Рефераты. American Federalism in 1990s

American Federalism in 1990s

American Federalism in 1990s.

While it would be an overstatement to suggest that the average

American has a clear concept of meaning of federalism in 1994, there is

some evidence than issues, involving locus of governmental power are

important to many. For example, polling organizations frequently ask

citizens - which level of government most enjoys their trust and

confidence. The results consistently indicate, that people trust their

local governments most and their national government least. The states

drift along in the middle. So, most Americans view local government the

most favorably.

However, as is the case in most areas of our political life,

attitudes change significantly when citizens are faced with specific

issues. Even though Americans appear to be committed to federalism in the

abstract, they always seem to have lengthy list of problems which they want

the federal government because state and local governments have failed to

resolve them, or a list of services which are perceived as poorly provided

or not provided at all. It is common for individuals and groups to respond

to such perceptions by demanding that the national government create new

standards or mandates or provide direct or indirect expenditures of money.

Sometimes, they seek both.

While it is traditional to expect demands for increased national

government activity from more liberal, so-called «big government», elements

in American society, conservatives, who see themselves as a defenders of

state’s rights and local self-government also may jump on the bandwagon and

demand national action. Thus it is quite unsurprising that recently

liberal elements in American society have sought national legislation

controlling access to firearms, as reflected in recently-adopted Brady

Bill, which requires dealers to run checks on purchasers. On the other

hand, it seems unusual, from a federalism perspective, that conservative

elements have sought national government action to eliminate or restrict

access to abortions or to permit the introduction of prayers in the public


Perhaps the best recent example of such a demand for national action

may be found in public safety area. There is a general perception, that

high levels of criminal activity made the persons and property of the

average citizen in this country unsafe. In general, however, the definition

and control of criminal behavior has historically been a state and local

responsibility. Our national officials sense that there is a demand for

them to do something in response to state and local failures. The result is

anti-crime legislation at the national level which has been proposed by the

President and which is largely supported by members of Congress. While many

of us doubt the effectiveness of the specific legislation, few people have

seriously objected to this activity as destructive of basic fabric of our

federal system.

The result is an inconsistent and often confusing approach to solving

governmental problems in a federalist concept. In terms of practical

politics, the system provides multiple forms of access. Various groups, no

matter what ideological view of the federal system, take a pragmatic

approach. That is, when their preferred level of government fails to

produce policy results, that are satisfactory, they seek action at another

level. None of the models of the federal systems seems to describe this

state of affairs very well.

There is also confusion about federalism at another level in the US.

We often observe this best when trying to teach about the system in our

American Government classes. For some, federalism is equated with

democracy. This is to say that they believe that unitary systems are by

definition undemocratic. These patriotic souls are skeptical of evidence

which demonstrates that some unitary systems are quite democratic, and that

some federal systems are quite autocratic in nature.

Still, others confuse federalism with the concepts of separation of

powers and checks and balances which are so important in understanding

American government. While federalism does indeed divide governmental

powers and involve some checking and balancing, separation of powers is a

term, normally reserved to discussions of the relations between the

executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our governments. This

distinction is troublesome for many of our students.

Due to my limited time I would like to state some most nuisance

problems, that became a heavy burden for every American, involved in active

politics in any way. First, we should mention the so-called «unfunded

mandate», that became the biggest bone of contention in American

intergovernmental rules. An unfunded mandate can be said to exist when the

national government requires new or improved services or level of

regulation, but leaves funding largely to state and local governments. This

permits national level officials and institutions to establish their own

policy without any considering costs. While that seems a poor way to

operate, it fits in well with some traditional American political attitudes

in which costs of government services are either ignored or assumed to be

borne by someone else.

Some examples may illustrate the reasons for state complaints. In

1993, the Congress passed a law requiring the states to provide a system of

voter’s registration which was

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