Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Ever since the creation of the United States, there has been a constant tremendous debate between the federalists and the anti-federalists, about the division of labor and responsibilities between a federal government and the state entities. At the same time, the discussion is ongoing and developing in the intergovernmental relations so as to what is the responsibility of each governmental agency, how much does it need to be involved into state or local matters and how it should successfully cooperate with state and local entities. This paper will aim to present the matter of the nature and have a keen analysis on the most efficient way that federal and local governments could function together, as well as on how to split responsibility between the two levels.

The conflict between federalism and anti-federalism most likely manifested itself in the United States because of the vastness of land that needs to be organized and administered. Even with only the initial colonies being taken into account, the challenge was still enormous: the communications and transportations were difficult and messages took long to arrive from one place to another. The Supreme Court, for example, was initially an itinerant entity, but it took so long for a Supreme Court judge to arrive from one city to another that this option was soon abandoned.

Similar factual descriptions are valid in other cases as well.

Nowadays, transport and communication have greatly facilitated central governance, but the challenges remain. One should consider, for example, that Europe is divided a significant number of states that only recently have agreed to let go of a limited part of their sovereign rights and transfer them over to Brussels, to the European Union institutions. Many of the functions are still dealt with on a local and state basis, from country to country.

So, how and what part of federal attributes should be passed down to the state and local authorities and what should be the intergovernmental relations that could make the governmental process more efficient?

First of all, it is important to note that the combination of a central government and auxiliary sub-national governments creates a structure in which these different entities can make decisions without the consultation or even subordination to each other (Moore, 2008). At the same time, these entities should work together in order to ensure a successful collaboration, which can lead to better solutions to existing problems at different levels. For example, a problem in a certain area that is identified in a certain state can be worked on better if there is information on a similar problem having existed in another state at another time.

One such excellent examples of cooperation between the central government and state governments is given by the Great Depression and what is known as cooperative federalism. During this period, many of the states and local institutions receives more substantial support from the central government than they had actually contributed to the federal budget, because the economic situation was more dire in these countries. South Carolina could be a good example in this sense, with $242 million being allocated during the period of time in which the state only contributed with $10 million.

However, there is an argument against such type of federalism, generally provided by the fact that this type of federalism in fact positively impacts mainly the poorer states. It is the type of socialist approach by which the federal government tries to work on the economic differences between different states and increase the average income level and economic growth overall. The problem in this case is that the richer or average states may object to having their participation used to increase economic levels in poorer states, instead of using the funds themselves.

The creative federalism that followed increased the financial direct implication of the federal government in federal-coordinated programs at a state level. The problem here was that this resulted into a mismatched, unfortunate overall coordination between state and local authorities and the federal government. Some of these programs lacked the local supervision, because they were federal programs, which means that they were not very efficient. The tendency that followed historically after this was that of a new decentralization process, initiated and encouraged by President Nixon.

The evolution of federalism and intergovernmental relations followed through on a more intensive decentralization process by which the state and local administration would be given more power in the decision making process (Moore, 2008). This type of approach…