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What are the advantages and disadvantages of federalism?

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Quick Answer

According to Dr. Dianne Berman of Santa Monica College, the advantages of federalism include the ability to experiment with policy, empowerment of local government, opportunities for direct democracy and decentralization of power. The disadvantages of federalism include conflict between regional and national governments and inequality between regional governments.

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Federalism allows policy initiatives to fail or succeed on the local level before implementation by national governments. In the United States, this is evident with healthcare and cap-and-trade policies. In the U.S. Constitution, certain powers belong to regional governments while others delegate to the national government. This restricts the ability of all governments to implement policies that are unpopular or ineffective. This separation of powers provides a check on government. Federalism also encourages various allocations of resources because local governments must provide for some of their own expenditures. This leads to disparity between governments. Ambiguity between the powers of the regional and national government also causes conflict.

Three of the founding fathers, James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, wrote the "Federalist Papers," which outlined the federal system in the United States. These newspaper articles raised concerns about the system and voiced the advantages of the federal system to avoid tyranny of the minority.

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