Tag Archives: Decentralism

Federalism and Ideology

What is federalism?  There are several definitions for it, but I like to think that federalism is the sharing and distribution of power and resources between the federal government and the states.  You can also add “…and the local governments” when you discuss the separation of powers between the levels of government.  For the purposes of this discussion, let’s examine two different views.  The first view, the decentralist view contends that the Constitution is a compact among the sovereign states which gave the central government a limited framework to work from.  Those who oppose such a framework would be centralists.  Centralists see the Constitution as the supreme law of the land and that the states are not the representative of the people.  Centralists claim that the representative of the people is the national government.

Where do you stand on the idea of federalism?  Today’s centralists are more of the socialist and liberal variety while the decentralists are more conservative or libertarian in their thinking.

Centralism and Decentralism


Federalism is the sharing and distribution of powers and resources between a central government and state/local governments.  This system differs from a unitary system where a central government exercises its authority the state/local governments.  A federal system of government is also different from a confederacy.  In a confederate system of government, state and local governments are autonomous in their decision making abilities from a central authority.  The United States, of course, has a federal system of government.  A federal system of government is not without debate.

At the heart of any federalism debate is the size and scope of government.  Those who are centralists favor more national action in regards to solving problems.  Supporters of centralism believe that the “centralization” of power brings about a more efficient way of handling problems when they arise.  Those who are decentralists believe in more state/local action when solving problems.  They also believe that decentralization checks tyranny and allows for experimentation.  By experimentation, we mean that state and local governments can decide what solutions work best for them without any national or central authority giving permission.

Where do you stand?  Are you a centralist or a decentralist?