What is Federalism?
Federalism: Preserving the Blessings of Freedom and Prosperity
by Kevin Lundberg – July, 2021
Recently, our nation has been challenged with several issues that have rocked the foundations of our culture.
The pandemic, cancel culture and election uncertainties have tested our nation’s ability to negotiate through these troubling times. While the future continues to be murky, our nation has demonstrated a resiliency against these threats to our freedoms which can only be understood through the system of government we call federalism.
Federalism is that balance of power between the Federal Government and the 50 individual, sovereign states. This division of authority, defined and established in the U.S. Constitution, not only buffers us from any rash actions by the Federal Government, it also provides a competitive environment for testing the effectiveness of policies put in place by each state. It is not perfect, but it is a lot better than any other form of government that exclusively rules from a capital city.
The policies that came out of the pandemic are the first and best examples today of federalism in action. While some states, such as New York and California were all-in for strict lockdowns and significant manipulation of their economies, other states took a much more tempered approach. Now, it is clear which policy worked best; many citizens are literally voting with their feet as they move away from the heavy-handed control states to the states that showed a greater respect for individual freedom and liberty.
It is also instructive to note that the measurable difference in the impact on the health of individuals caused by the pandemic, when comparing the control states and the freedom states was minimal. In fact, it can be argued that freedom was safer, as the unintended consequences of depression and suicide were remarkably less in the freedom states.
This is the genius of federalism. Limiting and dividing government power is good for everyone. Consolidating power to one central authority is not only a path to serfdom, it also limits the prosperity and the well being of average citizens. The cancel culture, driven by a rush to accept critical race theory (CRT), is another arena where federalism holds our nation back from the brink of an irrational abyss. Florida’s Governor DeSantis led the way in declaring CRT will not be a part of Florida schools. It will take more than a statement from the governor, but his state and some other states have taken up this cause. CRT will not be jammed down every American’s throat because of a decision from any administration in Washington. Again, federalism trumps the central planners (some pun intended).
The other current example of federalism at work, or not, is election reform. Congress was considering a wholesale takeover of election policies and procedures with HR1, which ultimately failed in the Senate, but now they are rolling out another iteration with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. This legislation flies in the face of a true respect for the division of governmental powers that embodies federalism.
As a refreshing contrast to this heavy-handed power grab by Congress, individual states are investigating election irregularities in the 2020 election on their own and working to develop policies for more secure and reliable elections in their particular state. Through our 50 laboratories for liberty we can and will find the best way to conduct future elections. This, too, is federalism in action.
Federalism is not an archaic term, buried in the theoretical concepts of a forgotten political science textbook. It is the vital essence of our nation’s system of government. For our nation to thrive, federalism must be understood and nurtured. We must be constantly vigilant in keeping the flame of federalism alive.
Our founders knew this balance was critical for future generations. That is why the principles of federalism are found throughout the Constitution. In Article I, Section 3 each state is given equal representation in the Senate. In Section 8, Congress, and therefore all of the Federal Government, is only granted enumerated powers. Article II, Section 1 gives the state legislatures exclusive power for the manner of choosing electors to the Electoral College and if there is not a majority vote in the Electoral College (as modified by the Twelfth Amendment), each state is given an equal vote in the House of Representatives for choosing the President.
In Article V, the states are given original authority for proposing and ratifying amendments. All states have equal voting power for calling for a convention to propose amendments and ratifying any proposed amendments. Article VII follows that same pattern, giving each state equal voting authority to ratify the original constitution. Finally, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments make it perfectly clear that the Federal Government has no power or authority other than what is specifically enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.
In addition to the government’s authority being divided between the three branches of government, the division of power between the states and the central government is intended to limit the reach of government and maximize the freedoms of individual citizens.
This is federalism.
The blessings of freedom and prosperity are much more possible because of the principles found in federalism. Despite all of the problems facing our nation, federalism is an essential defense for our liberties.