Which Is Better, the Unitary or the Federal System of Government  Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Unitary State vs. The Federal State

Unitary vs. Federal

A unitary state government is one in which the state's entire affairs are overseen by a single central governing authority. A federal state government is one in which governing powers are shared between a central government and a local or state government(s). France offers us today an example of a unitary state, while the U.S. offers us an example of a federal state. To judge which type of government is better, one could look to these two examples -- but as neither appears to be ideal in its present-day condition (both are broke), this paper will instead look at the dynamic of both types of states to show why a federal state is preferable to a unitary state.

The unitary state solution is one that lends itself to the Weber-based system of modern bureaucracy, and for that reason is bound to lead to corruption, waste, inefficiency, slowness, and disconnection. Such, of course, is the opinion of this author -- but others do disagree: According to Macionis (2006), bureaucracy "is an organizational model rationally designed to perform tasks efficiently" (p. 120), one on which German sociologist Max Weber wrote a seminal work lauding the bureaucratization of society as a goal for the revolutionizing of public administration. Weber's ideal state was one in which a single authority (like a monarch) oversaw all aspects of a state -- except Weber's "monarch" was itself run by a system of oversights, ensuring that the central authority operated optimally and that its working parts performed as expected of them. Weber attempted to translate human affairs into a mechanical process and the state into a kind of business. No longer did the state have a king, who might be a philosopher/warrior/father-type, such as Plato identified in The Repbulic. The modern unitary state should have a central authority overseeing the laws and affairs of every village. There could be no such thing as local authority or responsibility unless that authority were taking its cues from the central overseers. One can see that the idea of personal responsibility (I must look after my town, my county, my village, my home) is given over to the idea of nanny statehood (I must do as the central government tells me, it will take care of me, and all I need do is follow its lead).

The federal state, however, allows for the local or individual state governments to conduct their own domestic affairs and set their own internal laws, while the central government looks more towards foreign policy. That is the case in theory, though in practice (as the U.S. has shown) the federal state appears very similar to the unitary state in all but name, which just goes to show how money corrupts politics (local governments will in many cases conform to the will of the central government in order to receive federal money). However, state legislation regarding marijuana is showing that the U.S. is still a federal state to a certain extent -- but that extent is a dubious one, as some states legalize marijuana yet the central government still considers it illegal (thus placing…

Sources Used in Document:

Reference List

Macionis, J. (2006). Society: The Basics. Prentice-Hall.

Ritzer, G. (2009). Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The

Basics. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Washington, G. (1796). Washington's Farewell Address. Avalon Project. Retrieved from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

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