Federalism Curriculum Highlights
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Federalism Curriculum Highlights

Madison talked in the Federalist Papers about there being a double security to the rights of the people because we’re dividing powers between the national government and the state. The overall purpose of this complex division of authority is to set up a political competition between the two levels of government for a number of reasons but the basic reason is to try to keep each government within its assigned roles through political competition. The Constitution views the state as the vehicle of the power exercised by the public. It is where the public expresses its views and also corrects the powers of the government. Because in a large territory the national government can’t do everything and if it tries to it becomes tyrannical, so it’s incredibly important that the states retain the authority over things like police powers, health, welfare, education. From the very beginning we were uneasy about a federal centralized system and even people like Madison who believed that we needed to recognize, correctly so, greater power in the federal government, they did so by carefully delineating, enumerating those powers. We have a system in which the states are left with all those powers not given to the federal government for two reasons: One, is it’s the ultimate protection of liberty. Rights are most protected they’re most safe when they’re held closest and by that it means they’re held by the
State. In the United States Constitution, the people give power to the government, the government does not give rights to the people. We are based on a system of enumerated powers. Why? Because it’s the people who are sovereign, not the government. The fundamental principles of federalism would have to be that there were certain spheres of power that one government had and another government didn’t. The powers of the federal government the national government are limited by the Constitution but within that sphere they are supreme that was Marshalls great defense of the national government in its limited sphere. Madison imagined us being really a very large country possibly sea to shining sea and to do that he knew we had to be broken down into states. Otherwise the people would not be able to govern themselves. Certain parts of the government are going to deal with national questions and international questions that would be what today we call the federal government – foreign Affairs, commerce among the states, those sorts of things that the states and localities can’t deal with very effectively, but most of the ordinary affairs of life of agriculture, manufacturing, family issues, education, health, welfare, what came to be called legally the police powers those are going to be left to the states. This wasn’t a unitary government where you had one government that was responsible for everything and it wasn’t a confederate government where the national government didn’t have any sovereign powers, but it was, as Madison said, neither one nor the other but a compound of both of them.

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