American Federalism


From the time Federalism was invented in America, it has undergone through notable and tremendous changes. Federalism was first applied after the America gained independence from the Great Britain in a form named as dual federalism. The colonies recognized the need for cooperation as a way of coordinating their efforts towards a common goal. However, federalism was not fully realized as each state sought to accomplish its own goals separately from the national government.p

After this, cooperative federalism was realized where cooperation among different states was called for in order to pursue common goals. Various leaders such as George Washington and others fought to make sure that cooperative federalism was upheld. This happened after the different states agreed that the national government should set some grant fund that would help to achieve common goals. For example, highways and airports were constructed while urban development was enhanced. Cooperative federalism had various drawbacks considering that the national government could pursue matters that were not of interest to all states.

From then henceforth, a unitary system of government was formed with every state making up this union. American Federalism has made sure that the needs and the rights of American citizens have changed. This happened after the relation between the state and the federal government joined to make sure that citizen's needs are met. Prior to this, there were a series of problems such as unemployment, lack of social security and increasing prices. For example, during the time of Roosevelt, the problems were very high especially after the great depression. Because of this, the federal government worked hard to expand on federal welfare programs, unemployment compensation and price stabilization among other things for the sake of American citizen's welfare. This trend has continued ever since with every new government working hard to improve these conditions. The efficiency in every state is measured in terms of how the federal government is able to address issues related to citizens' well-being (Schultze, 2009).


Different factors have allowed the concept of federalism to shape American political behavior. The first factor is the civil war, which was the struggle to end slavery in the country. Although it was a struggle to end slavery, it was more of a struggle between the national government and the states. In this case, there was a struggle between states rights and national power. One of the imperative issues was the issue of segregation, which was once deemed as unconstitutional. As a result, many states opposed this decision by the Supreme Court. Later the federal government enacted different laws prohibiting segregation in housing, education jobs and voting. Different politicians resisted against different state decisions. This led to the enactment of different policies and laws by the federal government to end slavery.


The other factor that have allowed the concept of federalism to shape American political behavior is the development of implied powers where the congress were viewed to have implied powers, which were over the states' powers. Because of this, the congress was seen to have supreme powers within its sphere of action. The other factor was the commerce clause whereby its elaboration led to prohibition of business regulation by the federal government (Robertson, 2012). Because of this, industrialization and globalization aided the concept of federalism by creating different circumstances. For example, industrialization led to changes that could only be dealt with by the federal government. In the 19th century, the regulatory roles taken by the federal government was necessary in creating free economic policies. On the other hand, globalization created extensive trading networks as the country emerged to become a global economic power. Because of this, the federal government was the only one that could assume the role of international trade and globalization.

The relationship between states and the U.S. federal government influences the creation of American policies in different ways. First of all, this relationship enhances democracy, which in turn helps in strengthening the national and state governments. As a result, demand for policies is created, which forces the government into being responsive to these demands.

The relationship between states and the federal governments also helps different states from learning from a certain state that implemented a policy and then failed. For example, some states have implemented different policies after viewing how one state performs well with these policies. A good example is California State, whose policy implementations have led to the creation of similar policies by other states and the national government. Eventually, federalism encourages pluralism where the government systems are expanded at levels in order to create more access to different welfare programs and opportunities. In addition, this cooperation makes sure that there is political stability as a result of allowing or removing the national government from some areas of concerns. This also helps in preventing tyranny because of the ability of the national government to enhancing the functioning of state power and prevention of tyranny (Gerston, 2007).


  1. Robertson, D. B. (2012). Federalism and the making of America. New York: Routledge.

  2. Schultze, R. (2009). From dual to cooperative federalism: the changing structure of European law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Gerston, L. N. (2007). American federalism a concise introduction. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.

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