Grilli: The need for federalism

Grilli: The need for Federalism. (Photo courtesy of

The leadership of Donald Trump has given the American people the illusion that he is the iconic figure of our disagreement. Many people feel that everyone would be able to come together if not for the fact that Donald Trump is president. Granted, I can’t think of a time where voting for a man has branded a red A on the chest of a supporter quite like this one, but Donald Trump is not the reason the country is so divided. The real reason is actually quite obvious. The people of this nation find themselves so divided from their neighbors in other communities because we find ourselves in a country with multiple levels of government. We have a federal government that oversees the states, that oversee the counties, that oversee the townships. Each of these bodies have different cultures, people, and makeup that would be expected in a federal system.

The only problem is that the federal government and all three of its branches have lost the meaning of federalism. Under systems built on the lowest authority like federalism. The federal government controls purely national issues like the military, immigration, and the regulation of interstate trade; the rest is left up to the states with the federal government playing umpire as they go about their business. Now, if only there were some documents that spelled out how a federal system would work in practice so no one’s rights were infringed upon…

Eureka! There are several such documents. The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, were published in 1788 and they informally laid out the case for federalism and local government. Later, in 1789, the Constitution was ratified and it formally put forward the principles of a mixture of both federalism and anti-federalism. It has been largely ignored in the 21st century after the 9th and 10th amendments. The previously mentioned constitution has been, for all intents and purposes, right out of the document.

The beauty of this system is that each position gets to act in whatever manner it wishes to as long as the rights of its people are not infringed. In the system currently in place, the thoughts of other states matter. It matters because the federal government is currently in the business of creating a broad form policy that affects the entire nation. This is not how the country was designed to run. If the states were given the power they were intended to have, as granted to them by the constitution, then each state would be able to run themselves.

A greater emphasis on federalism is in the national best interest for several reasons. The first is that every state can become a small-scale science experiment on which the state assemblies can work out the kinks in their plans. Right leaning states would be better suited to cater to their voters who would like a more lenient policy, a market-oriented economy. While left leaning states would be able to provide any sort of social welfare net they desired in their states. Here, there is no need for conflict and, better yet, the fact that different legislative models are being employed in states at the same point in time. Which allows other state houses to see what works and employ it to their own district.

Yet another reason to employ such a method of governance lies in an unchanging fact: the people from different areas of this country are just that—different. The intended result of a legislative policy need not be the only test used in the deliberation process. The voters served must also be a criteria. Do the people affected by a policy actually want it? The answer to various questions differs greatly throughout the country. As Nobel Prize winning economist F. A. Hayek, points out, it is simply impossible even in principle to serve every community when making policy that affects everyone at a federal level. Serving the gas station owner in Lincoln, Nebraska and the jewelry store owner in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with the same set of regulations is impossible even in theory. Due to the immeasurably complex nature of each business in each less important community. These legislative issues are better left to the local level if possible. This is especially true now that we have entered an era when we are more divided than ever in terms of policy preference.

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