How does federalism work to prevent tyranny?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Federalism was based on the idea that a concentration of power in a central government would lead to tyranny. This was because political power, when exercised locally, was subject, and therefore more responsive, to the will of the people. For this reason, many Americans in the 1780s were wary of ceding too much power to a central government, preferring to invest state governments with the powers of taxation in particular. Yet many Americans were also convinced that the decentralized government created by the Articles of Confederation was insufficient to meet the needs, especially the fiscal needs, of the nation. Federalism was seen as a compromise. It created a supreme central government which could exercise some exclusive powers, like coining money and waging war. Yet state governments also had some powers, which included taxation, held concurrently with the national, or federal government. Some powers, like licensing and supervising elections, were even held exclusively by the states, which also played a major role in presidential elections through the electoral college. So by reserving some powers to the states, the Framers of the Constitution sought to curb tyranny even as they invested the new national government with unprecedented powers.