The Constitution of the United States Outlines a Federalism Structure of Government, What Are the Core Components of Federalism in the US, and How Does This Compare With Other Forms of Government?
Article IV establishes that the states will give “full faith and credit” to the laws of other states. For example, if a citizen gets legally married in one state, he is still married if he moves to another state. Likewise, if a citizen commits a crime in one state, she cannot escape to another state and evade justice. States also can’t discriminate against citizens of other states if they move; any US citizen who moves to a state is entitled to the same “privileges and immunities” of citizenship in that state as someone born there. Article IV also promises states the protection of the federal government. It does this by promising to defend states against invasion, guaranteeing them a republican form of government, and barring the federal government from splitting up a state without the consent of its legislature and Congress.
Another important area of individual liberty enshrined in the US Constitution is the freedom of speech and cultural expression. While everyone is allowed to independently articulate their views, people are expected to refrain from making hate speeches. There is also freedom of information. The government of the United States cannot put any curbs on the media. Interestingly, there is no Ministry of Information in the United States. The media is largely independent and free from official control. All media outlets are under private ownership which keeps ascertaining public opinion about their interest in different issues through opinion polls and surveys. The US media rarely discusses the country’s foreign policy. A lot of attention is paid to domestic issues by the media because not many people in the US take a keen interest in foreign affairs. Newspapers and TV channels keep the interest of their readers and viewers supreme and they avoid printing and broadcasting such material which fails to attract public attention. The government structure in the US is not centralized. The country is divided into independent federal, state and local governments. There are fifty states in the US but all of them have different constitutions, separate laws and state flags. Several laws, including those pertaining to death penalty, gay and lesbian marriages or age of eligibility to use alcoholic drinks, differ from one state to the other. For example, death penalty is legal in New York but it is illegal in Florida. In the same way, punishment for one offense could also be different from one state to the next state. Unlike Pakistan, the President of the United States does not appoint the governors of American states nor does he influence them. They are elected by the voters inside the states and enjoy full independence in terms of pursing state policies. The states in the US are so much powerful that they can even negotiate international trade deals with other countries provided that they do not clash with the interests of the US federation. The American states are empowered to impose taxes on the citizens. Mr. Elias informed us that 90% of state budget in the US comes from public taxes while the government accounts for only 10% of the budget. Another classic example of decentralized American federal system are the local governments. The local governments are also autonomous and powerful to impose taxes. The county police chief is elected. He is so powerful that even the President of the US cannot pressurize him. Thus, he is expected to perform well if he is interested to seek a new term for the same office. There is no national education policy in the US. Every county and state has its own education policy. Every county is divided into a school district. The federal government’s contribution to the total education budget of the states is barely 6% while the remaining budget is paid by the states themselves.
Rosenthal and Hoefler indicate that pragmatic federalism was in part borne out of disenchantment with cooperative federalism. The latter approach was premised on the notion that behavioral science of the 1950s and 1960s could be used to guide national-level policy choices, identifying target populations and meeting needs. Social science would guide policy makers at the national government level to tailor policy responses and interactions with state and local policy makers—in essence, the concept entailed the creation through social science of a cooperative intergovernmental relationship. Unfortunately, many policy prescriptions guided by the behavioral approach failed because the model often ignored many unquantifiable aspects of the policy process such as the interaction between policy institutions, values, preferences, and effective solutions. Pragmatic federalism is characterized by two unique qualities: (1) flexibility—it is outcome-driven rather than process-driven; and (2) the downplaying of the philosophy of government, meaning the set theories about the proper relationship between the national government and state governments are of limited interest in this model (T. Conlan, 2006). Ad hoc network relationships are considered more important than ex ante approaches (i.e., build the relationship around the problem to be solved rather than make the problem fit around a pre-conceived notion of the relationship). Several Democratic state governors began to take a significant role in both the identification and advancement of this new approach to federalism. A political scientist, former county administrative officer and later a two-term Maryland Governor, Parris Glendening (and co-author Reeves) wrote one of the earlier accounts of this new model of federalism in a 1984 book entitled Pragmatic Federalism: An Intergovernmental View of American Government. In his various roles as local and state official, Glendening’s account of pragmatic federalism is built on both theory and practice as he experienced it (P. Hobson, and F. St. Hilaire, 1993).
Ordinarily, the ideas of the federal government and the State of Arizona have not always been a harmonious one. At the inception of the Arizona Constitution, there was controversy concerning the recall of judges. This aspect of the constitution prompted President Taft to veto the first draft of the Arizona Constitution that was presented to him. The federal government does not have recall elections (many states do), but President Taft felt this broad a use of the recall made Arizona depart too much from the federal model. Since the recall of judges was taken out of the second draft that President Taft then accepted only to have it placed back into the Arizona Constitution by a referendum (also not in the US Constitution) shows us that federalism is a highly complex way to organize government.
T. Conlan, “From Cooperatives to Opportunistic Federalism: Reflections on the Half-Century Anniversary of the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations,” Public Administration Review 66(2006): 663-676.
P. Eisinger, “Imperfect Federalism: The Intergovernmental Partnership for Homeland Security,” Public Administration Review 66(2006): 537-545.
J. Kincaid, “The Crisis in Fiscal Federalism,” Spectrum: The Journal of State Government 76(2003): 5-9.
M. Filippov, P. Ordeshook, and O. Shvetsova. Designing Federalism: A Theory of Self-Sustainable Federal Institutions (Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 2004).
P. Hobson, and F. St. Hilaire, Reforming Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements: Toward Sustainable Federalism (Montreal: The Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1993) .