Federalism the Fundamental Principle Behind Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Government
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #25832379

Excerpt from Term Paper :

So, although the two entities are linked by the constitution, it is essential that the federal government provide the state governments with the means to carry out their own policies, and this needs to be done in a nearly equal manner relative to each of the elemental components. Overall, if a is considered to be the state government, and B. is the federal government:

The federal relation or federalism will exist unimpaired even if, again by Constitutional agreement, the Government of B. finances some or all of the functions which the Government of State a is constitutionally authorized to perform. In other words, B may be the proverbial payer of the 'Piper' a, but B. has nevertheless no legal or Constitutional right to call 'the tune.'"

This illustrates the primary problem that faces the existence of federalism in modern Russia. Namely, the central government finances the operations of the provinces based upon intrinsically unjust and corrupt bases. Obviously, this fact does not suggest that all forms of federalism in Russia are doomed -- economic federalism will always be necessary -- but the negative consequences of its current form have possibly caused a trend towards higher levels of centralization that are, at this point, unavoidable. Still,

The problem with Russian federalism is that the country has never had an efficient federal structure. Essentially, current relations between Moscow and the regions are grounded in the only experiences with federal arrangements Russians ever had, namely Soviet-era ethno-federalism and the asymmetrical federalism of President Boris Yeltsin's administration."

Another problem that can face the proper functioning of a federalist form of government can come about following internal warfare and social unrest. With this in mind it is important to recall the history of the United States, and specifically, the Civil War. Although the war was fought, primarily, to maintain the unification of the central government, its conclusion could easily have ended in a form of military rule. It was a battle between state and federal interests and the federal government won. Accordingly, it is not difficult to imagine an alternative history in which Lincoln and successive presidents upheld their unifying power with the military force that had won them the war; thus, utterly degrading the sovereignty of the states in an attempt to ensure their compliance with national interests. This illustrates one of the ways in which federalist governments can deteriorate into strongly centralized military rules.

This alternative American history is analogous to the state of Nigerian federalism. Nigerian General Yakubu Gowon said, "Nigeria is almost the only African country which has consistently tried to maintain a federal system of government similar to the United States. It is true that federalism and military rule make very strange bedfellows. Nigerian federalism has been distorted by militarism." Essentially, the Nigerian Civil War, although headed by idealistic leaders intent on upholding the institutions of federalism, eventually degraded the notion in successive attempts to hold tumultuous nation together. Largely, this was a result of the forced unification of various tribes following the colonial period:

The adoption of federalism as a system of government by Nigeria was as a result of the domineering presence of centrifugal forces over the centripetal forces since the time of amalgamation in 1914. The North, South, East, West territories of Nigeria were forcefully joined together under a unitary administration of colonial rule, thus when Nigerians had opportunity to choose the type of system of government under which they want to live, a federal system became the obvious answer."

This is an example almost contrary to the Russian malfunctioning of federalism; whereas the Russian federation has delegated undue and asymmetrical powers to their territories, the Nigerian federation has supplanted their territory's autonomies with central military enforcement. Each outcome has been a result of political leaders struggling to hold together numerous geographical regions and cultures, but accomplished in entirely different ways -- but both at the expense of federalism.

So from a broad perspective, federalism involves a delicate balance between provincial and central government, and is not merely any relationship between the two. There are circumstances in which too much authority falls to one or the other and these can no-longer be termed functioning federations. Yet, even within nations that exercise a division of power more effective than those found in Russia or Nigeria, there exist variations from nation to nation due to different pulls either towards state or federal rights.

Doubtlessly, this is the case when considering the differences between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Although all three were formed under similar circumstances, with similar ideologies, and analogous appeals towards both central and territorial rules, they currently exhibit contrasting forms of federalism and differing implications for the future.

Although sharing common borders, Canada, Mexico, and the United States have quite different histories, cultures, and constitutional arrangements. For example, most observers would likely agree that on a scale of federal centralization, Mexico has been the most centralized of the three federations; Canada, the least."

Although their levels of centralization contrast, they are currently all experiencing movements away from federal control and more towards the sovereignty of their territories. In the United States, "For most of the past 20 years or so, American data have shown a generally decreasing level of public support and approval of the federal government, corresponding with more favorable views of state and local governments." This pattern has carried over into Mexico where, pressures for decentralization have been evident in Mexico as well. Federalism was a central issue during the administration of President Ernest Zedillo (1994-2000) when a program known as 'New Federalism' was launched with promises to transfer power and resources to state and local governments."

Not surprisingly, since Canada is arguably the most decentralized nation of the three it is experiencing the most drastic turns towards increases in provincial sovereignty. "The most prominent example was the 1995 referendum on secession in the province of Quebec -- a vote that failed by only a very small margin." In fact, within Canada, asymmetrical federalism is being hailed as a definitive step in the right direction towards more judicious governmental rule. Benoit Pelletier argues:

In fact, asymmetry is the genuine acknowledgement that both flexibility and adaptability are essential parts of the federal formula. Asymmetry is indicative of the idea that Canadian federalism is not only based on the fact its constituent parts came together to combine their resources, values and ideals, but also to defend, foster and promote their own uniqueness and differences. In short, asymmetry is undeniably one of the fundamental features of federalism."

Running common throughout these movements towards decentralization is the prevalent notion that somehow the federal government has lost the ultimate aims of its constituents and has, perhaps, become an end unto itself. Coupled with this notion, as exemplified by Pelletier's statement, is the concept of vast diversity within large nations and their need to accommodate the different needs of different people. The near secession of Quebec from Canada can be seen as the alternative to the current situation facing the territories of Russia. Many Russian territories are not receiving the resources they demand from the central government, and consequently, are calling for a more centralized federal structure in which they will be handled equally. Quebec on the other hand, although in a similar situation, looks to decentralize the Canadian government in an attempt to grant themselves more power and the freedom to adopt independent practices. The problems are analogous, but the solutions are near opposites.

The difference of perspective, however, can be seen through investigating the national heritages of both Canada and Russia. Russia possesses a strong history of unity and cohesion, even in the most adverse of social circumstances. Canada, conversely, has routinely capitulated to the enormous levels of diversity and heritage throughout their history. "Asymmetrical federalism is a fundamental characteristic of [Canada's] founding constitution, the British North America Act, now styled the Constitution Act, 1867." The fact that Canada adopted two official national languages -- English and French -- reflects the notion that it was formed upon the notions of asymmetry. As a result, problems with the federation are likely to be attacked through this lens. In Russia, however, their sense of national identity is likely to prevent any further secession.

The growing pressure in Canada and Mexico towards decentralization is also evident in the United States. Much of U.S. history can be seen as a struggle between state and federal rights -- federalism is at the heart of this matter. Advocates of decentralization suggest that "the movement reflects a belief that 'one-size-fits-all' policies imposed from Washington are not the best way to deal with state and local problems. 'Devolution allows the individual community to have the freedom to do it the way that best fits it.'" Generally, the United States is experiencing a resurgence of this manner of thought, and many issues that were previously in the hands of the federal government -- like welfare -- have…

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