How has American federalism evolved over the years? What impact has devolution had on contemporary federalism? Do you agree or disagree with devolution? 

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The federal government's power has grown substantially over the years. This was a key issue in the nation's early days, as the major political parties (Democrats and Whigs) debated whether it was the state or the federal government's responsibility to create and fund internal improvements. The federal government has also...

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The federal government's power has grown substantially over the years. This was a key issue in the nation's early days, as the major political parties (Democrats and Whigs) debated whether it was the state or the federal government's responsibility to create and fund internal improvements. The federal government has also expanded its power during the New Deal era by providing work-relief programs for the entire country.

While there has been some talk of a shrinking federal government with more power being given to the states, it has yet to happen in many meaningful ways. The federal government continues to be active in things that used to be the domain of the states, such as creating educational standards and regulating healthcare. States do not have full control over their own hunting regulations, either, due to federal environmental regulations. All of these things have led to a large group of people resenting Washington's involvement in local affairs; these people seek less regulation in general.

Devolution can be a valuable tool for states to test out programs that may be good for the entire country. States can keep more of their money at home and use it on programs that they know are likely to work. Issues such as healthcare funding and education are best handled at the state level by people who have worked in those industries. The federal government should set broad guidelines but let the states administer their policies under these guidelines. In this manner, the federal government will lose its image as a meddlesome regulator in local affairs. The federal government should mainly be concerned with issues that are too large for a single state to solve or issues that involve more than one state. For example, bringing electricity to the Tennessee Valley could not be solved by devolution.

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The concept of federalism in the United States is essentially the division of power between the centralized federal government and the individual states. Since the middle part of the 19th century, a power struggle has occurred between these entities, with more and more power gradually shifting to the federal government. A large part of this was the result of decisions made by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall that were favored expanding federal power and paved the way for even more expansive New Deal policies under FDR.

Many notice this shift continuing today, and critics warn of serial infringement on the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that any "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In other words, the federal government has only those rights referenced in the Constitution. Furthermore, none of these rights can violate the natural laws and rights of man.

The term devolution typically refers to the delegation of power from a higher authority to a lower one, such as by a central administration (the federal government) to a regional one (the states). While this idea lied at the heart of the country's founding, it certainly has not been the common practice over the last 150+ years. Contemporary federalism has strained to retain, or better yet regain, true devolution through the court system, as federal power continues to usurp that of the states whenever it's deemed appropriate, especially at a time when modern technology has made interstate commerce and other such relations so prevalent. Evidence of this can be seen through the never-ending codification of federal laws.

Whether or not one agrees with the idea of devolution is purely subjective in nature and requires a serious look at the pros and cons of it as evidenced by its application (or lack thereof) in various societies around the world. If one sees more benefit in millions of people acting autonomously to further their own self-interests, then devolution would appear more meritorious. If, on the other hand, one sees more benefit in a small contingent of representatives engaging in central planning based solely on what they feel is best for the people, devolution may appear lacking.

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American federalism evolved from the type of dual federalism practiced in the early period of the republic to the type of cooperative federalism that is the norm in contemporary times.

In dual federalism, the powers and duties of the two levels of administration (center and states) were put in separate and non-overlapping categories. In the cooperative model, there is a large degree of overlap between federal and state areas of responsibility.

Cooperative federalism has several advantages, including the ability of complex matters to be more efficiently administered in a way that promotes a common method of action across all of the states. However, while it imagines an equality of action between the center and the states, in reality, the federal government has come to assume the leading role in this relationship through the use of coercive policymaking tools such as inducements and sanctions. This contrasts with the limits previously experienced in federal interest in state matters under the dual federalist system in which the center was limited to non-coercive methods, such as hortatory and authority tools.

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Over the years, federalism first changed to give the national government more power.  Since the 1980s, things have swung back towards the states a little bit, but I do not really buy the idea that there has been serious devolution.

The federal government has taken more and more power over time.  This happens especially in times of crisis like WWII and the Great Depression.  For the most part, the power never goes back to the states.

President Reagan talked about devolution, but it was also during his time that the federal government forced the states to change their drinking age to 21.  The Republicans talk about devolution today at times, but it was President Bush who was behind the No Child Left Behind law that caused more federal involvement in schools.

Would devolution be a good thing?  It depends on the specific policy issue, I think.  I think that some things need to be on the federal level -- things like basic rights and like welfare policy (so states don't have a "race to the bottom.")  But on other things, like perhaps health care, it seems like it might be good to have devolution so different states can try different solutions.

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