The politics of science: Federalism, Confederalism and unitary systems of government.
A government system is shares power amongst various levels and portions of the country, state or nation. In this paper, the uses and distribution of power are going to be elaborated and analyzed for different systems of government. It is important to also note that the fraction of power in the hands of the main government is a major determinant of the system of government a country or a state employs.
*Unitary system of Government*
This system of government contains the greatest form of control whereby the government has most if not all of the power. Most of the nation-states are adopt a unitary system of government although with many variations. The Great Britain, for instance, devolves power only in practice but not in a constitutional standard. Power in Great Britain has devolved to the regional government which in this case are the other countries of Great Britain; Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (William, 14).
In the first form of a unitary system of government adopted by the Great Britain, the local government (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales) are elected via a complex system overseen by the parliament although in constitutional theory. In some unitary government forms, devolution of power is prescribed for in the constitution as seen in Japan where specific autonomous functions are that are supposed to be undertaken by the subnational governments are enshrined in the constitution.
The second type of government has less decentralization of power with stringent supervision of the sub-national units. Before 1982 France was a typical example of such a state. The country was divided into departments that were each headed by a prefet. The departments were further subdivided into arrondissements that were headed by sous-prefets. The sous-prefets and prefets were chosen by the central government and were thus employees of the central government. Additionally, there were executives of the central government called the Conseils généraux that was made up of elected officials also involved in the appointing of the prefets. Through this, there was central supervision of the affairs of sub-national authority via officials’ appointment with representation in the territories through the elected sub-national governments. However, after 1982 decentralization law was passed that saw the powers of the prefets handed to the conseils généraux. The law also saw the creation of new regions supervised directly by the elected local councils.
The third type of unitary system of government is where only a token of power is devolved. The roles of the heads of the sub-national governments are usually very limited. This is best explained by looking into Nazi Germany, which was divided into forty-two Gaue headed by a Gauleiter appointed following his loyalty to Adolf Hitler. On the other hand, every state of the United States adopt unitary systems of government with bicameral legislative houses save for the state of Nebraska that has a unicameral legislature
In most cases under this form of government, there are no lower tiers of government. However, lower-tier governments exist only to implement, execute and forge the policies that are drafted and spearheaded by the national government. The Most often than not, the laws of such a state apply across the whole jurisdiction of the said state without complacency or favor for anyone anywhere within the state. . Other countries that adopt a unitary form of government include Bulgaria, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and most of the Scandinavian countries.
Advantages of Unitary system of Government
Unitary states establish national policies that are uniformly implemented. This standardization of implementation of the laws most often serves as a benefit because businesses and people are accustomed to exactly what the laws expect of them despite their geographical location within the jurisdiction of the state (Fisch, 113). Perhaps the major advantage of this form of government is the decisive single legislature. This makes it more efficient in fast decision making.
Additionally, such governments are usually smaller and help save the countries that are governed n the same way money that can be channeled into the development of the country. Simultaneously, to maintain its evenness, a unitary government must supervise local variances that might require for different policies or rules.
To summarize the key points regarding what a unitary system of government entails; there is no hierarchy of power in a unitary government. The central governments hold all or most of the power and devolves the powers and supervise the local government. The sub-national governments in a unitary state have do not formulate their law as this is reserved for the central government. Most of the power is held by the central government in the unitary government systems.
*Federalism system of government*
This is a system of government in which the style of political organization is one that brings together discrete countries or other organizations within an all-embracing political system in a manner that allows each to maintain its sovereignty. Federal systems accomplish this by necessitating that fundamental policies be established and executed through some form of arbitration, in order for all the members to take part in executing and making decisions.
Political authority in federal systems of government is shared by two independent sets of government, national and subnational both directly operating on the people. the division of power is described in the constitution; the national government exercising power over the entire country while the regional governments exercising power over their own independent territories. Of the eight largest countries in the world by area, seven—Russia, Canada <www.britannica.com/place/Canada>, the United States, Brazil <www.britannica.com/place/Brazil>, Australia <www.britannica.com/place/Australia>, India <www.britannica.com/place/India>, and Argentina—are organized on a federal basis. (China, the third largest, is a unitary state.) Federal countries also include Austria <www.britannica.com/place/Austria>, Belgium <www.britannica.com/place/Belgium>, Ethiopia <www.britannica.com/place/Ethiopia>, Germany <www.britannica.com/place/Germany>, Malaysia <www.britannica.com/place/Malaysia>, Mexico <www.britannica.com/place/Mexico>, Nigeria <www.britannica.com/place/Nigeria>, Pakistan <www.britannica.com/place/Pakistan>, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates <www.britannica.com/place/United-Arab-Emirates>, and Venezuela <www.britannica.com/place/Venezuela>, among others.
The political philosophies that give life to federal systems stress the importance of negotiating and bargained synchronization amongst numerous centers of power; they emphasize the intrinsic worth of devolved centers of power as a way of protecting personal and local authorities.
A number of political systems that claim are federal are different in several ways. Some principles and characteristics, however, are shared by all true federal systems. Their characteristics include;
The primer of a federal relationship has to be established via a covenant most times enshrined written constitution which describes the conditions in which the power is shared and divided. The covenant or constitution can be amended only through elaborate procedures that are embodied in the constitution. The constitution are unique in that they involve not only the ruled and the rulers, but also the states that make up the federal union. Additionally, the member states of the federal government preserve the right to make their constitution (Duignan 7).
Secondly, there has to be a reflection of the constitution by devolution of power amongst the constituents of the federal government. The devolution of power can be among a selected number of centers which are capable of sustaining themselves. This devolution of power is what is known as non-centralization. This helps to ensure the authority to take part in power execution cannot be recalled from by the main government prior to consent by the participating states.
The third element of the federal system of government is territorial democracy as is known in the United States. This element has two forms; the adoption of division area to guarantee impartiality and fairness of the states participating in the federal union and the use of such area division to protect local representation and sovereignty of the diverse states within the federal union. Impartiality has been seen to be highly important especially in changing societies. This allows for new interest to be represented in proportion to their strengths by simple giving supporters the chance to vote in territories that are relatively equal.
Simultaneously, the tolerance of very dissimilar groups that have essential differences instead of giving them power within their territory. This has improved the federal system’s ability to work as channels of political incorporation while conserving democracy in government. This system is seen in Canada that includes French descendants living in the Quebec province.
The polities that constitute a federal system have to be fairly equal in wealth and population or balanced numerically or geographically in their differences. For instance in the United States, for each geographic section, there is both a small and great state. In Canada on the other hand, the differences in ethnicity between the two richest and largest provinces have hindered the country from combining against the rest of the provinces. The Swiss federal system has been sustained by the existence of groups of cantons with varied religion and linguistic background as well as the sizes. This is mirrored in several other successful federal systems.
Failure of federal systems have largely been attributed to imbalances amongst constituent polities. For instance, in Germany, the federal empire of Prussia was more dominant than the other states. The other states had very little chance to provide leadership at the national level. In the Soviet era (1916-1991), the Russian soviet federated socialist republic USSR occupied three-fourths of the whole area. In addition, it also contributed to three-fifths of the population. Through this, the USSR greatly limited the chance of genuine federal relationships in the country.
On the other hand, successful federal governments have been characterized by the longevity of their interior boundaries. Changes to the boundaries are avoided in most cases and only occur with the permission of the constituent polities taking part in the federal union (Martin, 144).
In a few very important cases, non-centralization is given support through the constitutionally assured existence of various systems of law in the member polities. For example in the United States, the legal system of each state roots from the laws of England (and, in one instance, French Law). Federal law takes up only a small position in uniting states together. In Canada, the presence of civil-law and common-law systems simultaneously has played a role in the survival of French-Canadian cultural. Federal systems more often give room for any alteration of national legal codes by the local governments to meet exceptional local needs, as seen in Switzerland.
*Confederate system of government *
A confederacy is an unattached affiliation amongst a number of smaller polities. It is a system that differs largely in terms of power centralization. Thus a confederation in the political arena is a lasting union of independent states for certain mutual goals such as the German Confederation established by the Congress of Vienna. There is a distinction between confederation and federation which were previously used interchangeably. While confederation is a union of independent states with emphasis on the sovereignty of each of the member parties, a federation is denoted as a union of states with emphasis on supremacy of the general government (Gregory, 397). However, this distinction is not universally adhered to.
The alternative –confederacy which arises from the word confideracie and generally means a union or league, whether individual or states. It was used in America by the seceding states in the south during the civil war. From a political perspective, it has been adopted to mean short-term league of independent states
Most of the political power is bestowed upon sub-national governments leaving the federal government with minimal power. The sub-national government has with them a lot of power to operate at will often leading to feuds between the federal governments and the states involved. Some schools of thought hold that confederacy is more of an alliance between the sovereign states in the confederation.
The best-known example of confederacy is the confederate state of America which during the civil war ruled the South. Important to note is that the first government of the United States which was established by the Articles of Confederation. In the present day, Belgium serves as a confederacy between the states of Wallonia and Flanders in the South and North. It is largely agreed thus that confederations are voluntary affiliations of autonomous states that compromise some of their freedom of action and create a joint mechanism of deliberation and consultation with the aim of achieving common goals.
These limitations on freedom range from minor limitations such as acknowledgment of their duty to ask for permission prior to conducting any independent action or as important as the duty to adhere to the majority decision of the member states.They do not provide for an efficient administrative authority as well as fail to have a practical central government. The polities that are involved preserve their armed forces and have different ambassadors. However, members are issued equal status with the right to secede from the union.
Throughout history, confederations have been primed the birth of nation-states in most times first as a federal union. For instance, modern-day Switzerland was formed by a confederation of the Swiss cantons. In other instances, confederations have substituted more centralized arrangements as seen when empires split and were substituted by voluntary affiliations of their previous colonies. These are evident in THE British Commonwealth.
In the year 1781-1789 the articles of confederation created a congress of the confederation as a unicameral legislature of representatives from the thirteen states with each of the member states having a single vote. This event is a precursor to the constitution of the United States. The congress was then mandated to appoint an executive committee of the thirteen states to execute powers as the United States.
There are very fewer confederations in today’s world. The advantages of confederations vary and include; minimizing political conflicts as the regional units are given the free role of forging their separate agenda. The confederation also enhances healthy competition amongst the constituent states. With each unit striving to tap the resources of the locality for their growth. A confederation also encourages unity amongst diverse groups of people in a confederacy. Additionally, a confederation system of government also plays a critical role in upholding the interest and identities of the constituent polities. The confederation is able to preserve culture, religion which the member states may not be willing to give up. With a confederation government, it is easier to reach consensus when disputes arise. Moreover, a confederation rids any potential hazards of one member dominating over the other. Finally, the confederation meets the people at their points of need as the regional units have the power to institute their programs.
1. Riker, William H. “Federalism.” *A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy* (2017): 612-620.
2. Fisch, Justin. “The Case for Effective Environmental Politics: Federalist Or Unitary State-Comparing the Cases of Canada, the United States of America, and the People’s Republic of China.” *U. Mich. JL Reform* 51 (2017): 777.
3. Maggs, Gregory E. “A Concise Guide to the Articles of Confederation as a Source for Determining the Original Meaning of the Constitution.” *Geo. Wash. L. Rev.* 85 (2017): 397.
4. Diamond, Martin. “The federalist.” *American Political Thought*. Routledge, 2017. 125-144.