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Centralization vs. Decentralization in America

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Federalism has always been an issue for the USA since the 228 years ago we were declared a nation. Federalism is having two or more governments rule over the citizens of a country. A decentralized government is where the states govern the people, and a centralized government is where there is a national government to rule all the states. Each one leaves little power for the other.

The Articles of Confederation left many examples of how the USA started with a decentralized government. It made sure to leave almost no power to the central government. In fact, one article says states are supreme within their borders over government rule. The national government could only coordinate, not control. Another problem with the Articles of Confederation was that the national government had no power to tax the states, which would’ve lead to many problems with future technology. The Articles of Confederation were also very hard to change. Each state had one vote in congress, regardless of population, and a change in The Articles of Confederation would only be passed if the votes were unanimous. If one of the 13 states had a difference of opinion, it could prevent any laws being passed.

After many problems with this, the founders of the USA came up with the Constitution, after being influenced by the two Social Contract theories (one stating that people work together and will agree, and one saying the government can be replaced), and the idea of breaking the government into three separate branches. To fix the problem of the states being the supreme rule, they stated that the Constitution was supreme, so that the national laws were above state laws. When they saw a problem with the way it was almost impossible to create new laws, they created the checks and balance system. When amending the Constitution, it can be passed with 2/3 of congress and 3/4 of the state legislature approving the amendment. In the Articles of Confederation, the amendment could have never been passed because one state would not go for the amendment. Also, they gave congress enumerated powers in Article I of the Constitution, which gave congress the power to tax, fixing the mistake in the Articles of Confederation.

A lot of people believe federalism is still an issue even today. One example of this is when welfare was created. From the Great Depression, the national government had paid for Social Security, Medicaid, and other helpful programs to the needy who could not survive without it. However, it was interpreted by the Supreme Court that welfare would be paid for by the states. One reason those say welfare was passed on to be paid for by the states, was the reputation the people who received welfare had gotten. Some examples of characteristics associated with welfare would be those pregnant out of wedlock use the funds, and those fathers who don’t pay child support can cause the mothers to go elsewhere for money. But which government’s responsibility should it be; state or national? The government pays for almost all other helpful programs (which costs tens of billions each year), where welfare only costs about 2 billion each year (costs of welfare with all states put together). This issue makes our country’s federalism policy a little confusing.

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