Federalism and federation

Balance and levels of powers

Federalism organizes power under several territorial levels,
bringing democracy, balance and efficiency at each of them.

A federal state (federation) differs from a confederation and
froem a centralized State.
There are various forms :
Uniform or asymmetric, Hamiltonian or integral...

Current worldwide challenges and perils raise the need of
global federal democratic institutions.

equil The citizen's multi layered cake,
              a balanced diet?

Principles of organization, and political rationale

Multi level organization

Federalism is a system of government in which
the political power and sovereignty are
democratically (*) divided between several
territorial levels,
each one having its fields of

It is an institutional pluralism, with several
gradual levels
network organization and decision  decision-making.
Federalism brings citizen democracy at all levels.
It is a "multi scalar concept" (wow!), to take a mathematical /
artistic allegory pictured by fractals.

To be more down to earth, it is a "cooperative" notion.
Cooperative and mutual entities, associations and societies are
often built under this "inverted pyramid" structure: local and
regional entities, national unions (or federations).

Well, not exactly, as cooperatives do not give you a direct vote
at every level. Maybe they should try the
sortition system.
Each territorial level has
* its own means (budget)
* and own areas of full competence.

(*) Here, beware of fake goods and fake gods!

If citizens are dependence not free and do not control political
(through fair elections or sortitions of their
representatives, referenda
and other consultations...), and
the State still calls itself federal, it is a
false federation and
a false

A system that sees human beings as owned by society (*) and
not the
reverse (seedialmeter67-33 cursor theory) is neither
nor federal.

(*) via an ideology, and/or an authoritarian person or clan
claims to personify "the people")

The main constitutional levels are typically:
  • A federal state - also called federation or union
- ranking as a country / a nation,
  • Several federated states or provinces.
  • Local authorities (counties, municipalities, towns...)
The federation deals with reaction "regalian" issues (usually army,
foreign policy, foreign trade rules, monetary supervision, central budget,
main legal principles, main criminal menaces...) and the smaller territories
with more local issues.
Some financial compensation can be organized at the federal level
between territories to face special economic / social situations.

Philosophical and practical bases

The rationale is that
  • Decisions are taken at the level that is the most effective,
  • The division of powers and sovereignty enhances democracy.
That vertical power repartition / division has some relations with the
concept used  in the "horizontal" separation of
govern powers
(legislative, judiciary, executive / administrative) and the idea of

A way to avoid that anybody get full
over bodies and souls.

The difference (*) is that federalism focuses on the balance /
independence of means
(budgets...) and powers between
several levels of territories
It is a "vertical" separation of powers

(*) Or better said, the add-on, as true federations also have the
      horizontal separation of powers: both models are usually
in fully democratic constitutions.

The various forms of federalism

Hamiltonian or integral?

1) The basic federalist theory is Hamiltonian federalism.
It proposes  institutions (parliaments / councils, administrations,
legal courts...) that work democratically without a political
doctrine imposed to them in advance
(apart a general
declaration of human rights and various precisions about what
types of activities and authorities each institution covers).

=> It leaves people and their democratic representatives decide
      in real time the orientations and policies those institutions
      should follow.
2) On the contrary, integral federalism includes social guidelines,
      considered as solving Human needs.
Such a preset doctrine seems less democratic in the long run.
It could answer some issues at a given moment, or fit a common
But it runs the risk to bring inner conflicts without democratic
escape door, and to become obsolete when situations and ideas

It would from the start limit the latitude of federal institutions,
although democratically appointed, to decide federal policies.
It can thus easily distort the federalist principles by bypassing
part of its democratic aspects.
3) In practice a federation might be guided by some general,
      even universal, principles (Human Rights among others) which
      position it halfway between Hamiltonian federalism and integral

Variety of scopes, creation processes, institutions

Federalism might be
  • Generalized / uniformized
with the same institutional rules applied to all states /
  • Or asymmetric,
each state / province having a different degree of autonomy.

As for the creation process, a federation might be built either by
independent states, or by giving some autonomous
powers to regions inside a centralized state (this is "devolution").

In practice, a federation has usually two lawmaking bodies:
  • One (some sort of senate)
with delegates designated by the federated states / regions /
  • And one (some sort of House of representatives)
representing directly all the citizens of the federation (through
general elections,
or why not, as already mentioned, sortition)

A specific solution was proposed by Artur Landerzon Barrera Garcia

Every federated region or state would have its elected representative
(distinct from the President of the region) in the central institution(s).

They would carry enough constitutional "supranational" power to make

the central authority respect (and maximize) regional competencies.
Of course that would only work if they can decide on the basis of a
majority, not expecting unanimity (see below "confederation")

Difference with other government systems

A federation differs from:
  • A confederation
Here all territories keep their full sovereignty but decide
together on some issues. What can stall important moves
is that decisions  suppose an unanimous vote.
  • A centralized state
It keeps the full sovereignty and most powers of decision
and it delegates only minor ones, under its control, to local

What about the European Union?

At least two things are missing in order to make the UE a full fledged
* A sizable common budget
   with the creation of a Finance ministry and Treasury with its own
   budgetary resources.

* More power given to the Parliament in more areas,
   and less given to the Commission and the European council (which
   represents the States and thus could become a kind of senate).
Any chance of seeing one day
a World federation?

, a positive phenomenon that brings Humans together,
creates new
issues that incite to propose global / fully federal institutions
in some key global areas,
They would go one step further than just ungovernable and
powerless inter-governmental clubs

(like the UN for example or, as a more specialized attempt, the G20).
They would have independent power to address some areas or issues
that tend to escape the authority of nation-states
, for example:
  • Policing seas, oceans and space.
  • Global preservation of air and water, as well as dealing with famines.
  • Common means to face natural or made-made catastrophic events.
  • Promoting world communication and disseminating knowledge...
  • Overseeing the respect of human rights by national institutions
  • Fighting international crime, terrorism
but also ...abusive privacy infringements

Maybe in the long term they would "federate" in a full World authority

to avoid contradictory policies between areas of competence, and maybe
extend also its competence to what would arise as other crucial areas
needing common governance,

The question is how to make those institutions democratic, so that they
depend directly from the World citizens instead of self-centered nation-
states, so as to obtain
democratic globalization.

Some say that globalization foster nationalisms. There is here an illusion
that a
country can be fully independant. But like a club, it is OK that it
settles itself its
own affairs and that between its members reign an
"affectio societatis" as lawyers say, but it cannot close itself to the
world for larger issues, as it would

Back to collection: Society / world issues articles migrated from Knol

Pageviews for this article before migration from Knol: 3.3 k

M.a.j. / updated : 03 Sept. 2015
All my ex-knols / Tous mes ex knols
Disclaimer / Avertissement légal

This site tracked by OneStat.com. Get your own free site tracker.