Dual Federalism Versus Cooperative Federalism

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Dual Federalism is a normative concept that emphasizes a diffusion of political authority among levels of government. Federal political systems are political organizations marked by shared power among their constituent units. Some examples of federal political systems include unions, constitutionally decentralized unions, federations, confederations, federacies, associated states, condominiums, leagues, and joint functional authorities. As Ronald Watts has written, a federation is a compound polity combining constituent units and a general government, each possessing powers delegated to it by the people through a constitution, each empowered to deal directly with the citizens in the exercise of a significant portion of its legislative, administrative, and taxing powers, and each directly elected by its citizens.

In contrast, a cooperative federalism is more dependent on its constituent governments, is composed of delegates from the member states, and relates directly to its constituent governments and only indirectly to the citizens of those member states. This section examines the contributions of federalism and confederation to liberty in theory and in practice. (Storing, 12)

The federal form of government defended in the pages of The Federalist Papers seems to be a compound republic comprising both national and state powers, a halfway point between confederacy and consolidation. In Federalist no. 39, Madison pointed out that each state, acting as a sovereign body, would ratify the new Constitution. The state governments would have representation in the national government both in the Senate and in the election of the president through the Electoral College. Madison noted one other federal element in the new Constitution. The power of Congress would extend only to “certain enumerated objects” while leaving “to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.” In operation, however, the powers of the national government would be such that it directly operated on individual citizens and not just on the state governments. To that extent, the new government was national and not federal. In summary, “the proposed Constitution … is in strictness neither a national nor a federal constitution; but a composition of both.” Familiarity should not lead us to underestimate the novelty of this diffusion of authority. Prior to 1789, most theorists assumed that sovereignty required a unitary government. In federalism, as in many other matters, the framers of the Constitution saw the virtues of complexity and diffused authority, virtues that would serve the cause of liberty. (McGuire, 85)

Comparision between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism

Dual Federalism

For a century and a half after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the states were the primary units of government in the nation. The concept of dual federalism governed the relationship between the states and the national government. Dual federalism meant that the states and national government had separate and proper spheres of authority. This notion was consistent with the founders' view that the states retained specific powers not delegated to the national government.

The New Deal brought a final end to dual federalism. In its place, the New Dealers promoted “intergovernmental relations,” which focused on cooperation ...
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