Dual Vs Cooperative Federalism

Compare Contrast and Define Dual and Cooperative federalism. What has been the trend in the practice of federalism since its inception? What has been the impact on the making and implementation of public policy?

In our nation’s history a form of political theory in which the national government holds significant power has come into existence and evolved over time. It is called Federalism. In the federalist system state and local government have significant amounts of power, and also have a saw in the shaping of our national government. This federal system works well for a country such as America in which our size and diversity calls for a dynamic system such as the system in place. Federalism has evolved over time and can be classified into two major types, Dual and Cooperative Federalism. These two types are very different, and each system lends itself to specific goals. They have been crucial in both the making and implementation of public policy, and both have dominated political theory.

In our nation’s history the first brand of federalist thought was that of dual federalism, which granted the state and national government equal power and made each co-sovereign. This brand of federalism was most likely an offshoot of the political theory behind the articles of confederation that states should maintain their rights and not be subject to strict national control. In duel federalist theory certain part of the constitution are interpreted very strictly, and power is only given to the national government if it is explicitly said. This lends itself well to supporting states rights since the state government is co-sovereign, but also leads to disputes to who is in control.

A modified theory of federalism was needed to meet the needs of our government so another type, cooperative federalism was brought into the political spotlight. Cooperative federalism stresses the national government as the ruling body and his sovereign above the state government. This is the political theory that is most prevalent in our current national power structure. The powers granted to the government in the constitution are more widely interpreted. This can be embodied in the current interpretation of the “Elastic Clause,” which allows the national government to control things not specifically specified within the constitution.

Dual and Cooperative federalism are quite a bit different from each other and out country has seen a gradual shift in it’s policies from dual to cooperative federalism. During the 1960’s and 70’s the civil rights movement sparked the government to use its powers of controlling interstate commerce to the max. A business had to comply with mandates from the federal government just because it imported products from other states. This let the federal government exercise quite a bit more power.

Dual federalism is gradually being fazed out in the American political thought process because of some of its disadvantages. For example under the Regan administration the executive branch tried to shift the powers back to the states. Unfortunately states had to then build administrative offices for the new programs that they had to oversee, what’s worse they lost federal funding, but saw no proportionate decrease in federal tax. This leads us to believe that a cooperative federal system lends itself well to consolidation of power into federal hands.

It seems fitting that our federal government, an imperfect institution, can be so variable. A nation needs a document that can be interpreted over time to fit the needs of individuals as well as the nation as a whole. Dual and Cooperative federalism have both played an important part in the forming and the execution of public policy, and even though the trend in the past century has been that towards a dual federalist system. Perhaps we are in line for yet another theory to shape the future of our nation.

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