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Federalism is an ideal structure of government for a nation whose citizens are divided by specific values or interests such as culture, distance or resources.
POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 Federalism is an ideal structure of government for a nation whose citizens are divided by specific values or interests such as culture, distance or resources. In fact, federalism is a governmental system with different levels that are supreme or largely sovereign in different areas (Federalism, p.1). In this essay, the main idea of federalism is described. In additional, benefits and disadvantages of federalism are identified throughout the essay. Moreover, the problems of government of a nation divided by „culture, distance or resources‟ are discussed. It is concluded that federal systems ought to distribute a balance of power between the general and constituent governments in order to fulfill different levels‟ requirements. Federalism refers to the form of government that unites separate political entities or states within a single national system. However, federalism has a principle which allows each political entity or state to retain its independence. There are a number of countries that adopt the idea of federalism to form their government. These countries include Australia, United States, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Malaysia, Belgium, India and etc (Handbook of Federal Countries: 2002). A state that follows the federal system is known as federation (Federalism - Wikipedia, p.1). In fact, a federation is a political union of several states, by which effect is given to a certain state or stage of political thought and feeling. Federalism can be seen in a number of ways. First and foremost, federalism has an internal structure which called the Senate. This chamber comprises an equal number of senators from each State, regardless of population (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.3). For example, in Malaysia, the Senate (Dewan Negara), the upper house of Parliament, was designed to represent the states and to be bulwark against federal encroachment of state rights. The Senate consists of 69 members, two elected from each state by the Legislative Assembly, and 22 appointed by the Paramount Ruler on the advice of the Prime Minister. In practice the Senate has not defended state interests but has become primarily a rubber stamp for governmentsponsored legislation coming form the popularly elected lower house of Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) (Gordon P. Means, pg.4). 1 POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 Second, federalism emphasizes the Federal-State division of powers (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.3). In other words, a federal system must consist at least two levels of government to control the same territory and citizens. In fact, these different levels of government have their responsibilities and functions respectively. However, interaction and collaboration among these governments are always necessary. Countries with federal political systems have at least both central government and governments based in smaller political units, usually called state governments. Moreover, the third level of government referred to as local government which is deemed that has the potential to be extremely dynamic and effective in satisfying the needs of citizens. For instance, the government of Belgium consists of a Federal government, Community governments and Regional governments. Federal government focuses on the jurisdiction over matters of national interest while Community governments focus on the language, culture and education, and Regional governments focus on the land and property based issues within influential area (Belgium - Wikipedia, p.3). Indeed, this division of powers is the core of the federal idea Lastly, federalism has a principle of separate state constitutions (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.3). Each state may have different culture, religious and national. Therefore, each state that is under the corresponding state government control might retain its own constitution, parliament and government. For example, in Malaysia, both Terengganu and Kelantan (two of the 13 states in Malaysia) are under Malaysia‟s opposition party, Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS), control, understandably it is an Islamic party that expects to run Islamic policy within its range of power (Malaysia - Government and Politics, p.7-8). Same as other governmental systems, federalism has several advantages in various levels of practices. First, citizens lived in countries that adopt federal system have more choice. According to Christine von Arb (2004, pg.11), the diffusion of government power by a division of powers and a system of checks and balances in federal system helps to protect individual liberties. For instance, in United States, a citizen from Texas who dislikes the drug laws of his state can move to California which has much different laws (Federalism, 2 POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 p.5). On the other hand, if people are unhappy with the educational system of Alabama they could move to another state that might be more to their liking (Federalism, p.5). Indeed, citizens often choose to live near people who are similar to themselves in a federal system. They can then create an atmosphere that is pleasing to them (Federalism, p.5). Besides, federalism encourages development of the nation in a decentralized and regional manner and allows for unique and innovative methods for tackling social, economic and political problems (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.8). In Queensland, Australia, as a good example, which introduced a unique method of funding and controlling the public hospital system. In South Australia, on the other hand, which introduced land rights for Aborigines and a host of other social reforms (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.8). Another positive effect expected from such systems is protection of minorities by granting them a degree of autonomy that enables them, among other things, to preserve their cultural identity (Christine von Arb 2004, p.11). Moreover, state governments are more likely in tune with the daily needs and aspirations of the people. This is especially relevant to small and isolated states (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.8). As Christine von Arb (2004, pg.11) stated, problems can be solved more “closely to the people” and their needs and wishes in a federal system. However, there are a great number of weaknesses of federalism which are inevitable. Federal system with power of distribution may lead to duplication of government and inefficient, over-lapping or contradictory policies in different parts of the country (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.9). This might consider that the procedures are made intricately and arise contradictory. Especially, the intricate procedure always causes the activity of bribe. Besides that, as decisions are taken in many different centres in the federal system, and power is shared between the federal government and state governments, it is essential that the various tiers of government co-operate and show consideration for each other. This interweaving of responsibility is complex and sometimes hard for citizens to understand (Bundesrat 2004, p.10). This can be seen through the statement made by Christine von Arb (2004, pg.11), federalism is criticized for not having been able to prevent the centralization that has taken place, in federal states as well as in others, during the twentieth century. In addition, federalism can also 3 POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 lead to inequality between the states and lead to unhealthy competition and rivalry between them (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.9). In Australia, for example, some states are blamed because of "stealing" major sporting events from each other, and in differences in the availability and cost of electricity between the States (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.9). Federalism has also been said to slow down political processes and it has been suspected of delaying or even preventing innovation. This is because in the federal system, new solutions need to be negotiated and agreed upon by more actors than in centralistic ones (Christine von Arb 2004, pg.12). Indeed, this can be a time-consuming process. Another disadvantage of federalism is it can lead to neglect in important areas of public policy. This can be seen in the decline of the Murrary River system in Australia, particularly the problem of salinity (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.9). Some articles also said that adopting federal system is costly as running individual parliaments, governments and administrations in the federation is considered to be more expensive than maintaining the corresponding bodies in a unitary state (Bundesrat 2004, p.12). Although the idea of federalism might work well in some countries, there are still a number of problems tend to be arisen. Obviously, most of the nation divided by culture, distance or resources might confront these problems. First, discussions will focus on how culture can affect the working of federations. Cultural is the most profound underlying rationale for federalization in some countries. However, there are several serious regional issues and conflicts which might arise. In Canada, for example, federations are divided between the Anglophone Community mainly living in nine provinces, and the Francophone community predominantly living in Quebec. The fact that there are more than two constituent member units has not helped to disperse the bicommunal conflict, though. On the contrary, Quebec‟s main grievance in the Canadian federation is that is permanently outnumbered (Federal Systems, p.97). Another example is in Belgium, this country is divided by two different cultural groups, Dutch speaking Flemish and the French speaking Walloons (Federal Systems, p.97). In this case, the creation of a bicommunal federation is inevitable for recognizing both linguistic regions and cultural communities. In Malayisa, on the other hand, PAS enacts Islamic criminal codes in 4 POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 Kelantan and Terengganu (Malaysia - Government and Politics, p.8). These criminal codes might no problem for Muslims, yet non-Muslim people of these two states might dissatisfy for the rules made and thus conflicts between cultures raised. Next, distance is also a problem that can affect federal system in a nation. Across vast distances and differences of continental dimensions, even the most perfect setup of a constitutional balance of powers would be upset by centrifugal forces (Federal Systems, p.92). For instance, in India, the cohesion of Indian federalism has in no small part depended on corrupted and clientelist central party governance. Another example, in east Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), unlike peninsular Malaya, jurisdiction over native law, custom, courts and reservations is placed under state jurisdiction in recognition of the different character of the indigenous peoples in those states (Ronald L. Watts, pg.30). This might confuse certain people in terms of jurisdiction because of the distance between these two states and peninsular Malaya. Last but not least, resources are also a vital factor that may cause trouble in a federal system. A significant argument of this context is asymmetries of regional economic resource. Again, Canada is the most conspicuous case. Most of its industries are located in central Canada, the economies of the western and eastern provinces mainly rely on the extraction and the export of natural resources. Therefore, designing a national industrial or energy policy under such circumstances is virtually impossible (Federal Systems, p.100). Besides, economic disparities are affecting the stability of many federations. For example, in Spain, one of the seventeen so-called Autonomous Communities, Catalonia, produces nearly a quarter of the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Consequently, Catalonia‟s role in Spanish politics is now increasingly resented for its domineering and micro-nationalist overtones because of the jealousy of other parties in Spain (Federal Systems, p.100). In Australia, on the other hand, the Federal Government collects between 70-80% of all taxation revenue. The expenditure of this money is divided equally between the Federal and State governments although some state may pay more tax than others. Hence, federal-state financial relations are a crucial aspect of the 5 POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 Australian political system (Democracy: Key Terms – Federalism, p.5). In conclusion, the federal system distributes certain level of authority and power to smaller political units. In fact, federalism can be seen in three ways: The structure of the Senate, The Federal-State division of powers and separate state constitutions. Although federal systems might vary from country to country, the principle is preserved that in line with distribution of powers. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with a federal system. It facilitates management of social and political conflict, protects individual freedoms, encourages innovation, and maximizes participation. Among the disadvantages are that a federal system results in duplication of governmental activities, distribution of power between states is difficult, political process is time-consuming, and important areas of public policy may be neglected. In addition, there are myriads of problems faced by nations which divided by culture, distance and resources. Such problems include cultural conflicts, centrifugal forces and imbalance distribution of resources. Nevertheless, federalism is a valid solution for human societies. 6 POL1000 GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS AND SOCIETY Assignment 1 List of References Belgium - Wikipedia, 6 Dec 2003, viewed 23 November 2004, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgium> Bundesrat 2004, Advantages and disadvantages of a federal state compared with a unitary state, viewed 26 November 2004, <http://www1.bundesrat.de/Site/Inhalt/EN/7_20Service/7.2_20Publikationen/7.2.3_20Un terrichtsmaterialien/HI/Vorteile_20-_20Nachteile,templateId=renderUnterseiteKomplett. html> Christine von Arb, Willi Zimmermann 2004, Federalism - A Characteristic Element of Swiss Forest Policy, viewed 26 November 2004, <http://www.cifor.cgiar.org/publications/pdf_files/interlaken/Swiss_Forest_Federalism.p df> Democracy: Key Terms - Federalism, viewed 23 November 2004, <http://www.australianpolitics.com/democracy/terms/federalism> Federal Systems, viewed 23 November 2004, <http://info.wlu.ca/~wwwpolsc/facpages/hueglin/systems.htm> Federalism, viewed 23 November 2004, <http://faculty.valenciacc.edu/tbyrnes/federali.htm> Federalism - Wikipedia, 20 Oct 2003, viewed 23 November 2004, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalism> Gordon P. Means, Malaysia - Federation of Malaysia, viewed 29 November 2004, <http://www.forumfed.org/livelink_docs/773137252/FC-Malaysia.pdf> Handbook of Federal Countries: 2002, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen‟s University Press, 2002, viewed 23 November 2004, <http://www.forumfed.org/federalism/cntrylist.asp?lang=en> Malaysia - Government and Politics, viewed 29 November 2004, <http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/www/en/laenderinfos/laender/laender_ausgabe_html> Ronald L. Watts, 1998, Federal Systems and Accommodation of Distinct Groups: A Comparative Survey of Institutional Arrangements for Aboriginal Peoples, viewed 26 November 2004, <http://www.iigr.ca/pdf/publications/146_Federal_Systems_and_Acco. pdf> 7
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