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Federal System


A federal government is a system that divides up power between a strong national government and smaller local governments. Let us take a look at how power plays out between the national and local governments, and the benefits of a federal government.

A unitary form of government is a country that is run by a single unit of power, known as the central government. This central government makes all of the decisions, laws, and policies for the entire country. This is a very commonly used form of governance in the world, mainly due to its extreme advantages that it offers. While it may seem all good, there are some significant downfalls that should definitely be taken into account when looking at unitary government as a whole.

Comparing Features of Federal and Unitary Governments

In a unitary system, the central government has all the power.  In a federal system, some powers are given to the central government and other powers are given to the lower levels of government (provinces or states).

The central government gets to decide what powers, if any, to give to the lower levels of government.  Even if it gives them some power, it can always take it back.  The lower levels of government have no right to their power.

In a federal system, the lower levels have a right to their powers.  The central government cannot just take those powers away.  Typically, as with the US, there is a written constitution that tells what powers go to the national government and what powers go to the lower levels.

Put simply, the difference between a unitary and a federal government is that a unitary government puts its power in one central government while in a federal system the governing power is divided into federal and local governing bodies that connect to the national government.

  1. The Unitary governing system:
    1. Places its power in one central governing system
    2. Very little political power exists outside the central government
    3. The powers of this governing system are uniformly applied throughout
    4. All major government decisions are made by the central government
    5. If smaller government units are established they are controlled by the central government and can be abolished by such without their consent
    6. Many unitary governments are either dictatorships or totalitarian
    7. France, although Democratic, is governed by a Unitarian body
    8. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Barbados, Morocco, and Spain are examples of unitary monarchy government
    9. China, Afghanistan, Italy, Zambia, and the Ukraine are examples of unitary republic government

  1. The Federal Governing System:
    1. Distributes power from the national government to local/state governments to adopt laws that are reasonable to the country as a whole and the localities
    2. Power may be diffused in the federal system
    3. Multi-national states often have a federal system
    4. Larger countries often adopt the federal system since constituents may live in areas remote to the location of the central government
    5. Ethnicities with in a country may lead to a federal system as their rules and laws may vary. An example of this is the small country of Belgium which balances the needs two distinct ethnic groups
    6. The United States has a federal governing system with a national government and Constitution, in conjunction with states governments and constitutions

A federal government is a system of dividing up power between a central national government and local state governments that are connected to one another by the national government.

Some areas of public life are under the control of the national government, and some areas are under control of the local governments. For this reason, cop films like to create drama by making the federal government and local government bump heads over who should be investigating the crime at hand.

Federal government systems usually have a constitution that specifies what areas of public life the national government will take control over and what areas of public life the state governments will take control over. Federal governments help address the wide variety of needs of a geographically large country. It is no wonder, then, that federal governments exist in large countries, like the United States, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and others.

Whether Indian Constitution is federal is a question that hasn’t been quite satisfactorily answered as yet. Some believe that the constitution is federal while others argue that is unitary in nature. So let us get a brief idea of what is exactly meant by the terms “federation” and “unitary constitution”. Further, we will chalk out the features of the Indian Constitution that give it a federal character and those which are more like unitary constitutions.

Art. I of the Indian constitution calls “India that is Bharat” “a union of states.” The term federation is absent in this description. Yet experts agree that Indian constitution is a federal constitution, though as a federation India is different from either the U. S. or the Canadian federation.

A federation is a political contrivance to reconcile national unity with state rights. A federation is essentially a composite polity consisting of a national or central government administering subjects of national interest and a number of governments of the component units of federation called the state or provincial governments. Such governments administer subjects of essentially local interest. There may be same subjects concurrently administered both sets of governments.

A written and usually rigid constitution embodies the distribution of subjects between the two sets of authorities. The constitution is made rigid in order that neither the central nor the state governments may alter the constitutionally ordained distribution of powers acting alone.

A federation also has a supreme judiciary to act as guardian of the constitution. This is necessary to make the national and state governments operate within their constitutionally allotted sphere and prevent either from overstepping its bounds.

Finally, a federal constitution is appropriate only in a federal society. A government cannot be federal unless the society is federal.

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