The advantages and disadvantages of Federalism

Posted: September 12, 2014 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary

By Obang Ob, USA

The 21 federal states proposed by Riek Machar

The 21 federal states proposed by Riek Machar

The federal system is a means of dividing the power and functions of government between a central government and a specified number of geographically defined regional jurisdictions.

In the U.S. federal system, the regional governments are called states. In others, such as Canada, they are known as provinces. Altogether, there are approximately twenty federal systems in the world.


As it has evolved in the United States, federalism is a reasonably effective system of government. But, as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill illustrate, it is not perfect, nor is it well suited to the circumstances of most other nations. Ironically, federalism’s weaknesses are closely related to its strengths.

  1. A federal system helps manage social and political conflict. It broadly disperses political power within and among governments, enabling national, as well as regional and local, concerns to reach the central government. Many venues, or “democratic safety valves,” exist for resolving conflicts before they reach the crisis stage. If such conflicts are not addressed satisfactorily, however, they can eventually lead to regional or ethnic conflict on a fearsome scale.
  2. Federalism promotes administrative efficiency. The wide variety of services demanded by citizens is delivered more efficiently without a large central bureaucracy. From public elementary education to garbage collection, the government closest to the problem seems to work best in adapting public programs to local needs. Yet federalism presents problems in coordinating action across governments and boundaries. Picture trying to get 90,000 squawking and flapping chickens to move in the same direction at once. The confusion and deadly delays in responding to the victims of Hurricane Katrina illustrate this point.
  3. Federalism encourages innovation. States and localities can customize their policies to accommodate diverse demands and needs—and, indeed, such heterogeneity flourishes. New policies are constantly being tested by the more than 90,000 government “laboratories” that exist throughout the country, thus further encouraging experimentation and flexibility Yet federalism’s many points of involvement can encourage obstruction and delay and result in ineffective national government programs and priorities. Duplication and confusion can be the result. Fifty sets of laws on banking and lending practices, firearms regulation, illegal Immigration, and medical marijuana can make crossing state lines an exercise in comparative public law.
  4. A federal system maximizes political participation in government. Citizens have opportunities to participate at all three levels of government through elections, public hearings, and other means. The local and state governments fill almost 1 million offices in regular elections, serving as valuable political training camps for aspiring public leaders. The great majority of presidents and congressional representatives first wet their feet in state or local politics. But such broad participation encourages local biases inimical to national interests. Problems in locating nuclear and hazardous waste disposal facilities readily illustrate this dilemma.
  1. This is interesting that you just posted this because in the Adjumani Consultation in Uganda yesterday, the people expressed a strong desire for federalism


  2. Why using Riek Machar drapted state here? Ruweng state is a viable state on her own.


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