Assess the significance of Federalism in the USA (30 marks)

Federalism is the theory of sharing power between a national government and state governments, each having their own areas of substantive jurisdiction. Federalism was set up in the USA through the Connecticut compromise to prevent tyrannical governments after the American’s independence from Britain. This contrasts with the UK system which sees Parliament sovereign over constituencies. Federalism is not a static concept and leads to mass debate the in US. Liberal’s would argue that Federal government doesn’t have enough power whereas conservatives would argue that big government has expanded too far from the aims on the Founding Fathers and undermines the separation of powers found in the constitution.

Federalism is addressed in the constitution, which is entrenched and the supreme law of the land in the US. The 10th amendment delegates powers to the states to control commerce and issues which aren’t enumerated to the federal government. Howver, the 14th amendment gives federal government the right to intervene to protect the rights of citizens residing within the state. The federal governemtn has powers to levy taxes, print money, regulate interstate commerce and declare war. State government’s therefore should not introduce legislation that steps into these fields. They can, however, control local issues such as local taxes or punishments within the state such as the 31 states that allow capital punishment. They also arguably have powers over local education or health care, but in recent years these issues have been dealt with more by the federal government such as the No Child Left Behind Act 2001 and Affordable Care Act 2010.

Federalism has stayed significant due to the fact it has adapted to suit society and the political system despite it being a concept adopted in 1787. There has been multiple phases of federalism, the first being dual federalism, also known as layer cake federalism due to the separation of powers between state and federal government. Cooperative federalism was introduced in 1937 and saw state and federal powers overlapping due to the impact of the Wall Street crash which required cooperation to resolve issues such as unemployment through public works administrations. This was controversial and led to an increase of federal power and the start…


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