Federalism in the United States, Essay Example

The United States was founded for the sole reason of the people being free of Kingman or rulers that took away their rights and liberties. As a solid democracy began to formed, many aristocrats that spoke for the elite and others that spoke for the common man were entangled in a weaponless war where the fight for the balance of power between a central (national) government, and their governments of the states. The balance of power is more than the weighing of interests, it is the balance of the state governments and the federal government that both have vested interests in the formation and direction of the United States. The struggle of power between the two entities has clearly lasted from the founding until the present day being argued in the Supreme Court. The result was the formation of the Constitution that represents the federal powers and the Bill of Rights that expresses individual rights. The Bill of Rights sought to protect the individual against abuses of the power of government, even if the government had the support of the majority.” (Volkomer 9)  This essay will provide a look at how powers of the federal and state governments are balanced under the Constitution, and how the American federalism has evolved overtime to describe how the balance of power has changed from the founding to how it is today.

When drafting the Constitution the framers were a mixture of elite men that held elitist views on keeping the powers and the elections of the President in the hands of a group of elite and rich individuals who felt that they knew what was best for the majority. The ratification of the Constitution was met with much debate as the Federalists, and Anti federalists both had equal agendas in what they wanted the Constitution to represent and say, and overall the role and powers of the government. Both parties clashed on the limitations of powers as the Anti-Federalists felt that the new Constitution would take away their state rights and loyalties while given it all up to the federal government. “In the long run, they charged, the Constitution would erode the face-to-face participation necessary for a healthy democracy.” (Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstrom, De Luca, 2011) The Anti-federalists were opposite in the views that did not agree on the capacity of the human nature and society. The anti-federalists felt that the mass of people good be educated into civic virtue, were capable of being unselfish, and pursue the common good. Anti-federalists believe that the main threat to democracy was the selfish of powerful elites in charge. In their defense what led to the American Revolution in 1776 was that men believed the government (aristocracy) of Great Britain wanted to discourage the economic freedoms and opportunities of the American colonists by applying excessive taxes and other measures. A bigger government that controlled everything would certainly infringed upon the rights that they just fought for. However, if even left in the hands of the people Federalists believed that the common man was selfish and ignorant of the civics.

The result however was that the Federalists won in their decision on ratifying the Constitution and putting power in to the hands of the federal government, however as a compromise they did create the Bill of Rights in order to protect those rights that the Antifederalist believed the Constitution took away. Just like the anti-federalists had their debate about the powers that being put into the Constitution, the Federalists were trying to come up with a way in which the government would not turn into a tyrannical disorder that took away complete power and control of the people. “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.”(Volkomer, 2010)   In doing so James Madison wrote Federalist Papers 47 and 51 detailing how there needed to be a separation of powers, and a system of checks and balances. “To guard against oppression concentration of powers within government, he wrote, ‘ambition must be made to counteract ambition’,” (Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstrom, De Luca, 2, 2011) they wanted a system that could limit the powers of the central government, allowing for more independent branches of government. That is where the main principle has evolved is federalism which is the sharing of power between national and state government.

The organization of the American government is a mixture of input from both the Federalists and Anti federalists who wanted a government that represented the people and the furthering the direction of growth for the country. Constitution has illustrated these demands by giving the national government a summed amount of power that keeps them away from usurping total control out of the hands of the people. The federal government is divided into three separate branches, legislative, judicial, and executive. This division of government power is based on the belief that if any part of government has most of the power it threaten the liberties and freedoms of the people. The balance of power established under the Constitution is in favor of the states.

In order for members to build that balance they enumerated the powers within the Constitution that are designated for the powers of the federal government and that the state government. Amendment 10 gives the states sovereignty, “This declares that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Zernike, 2012) Powers that are designated to the federal government are found in Article I. Section 8, where they established Congress, elected as a representative body of the people. “Congress shall ‘make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution any of the enumerated powers, alongside state legislatures.” (Zernike, 2012) Congress was broken down into two parts with the people electing two state members in the House of Representatives, and the state choosing the members for the Senate. The idea was to create a system of checks and balances each other in order to provide an equal representation to each of the states.

These writings and ideas that have helped make up the Constitution were plagued with intense debates since the founding, throughout the ratifying and are still going on presently about the balance of power and the shift. The Tea Party movement sprung up after the election of President Obama. Many of the tea party members felt that the government was overreaching in their usage of powers. Not only Tea Party members but Republican Members of Congress, “lots of my constituents have said that Congress has gone beyond its powers granted in the Constitution.”(STEINHAUER, 2011) They provide that their interpretation of the Constitution is correct and Democrats have mistook of what the Framers meant for American Society. In debating the powers of the Congress were only granted 20 specific powers, but “Congress has gone way beyond that, not only in the health care overhaul legislation passed last year, but also in the bulk of the legislation and regulation passed since the Great Depression.” (Zernike, 2011) Not only has that, but Congress exceeded its powers to the executive branch in declaring wars in the last decade. The power that has been left to the state is now being overrun by the federal government with backings from the Supreme Court in deciding laws that go with their political affiliation.

Within the future of the American society, the balance of powers will continue to shift if people do not wake up and realize that their individual rights are being taken and infringed upon by the federal government. In instances where the state is given sovereignty to preside, the federal government has usurp power and taken away that law that was passed. In the example of the use of medical marijuana in California, it is legal, yet people that are designated to grow it will be arrested by the federal government because they do not recognize it as legal. The powers are not balanced, and the shift is given more power to Congress to make decisions over Women’s rights, Marriage rights, and laws that have fought against discrimination in the workplace and in schools.


Miroff, Bruce, Seidelman Waymond, Swanstrom, Todd, De Luca, Tom. (2011). The Democratic Debate: American Politics in Age of Chain. 5th Edition. Wadsworth. Cengage Learning.

STEINHAUER, JENNIFER. (2011). “Constitution Has Its Day (More or Less) In House. NYT. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/jennifer_steinhauer/index.html?inline=nyt-per

Volkolmer, Walter. (2011). American Government.14 Edition. Longman.

Zernike, Karen. (2012). “Reading Between the Battle Lines of the Constitution: An Annotated Guide.” The New York Times. Retrieved from http://documents.nytimes.com/annotated-constitution