Every country has a particular type of government that determines how power is distributed among different levels of government. The US is characterized by a type of government called federalism. This essay will review the features of the American federal system, as well as the difference of federalism from unitary and confederal systems. It will also describe the characteristics of countries that choose federalism to structure their governments and explain why they do so.
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The feature of the American federal system is the government power shared between the federal government and state governments. The federal government deals with issues of national importance, such as regulating foreign commerce or declaring war. State governments are responsible for actions not assigned to the federal government, for example, issuing driver’s licenses. There are also local governments dealing with issues of particular counties. All levels of government are divided into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
The principle of the shared power between the central and regional governments is characteristic of federalism. There are two other political systems, unitary and confederal, in which the balance of powers is different. A unitary system is distinguished by a powerful central government, and the power of regional governments is limited to actions allowed by the central government. The United Kingdom, Spain, Denmark, and Japan are examples of unitary states. A confederal system is the opposite of a unitary system since, in this case, regional governments dominate the central government. Examples of a confederal system are Belgium and the US under the Articles of Confederation.
Although federalism is not the most prevalent political system, there are certain reasons why countries choose to adopt this type of government. For example, if a country consists of states that used to be politically separate, like the US, a federal system will allow this country to avoid internal political conflicts. The same is true for countries with a diverse population, for which the adoption of a federal system may be the only way to reduce social conflicts.
To sum up, federalism is a type of government in between a unitary system and a confederal system. In a unitary system, the central government dominates over regional governments. In confederations, on the contrary, regional governments have political authority. Federal systems share political authority between the central and regional governments. The US has adopted a federal system because it consists of states that initially were separate political entities.