The following is largely stol….I mean borrowed from Wikipedia with some additions and slight revisions by Win Lose or Draw.

Main Wikipedia article:  Federalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalism)


Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing entity. The term “federalism” is also used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (such as states or provinces). Federalism is a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments, creating what is often called a federation.

Win Lose or Draw Commentary: As you are certainly aware, most of the problems of decision making in a Democracy arise from uncertainty and confusion as to how the “sharing” of power should be accomplished.

Win Lose or Draw Plot Spoiler: At the end of this Wikipedia article, Win Lose or Draw will suggest that the concept of Subsidiarity is constitutionally implied and already provided for in the existing constitutional language. Subsidiarity is the concept that the least central and smallest element of government that can effectively handle a problem or settle a dispute should, by rights, be delegated the authority to do so. The only caveat would be that in times of war the highest element must be designated to coordinate everyone’s efforts towards the defense of the Union.

Wikipedia continued (same article):

European vs. American Federalism

In Europe, “Federalist” is sometimes used to describe those who favor a common federal government, with distributed power at regional, national and supranational levels. Most European federalists want this development to continue within the European Union. European federalism originated in post-world war II Europe; one of the more important initiatives was Winston Churchill’s speech in Zurich in 1946.

In the United States, federalism originally referred to belief in a stronger central government. When the U.S. Constitution was being drafted, the Federalist Party (with George Washington’s backing, Hamilton and Adams) supported a stronger central government, while Anti-Federalists (Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry) wanted a weaker central government.

Win Lose or Draw Commentary: The anti-federalists of that time were apparently espousing the (for lack of a better word) Liberal values of the 1700’s. They did not want the American “experiment” to devolve into a Monarchy or otherwise Authoritarian regime. However, a stronger central government than was, at the time, provided for by the Articles of Confederation was almost certainly necessary. The country was in debt and needed to raise taxes to pay those war debts. Also, the new country was vulnerable to attack, and needed to raise an army and a navy.

Wikipedia continued (same article):

This is very different from the modern usage of “federalism” in Europe and the United States. The distinction stems from the fact that “federalism” is situated in the middle of the political spectrum between a confederacy and a unitary or authoritarian state. The U.S. Constitution was written as a reaction to the Articles of Confederation, under which the United States was a loose confederation with a weak central government. During the Civil War (which was anything but “Civil”), members of the Confederacy, referred to pro-Union soldiers of the United States government as “Federals.” Thus in the United States “federalism” argued for a stronger central government, relative to a confederacy.

In contrast, Europe has a greater history of unitary states than North America, thus European “federalism” argues for a weaker central government, relative to a unitary state. The modern American usage of the word is much closer to the European sense. As the power of the Federal government has increased, some people have perceived a much more unitary state than they believe the Founding Fathers intended. Most people politically advocating “federalism” in the United States argue in favor of limiting the powers of the federal government, especially the judiciary. (see Wikipedia Federalist Society, New Federalism).

Win Lose or Draw Commentary: As usual the meanings of terms and definitions are somewhat arbitrary and up for grabs. The meaning of the term “Federalism” depends somewhat on where you sit in the Geo-political world.

Wikipedia continued (same article):

In general, two extremes of federalism can be distinguished: at one extreme, the strong federal state is almost completely unitary, with few powers reserved for local governments; while at the other extreme, the national government may be a federal state in name only, being a confederation in actuality.

United States

Main article: Federalism in the United States

Federalism in the United States is the evolving relationship between state governments and the federal government. American government has evolved from a system of dual federalism to one of associative federalism. In “Federalist No. 46,” James Madison asserted that the states and national government “are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers.” Alexander Hamilton, writing in “Federalist No. 28,” suggested that both levels of government would exercise authority to the citizens’ benefit: “If their [the peoples’] rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress.”

Because the states were preexisting political entities, the U.S. Constitution did not need to define or explain federalism in any one section but it often mentions the rights and responsibilities of state governments and state officials in relation to the federal government. The federal government has certain express powers (also called enumerated powers) which are powers spelled out in the Constitution, including the right to levy taxes, declare war, and regulate interstate and foreign commerce. In addition, the Necessary and Proper Clause gives the federal government the implied power to pass any law “necessary and proper” for the execution of its express powers. Other powers—the reserved powers—are reserved to the people or the states. The power delegated to the federal government was significantly expanded by the Supreme Court decision in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), amendments to the Constitution following the Civil War, and by some later amendments—as well as the overall claim of the Civil War, that the states were legally subject to the final dictates of the federal government.

The anti-federalist party (the Democratic-Republicans), were particularly opposed to the Necessary and Proper Clause.

After the Civil War, the federal government increased greatly in influence on everyday life and in size relative to the state governments. Reasons included the need to regulate businesses and industries that span state borders, attempts to secure civil rights, and the provision of social services. The federal government acquired no substantial new powers until the acceptance by the Supreme Court of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

From 1938 until 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court did not invalidate any federal statute as exceeding Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause. Most actions by the federal government can find some legal support among the express powers, such as the Commerce Clause, whose applicability has been narrowed by the Supreme Court in recent years.

Dual-Federalism holds that the federal government and the state governments are co-equals, each sovereign. However, as previously stated, the balance of power has shifted from what the Founding Fathers originally envisioned.

Win Lose or Draw final Commentary: Win Lose or Draw believes that we should reinstitute the concept of Subsidiarity to restore the original balance of power between federal and local government. The concept of Subsidiarity was the founding precept, although not as clearly delineated as we might like. It is constitutionally implied and already provided for in the existing constitutional language. Subsidiarity, as previously stated, is the concept that the least central and smallest element of government that can effectively handle a problem or settle a dispute should, by rights, be delegated the authority to do so. The only caveat would be that in times of war the highest element must be designated to coordinate everyone’s efforts towards the defense of the Union.

Post Script: Win Lose or Draw would favor the election of two Presidents, a peace time President and a war time President. Only one of these Presidents would have authority at any one time, and the transfer of power would be initiated prior to war and only under clearly written rules of accession. For example, during the Obama versus McCain election, you might have voted for Obama as the peace time President and McCain as the war time President. Had you been around during World War II, you might have voted for FDR as peace time President and MacArthur as the war time President.