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Federalism refers to the separation of power within a federation between the states and the central government. As a consequence, it establishes a mixed composite form of government that blends state governments and the central government. As a result, two bodies, the state and federal governments, share power in the same geographical area. The need for a stronger central government resulted in a political balance between the federal government and the American states. The federal government, however, remained in power. This dimension has a direct impact on the relationship between the state and the federal government. The constitution does express vast powers to the federal government but limits to the state. The provision of the bill of rights including the tenth amendment creates an imbalance. The state has all the powers that are not delegated to the national government. The constitution vividly stipulates a division of power and responsibilities between the state governments and the national government. More importantly, the supremacy clause comprised in Article VI makes an explicit declaration of the treaties and federal laws to be exercised by the different governments. The Constitution does grant the Congress some enumerated powers that are found in Section 8 of Article I. The powers stipulated in this clause cover broad ranges of the subject such as the authority of the national government to tax, borrow and spend money.

This relationship between the national government and the state has evolved for the past 200 years. This has vitally “guided the evolution of governmental institutions and provided the basis for political stability, individual freedom, economic growth, and social progress” (Smith 18). In 1777, the Articles of Confederation was adopted by a congress and signed in July 1778. The articles of confederation established the US under a confederation rule where it contained an association of independent government units. Every state thus operates independently and separately from each other. The constitution was drafted in 1787 and was designed by only 27 amendments. This was after a period of turmoil dissension, and weakness that was experienced under the reign of articles of confederation. It limited power and built a weak central government that did not have the power to back its policies with the military power. However, when the constitution was enacted, the smaller states developed fears of domination by the large states and thus wanted equal representation. The Great Compromise was used to settle this issue. The need for changes in order to keep pace with the growing nation provides room for provision of amendments. In Marbury v. Madison case of 1803, the Supreme Court did establish a doctrine for the power of the court to interpret the acts of the Congress (Levy 7). Also, the civil war and the civil rights movement led to the establishment of Bill of Rights and the Equal Protection Clause that were constituted to offer equal rights. The fourteen amendment was enacted in 1867, and indeed many evolutions have occurred. The federal rule was established on January 2, 1975. This was after the constitutional makers realized that the constitution had a lot of power and thus felt that there was a need for a different system.

There is no balance of power between the states and the federal government. As such, the federal government depicts to hold more powers compared to the state government. This is because in 1789 the constitution gave the national government the rights to collect taxes, raise an army, “regulate interstate commerce and adjudicate legal disputes between states” (Levy 18). Certainly, the federal power has prevailed despite the attempts of the state to nullify the excess power.

Works Cited

Levy, Leonard W et al. Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2000.

Smith, Jennifer. Federalism. Vancouver, UBC Press, 2014.

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