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The New Deal and American Federalism Essays

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Federalism may be described as a system of government that features a separation of powers and functions between the state and national governments. This system has been used since the very founding of the United States. The constitution defines a system of dual federalism, which ensures sovereignty of the state and national governments. This is put in place in order to limit the national government’s power. However, the Great Depression of 1929 greatly weakened the nation’s economic systems. President Roosevelt made many changes in the relationship between the national and state governments, thus revolutionizing our understanding of federalism, through the New Deal. This essay seeks to explore the changes and attributes that define post-New Deal federalism.
Prior to the New Deal, the United States practiced the traditional interpretation of dual federalism. The two forms of government were sovereign and had different parts to play, in the life of the American citizen. Under the ‘expressed powers’, the national government was granted various roles. These were the powers to collect taxes, coinage, declaration of war and regulation of commerce. However, the national government’s role in the economy was limited to interstate commerce. The tenth amendment to the constitution reserved these powers to the state governments. This in effect ensured that the state governments controlled most aspects of the economy. Federal institutions were limited to ensuring and harmonizing cooperation, between different states, on economic matters.
During the Great Depression, many economic institutions failed. President FDR opted to forego economic ideas such as the market’s self-regulation. The national government was traditionally limited in it...


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...arisen in the form of unfunded mandates. The federal government has created national directives, but occasionally failed in providing the necessary funding. As a result, its power in cooperative federalism may be compromised as it is not keeping up its end of the bargain. States and local governments have been forced to shoulder the costs of these programs (Ginsberg and Lowi et al. 83). This may result into modifications of national directives to match local desires, which may negate the principles of this federalism. However, the program has been mostly successful. Alongside the New Deal, it assisted many Americans to regain employment. In essence, it has improved the outlook of the national economy since the 1930s.















Works Cited

Ginsberg, Benjamin, Theodore J Lowi and Margaret Weir. We the people. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print.


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