The American Democracy, 10th Edition (Patterson)
Federalism: Forging a Nation
The author focuses on the issue of federalism: its creation through the Constitution, its evolution during the nation’s history, and its current status. The main points presented in the chapter are these:
- The power of government must be equal to its responsibilities. The Constitution was needed because the nation’s preceding system (under the Articles of Confederation) was too weak to accomplish its expected goals, particularly those of a strong defense and an integrated economy.
- Federalism—the Constitution’s division of governing authority between two levels, nation and states—was the result of political bargaining. Federalism was not a theoretical principle, but a compromise made necessary in 1787 by the prior existence of the states.
- Federalism is not a fixed principle for allocating power between the national and state governments, but a principle that has changed over time in response to political needs and partisan ideology. Federalism has passed through several distinct stages in the course of the nation’s history.
- Contemporary federalism tilts toward national authority, reflecting the increased interdependence of American society.