flect a federalist systemI believe that the United States Constitution does not truly reflect a federalist system. In fact, I believe that the federalist system, in which states have considerable power to exercise, was all but abolished by the United States Constitution. 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 federalists and anti-federalists.
That Federalism furnishes the means of uniting commonwealths into one nation under one national government without extinguishing 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 one national government controlling all the states. Federalism as a whole attracted greater attention than any other subject during the framing of the Constitution. It is easy to understand why the anti-federalists didnt want to get involved with another central government considering they had sought freedom from an oppressive British government.
But, in 1787, the federalists won the debate during the Constitutional Convention, which resulted in sovereign states giving up a significant portion of their authority to a new national government… (Wolf, 51). In the beginning, though, only a few powers were granted to the national government. This was before the establishment of the executive and judicial branches of our government that we are familiar with today. With the creation of the three branches of our government, I believe that states had lost some considerable power.
The executive and judicial branches are federal branches of government, while the legislative branch is the only branch that is represented by each state. Some may argue that this is the most powerful branch of our government, but I believe that the executive branch has the most power. Congress does have considerable power to make laws, but the president can 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 a two-thirds vote, especially when there are representatives who have the same views, and belong to the same political party, as the president. This limits the states powers tremendously, not to mention that any law that is created will be a Another example of the United States Constitutions lack of reflecting an anti-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 legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Even if Alaska decided to go through with this, then the United States government would intervene and tell them that it is unconstitutional to overrule our national government. This is a glaring example of how the states do not have considerable power to exercise, as would be accepted by an anti-federalist system. If we were in this type of system, states would be able to decide what is right and wrong, and be able to establish laws, and enforce them, using their own discretion. Also, state administrators are ultimately responsible for implementing many federal policies, whether they are grant or regulatory programs adopted under federal guidelines.
In this day in age there are fifty states, and state responses to joint programs vary tremendously.Even back when there were just colonies and commonwealths, individual responses to laws Furthermore, …under the original constitutional design, the national government was not to intervene directly in the affairs of state governments (Wolf, 76). I believe that if states had considerable power to exercise, then they would 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 to decide for themselves what is in their citizensbest interests. Im not saying that this would be a better way to run our country, but this would better represent an anti-federalist way of thinking. After all, if there were separate laws for every state, it would be hard for people to know every states laws.
The history of the United States government has seen how there is a national dominance over the states. Decentralizing the government wasnt brought forward,since the early 1800s, until the Nixon administration and the concept of New Federalism. The move toward decentralization was broadly supported by the Republican Party. Revenue sharing was inaugurated by President Nixon to transfer national funds to the states, without stipulation of how the money was to be 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 and limitations which all affect how they act together in implementing programs. The national government acts in the states in order to promote uniformity and equity. Federal grantsin aid may be redistributive or developmental in purpose and take advantage of the national governments greater fiscal capacity. However, federalism focuses …on the distribution of power between central and peripheral units of government (Wolf, 77).
The founders of the Constitution had very few options when they wrote the document. The states were loosely bonded and had little organization, so …federalism, then, was more than just a reasonable principle for governing a large country divided by regional differences and slow communications. 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 government supremacy), Amendment X (reserved powers) and Amendment XIV (national control of state action).
The enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8, list the specific powers of the national government. While these are supposedly the only powers it has, in fact the commerce and elastic clauses have permitted great enlargement. While the Constitution remains an important limit on centralized power, the federal government has grown much stronger (Wasserman, 26). Grant programs are a major factor in the federal system. The grant authority is based on exchange, not on the Constitution. If a state does not like the terms, it should One example, though, of how states had recently received some power of local 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, in 1995, 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 oil embargo and during the energy crisis. While, under federalism, Congress could not directly legislate a speed limit, it accomplished the same thing by threatening to withhold highway money from states that did not comply with the federally set speed limits (Wasserman, 34). Although Congress also mentioned that safety was a factor in setting this speed limit, not just oil conservation, safety was one factor that states would argue why the speed limit should be raised. Western states, especially, would say that anyone who drove 55 mph would risk being run off 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 an energy issue and then a safety issue, now is a federalism-10th Amendment-states rights issue, with anti-paternalism in the bargain (Wasserman, 35). In conclusion, I believe that the examples given, and also many more that I havent explained, are the reasons that I personally think states dont have considerable 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 they would 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 of government were truly separate in their actions during the first century of the republic, there is general agreement that there has been a progression in the shift in power since the founding of the country, away from the states and towards the national government. These are all reasons why I believe that the United States Constitution does not truly reflect a federalist system.