to lawsFurthermore, …under the original constitutional design, the nationalgovernment was not to intervene directly in the affairs of state governments(Wolf, 76). I believe that if states had considerable power to exercise, then theywould be able to make their own laws, without interference from the federal government. In such a case, states, like Alaska and California, would be able todecide for themselves what is in their citizensbest interests. Im not saying thatthis would be a better way to run our country, but this would better represent ananti-federalist way of thinking. After all, if there were separate laws for everystate, it would be hard for people to know every states laws. The history of the United States government has seen how there is anational dominance over the states. Decentralizing the government wasnt broughtforward,since the early 1800s, until the Nixon administration and the conceptof New Federalism. The move toward decentralization was broadly supportedby the Republican Party. Revenue sharing was inaugurated by President Nixon totransfer national funds to the states, without stipulation of how the money was tobe spent(Wolf, 76). This program contrasted the former grant-in programs,which only allowed states to receive money if they followed federal standards. Block grants and revenue sharing, enacted under Nixon, Carter and Reagan,reduced federal requirements, giving state grantees greater freedom.
The states and national government have different objectives, resources andlimitations which all affect how they act together in implementing programs. Thenational government acts in the states in order to promote uniformity and equity. Federal grantsin aid may be redistributive or developmental in purpose and takeadvantage of the national governments greater fiscal capacity. However,federalism focuses …on the distribution of power between central and peripheralunits of government (Wolf, 77). The founders of the Constitution had very fewoptions when they wrote the document. The states were loosely bonded and hadlittle organization, so …federalism, then, was more than just a reasonableprinciple for governing a large country divided by regional differences and slowcommunications. It also was the only realistic way to get the states to ratify the Constitution (Wasserman, 25). Constitutional basis of the United States federal system is Article IV (admission of new states), Article VI (national governmentsupremacy), Amendment X (reserved powers) and Amendment XIV (nationalcontrol of state action). The enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8, list thespecific powers of the national government. While these are supposedly the onlypowers it has, in fact the commerce and elastic clauses have permitted greatenlargement. While the Constitution remains an important limit on centralizedpower, the federal government has grown much stronger (Wasserman, 26). Grantprograms are a major factor in the federal system. The grant authority is based onexchange, not on the Constitution. If a state does not like the terms, it shouldOne example, though, of how states had recently received some power oflocal authority, is the repealing of the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit for automobiles. There used to be a nation-wide speed limit of 55 mph, until the Senate decided, in1995, to leave it …up to the states to pass their own legislation (Wasserman, 34). While Congress left it up to the states to decide what their speed limit should be,under an anti-federalist system this debate would have never taken place. Congress had passed the national speed limit in 1974, following the Arab oilembargo and during the energy crisis. While, under federalism, Congress couldnot directly legislate a speed limit, it accomplished the same thing by threateningto withhold highway money from states that did not comply with the federally setspeed limits (Wasserman, 34). Although Congress also mentioned that safetywas a factor in setting this speed limit, not just oil conservation, safety was onefactor that states would argue why the speed limit should be raised. Westernstates, especially, would say that anyone who drove 55 mph would risk being runoff the road by the many drivers who would drive much faster. This is a prime example of how states have it in their best interest to decide what is best for their own citizens. George Will wrote, The speed limit issue, having been anenergy issue and then a safety issue, now is a federalism-10th Amendment-statesrights issue, with anti-paternalism in the bargain (Wasserman, 35).
In conclusion, I believe that the examples given, and also many more that Ihavent explained, are the reasons that I personally think states dont haveconsiderable power to exercise. I also believe that the writers of the Constitution,and founders of this country, had no idea what type of hidden powers that theywould have given a government that is arguably the most powerful in the world. Although there is some controversy over the degree to which the levels ofgovernment were truly separate in their actions during the first century of therepublic, there is general agreement that there has been a progression in the shift inpower since the founding of the country, away from the states and towards thenational government. These are all reasons why I believe that the United StatesConstitution does not truly reflect a federalist system.
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