Pacete: Are the Filipinos ready for Federalism?

MY GOOD friend is bent on convincing me to support RevGov to make things easy for federalism. “Yes, we know RevGov. We were there once. How much do you know about federalism? “He smiled at me, “Just like America… America is good because of federalism.”

I was obliged to share based on my Political Science notebook. Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a national (federal) government and various regional (subnational) governments, each of which enforces its own laws directly on its citizens and neither of which can alter the arrangement without the consent of the other.

The United States, Canada, Australia, India, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Switzerland are generally regarded as having federal systems. My friend would want me to take the United States as an example.

Why did America go for federalism? The “Founders” of America understood that “republican principles,” while they should be taken good care and patronized, would not be sufficient in themselves to protect the individual liberty.

Periodic elections, party competition, votes enfranchisement, and political equality may function to make governing elites more responsive to popular concerns.

According to the “Founding Fathers,” “A dependence on the people is no doubt, the primary control of the government, but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” So, this means that America opted for federalism for “auxiliary precautions against tyranny.”

There could be other reasons, but I pinpointed to him what could be the first reason. Federalism in America is defined in the United States Constitution as a fundamental aspect of American government, whereby the states are not merely regional representatives of the federal government, but are granted independent powers and responsibilities.

My friend’s eyes are now becoming big. With their own Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, and Judicial Branch, states are empowered to pass, enforce, and interpret laws, provided they do not violate the Constitution. This arrangement not only allows state governments to respond directly to the interests of their local populations, but also serves to check the power of the federal government.

While the federal government determines foreign policy, with exclusive powers to make treaties, declare war, and control imports and exports, the states have exclusive power to ratify and amend the Constitution. Most governmental responsibilities, however, are shared by state and federal governments.

Both levels are involved in such public policy issues as taxation, business regulation, environmental protection, and civil rights. The precise extent of state and federal responsibility has always been controversial. Republican administration, for example, have tended to grant more authority to the states, thereby encouraging political and economic freedom, but discouraging comprehensive social welfare.

Until the middle of the 20th century, the Supreme Court of the United States of America left the interpretation of many civil rights guarantees to the states, resulting in widespread discrimination against minorities.

Federalism is not heaven. It may create confusion about which level of government is responsible for action and anger when needed performance is delayed.

Federalism can also obstruct action on national issues, or contradict national policy. It encourages policy experimentation and innovation. It may be perceived today as a “conservative” idea, but it was once viewed as the instrument of “progressivism.” The relative strength of the national government has constantly changed over the course of American history.

American federalism is not an overnight product, my friend. It has reached seven layers (compared to a cake) from 1787 when it started with dual federalism until now. In 2011, America started the topmost layer and the Americans are calling it the “bottom-up” federalism.

My friend lost track of our conversation. Federalism is very complicated. We can foreshadow what’s going to happen in a Revolutionary Government, but it could be another long story to hop from RevGov to federalism. I could be wrong and someone could sympathize with me.
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