Who Has the Power in the United States?

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The central question of federalism is “Who should do what?” National government supporters believe only a strong central government is capable of ensuring the rights and liberties of its citizens. States’ rights advocates argue for limiting the implied powers of the national government. Federalism was a compromise for the conflict of states’ rights versus central authority. Federalism divides power between the national and the lower level governments with each having distinct powers that the other cannot override. (pg. 46) A unitary system is a system where the national government gives power to sub-national governments such as municipalities, counties, etc. Local governments typically have only those powers granted to them by the national government. The power that the national government has given to the local levels can also be taken away from them. Especially important is the central government’s role as provider of funds. In a federal system, sovereignty is divided between the federal and state governments. Lower units cannot break away from the national unit, and the federal government cannot take away powers from the local governments. (pg. 47-49) Power is retained by local or regional governments in a confederation system. Before the Constitution of the United States was created, the states were the main powerhouse of the confederation system under the Articles of Confederation. (pg. 48-49) The authors of the Constitution wanted to combine a central government strong enough to maintain order with strong states. A federal constitution establishes the structure of a government; intergovernmental relations bring the structure to life. Intergovernmental relations are the way in which the necessary business gets done. Relation... ... middle of paper ... ...n our federal system has changed dramatically over the years. State governments have served as training grounds for national politicians and as laboratories in which new ideas can be tested. The Supreme Court, in its role as interpreter of the Constitution, has been a major player in the redefinition of our federal system. Increasingly, Congress has been guilty of undertaking areas traditionally reserved to the states and restricting authority to regulate these areas. Both federal and state politicians compete to address problems. Over the years, power in the federal system has flowed to the national government because tax money has flowed to there. With its financial resources, the federal government has been able to offer assistance to state and local governments and thereby, involve itself in just about every governmental function performed by these governments.