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Federalism

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Federalism

Federalism is flexible. Federalism is not a rigid structural arrangement. It seeks pragmatic solutions to the organization and distribution of political powers in order to meet the common needs of people while accommodating their diverse circumstances and preferences.

Federalism is dynamic. While structures and even constitutional provisions may endure, the practices and operations are likely to change over time. At different times, federal systems may become more centralized, or they may become more decentralized.

Size and democracy. Most democracies that cover large territories are federal (i.e., Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, and the United States).

Pluralism. Federalism has made democracy more viable by providing a way for ethnic, religious, racial, and linguistic communities to benefit from political and economic union while retaining considerable autonomy, self-government and communal identity (e.g., Belgium, Canada, India, Malaysia and Switzerland).

Common market prosperity. Creating a common market through federation or other federal-like arrangements can greatly expand opportunities for economic development and entrepreneurial freedom.

Checks and Balances. Federalism offers citizens multiple points of access to public power and, thus, an ability to appeal to other governments when one is unresponsive. Multiple governments also check and balance each other, thereby limiting the potential for arbitrary decisions and poor treatment of minorities.

Human diversity. By promoting unity without uniformity, federalism seeks to protect human diversity, which serves not only to enhance liberty and the richness of life but also to produce innovation and adaptation to change.

Creative experimentation. A federation benefits from the ability of components to serve as a laboratory, and try social and economic experiments. Successful experiments may be adopted by other members of the federation or applied throughout the federation. For example, Saskatchewan's development of medicare spread throughout Canada.

Citizen choice. By providing for regional and local self-government and for freedom of internal mobility, a federal union gives citizens many choices of government jurisdictions offering different "packages" of taxes, public services, and civic values. Thus, federalism permits citizens to "vote with their feet" by leaving, or threatening to leave, a jurisdiction. This puts pressure on governments to match public services to public preferences.

Public service efficiency. Federal systems are often accused of being inefficient because there can be duplication of services.
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