Federalism is a system of government where the power is divided to a central government based on the principles of federalism with all of the states. The United States has a federal government based on the philosophy of federalism. It draws a clear line to understand how the congressional government works with a combination of national government and state government. It maintains every branch of government by providing specific works to do with the help of constitution. The system of checks and balances protects all of the rights and maintains equality in powers between the governments. There is another government named local government which is the lowest tier of the United States government. Local government works under state government. It has been playing a very important rule from the beginning of the federal government.
Howard Fineman, one of our most trusted political journalists wrote about the politics of federalism in his famous book “The Thirteen American Arguments.” In chapter eight: “Local v. National Authority,” Fineman gave us clear ideas and evidences about how the concept of federalism has been working in this union through 18th century to 21st century. In this time period federalism has changed a lot. It started as a dual federalism which is also called layer cake federalism. Then it changes to cooperative federalism which is also called marble cake federalism. Then it becomes new federalism which is still continuing. After all of these changes there is a question arise, is federalism an asset or a liability in the 21st century? This is not a simple question to answer. The pros and cons about the politics of federalism have been started since the creation of the federal government. There are a lot of strong evidences from the history of the United States support both side of this subject of debate. Federalism can be an asset of the government if the government uses its power properly. It also can be a liability if it creates inefficiencies in the system.
Fineman discussed about the Hurricane Katrina and its devastating nature while federal government acted fully in this situation but nothing came out from their agencies or organizations. It was federal government’s responsibility to make sure that the country is well protected from any kind of natural disaster. Only the National Guardsmen were performing their duties without a proper chain of command. A reporter named Brain Williams saw that how they were performing in the situation. When he asked them what they were doing. They answered that they had been told to take away the packs of matches from the shelter food supplies. This was how the federal government’s contribution took place.
The picture got more visible after the 9/11 incident. There were governments with their federal, state and local tires. But no one clearly knew that what to do and how to do in that situation. Multiple agencies and organizations for each branch/ section made a question, actually who had to do? There were confusions among those tires and interrogations about their power and priorities to use the power. Everything was a tangled mess. It was also the federal government responsibility to protect the nation from any kind of terrorism. But in this situation, local law enforcement agency performed better than the federal agencies.
From Katrina and 9/11 situation, we can conclude an answer that federalism is a liability in the 21st century. The process of the “federal-state-local” tiers is very complicated to understand that what is whose responsibility and why. This is also the federal government responsibility to make the proper balance inside their barriers. For that, federal government needs to know the inside of the nation by providing proper connections starting with the lowest tier of the administration. By making sure that federalism works equally in every branches of this federal government, we can make federalism is an asset in this 21st century.