POLS 15 – Introduction to Federalism
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POLS 15 – Introduction to Federalism


[music] This module concerns the concept of federalism. Federalism concerns the balance of power between the states and the federal government. Federalism impacts almost every area of American life, but one of the places where it’s seen most clearly is in the battle over the legalization of marijuana. In recent years several states, including California and Colorado have legalized marijuana, even for recreational purposes. However, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and new attorney general Jeff Sessions has promised that he will crack down on it. People often wonder, how could I be arrested for that if it’s legal in my state? The answer is federalism. In a federal system, both the states
and the federal government are sovereign at the same time. That means they both have authority to pass laws. This may not seem like a big deal, but America was the first country to have federalism. We invented it. But now lots of nations use it. In a federal system, there are some things that the federal government does,
some things that the state governments do, some things that both of them do, and some things that neither one of them can do. You will recall from the previous module that the Framers wanted to create a federal government that was stronger than they had
under the Articles of Confederation, but they didn’t want it to be too strong. As a result, under the original Constitution, the federal government’s powers were limited. The federal government could only exercise those powers that are specifically listed in the Constitution. These powers are known as enumerated powers, and they can mostly be found in Article 1,
Section 8 of the Constitution. We’ve already discussed several of these powers, including the power to coin money, the power to tax, the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the power to raise an army and navy. A few of the other important enumerated powers include the power to establish a postal system, to issue patents, and to naturalize citizens. The Constitutional basis for state powers,
on the other hand, is very different. The Framers felt the states were more important and should be more powerful than
the federal government. As a result, state powers are largely unlimited in the original Constitution. States did not have to point to any Constitutional provision in order to pass particular laws. And notably, the Bill of Rights originally
did not apply to the states, so if they wanted to infringe upon
your freedom of speech or your freedom of religion, they could do so. So the Framers wanted the states to be more powerful than the federal government,
but today the opposite is true. How did that happen? Well that’s the subject of our next lecture.

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