Ever since the constitutional convention, the United States has been somewhat of a pioneer in the field of government. We have engineered and run the world’s longest lasting democracy and it’s due to one thing: compromise. Just like we saw at the founding of our constitution, we see compromise in almost every piece of legislature ever. This has been somewhat of an American tradition, and partially contributing and partially exemplifying this is our system of federalism. Federalism is made up of three parts, really: the enumerated or explicit powers, the reserved powers, and the concurrent powers. All of these work in conjunction to form the structure of the brilliant government under which we operate.
The national government’s role in this harmony of governmental structure is to use enumerated powers to play the parent. That is to say that it sets the rules (funded/unfunded mandates) which the states must follow if they are to live under the federal government’s roof, gives the states allowances based on how good the child was through block grants and revenue sharing, or categorical grants for those states that were not. Though this may seem a bit harsh or unitarian at times, without a slap on the wrists sometimes, the states might gravitate towards a confederacy, and not remain very unified. It is the federal government to prevent this and other major political disasters from happening
The second third of federalism is equally important. The states must have some equal share in power if the system is to be considered a real dual federalism, and in a lot of ways, they do. Unlike the federal government’s enumerated powers, the states are given equally important reserved powers which govern over health, police, education etc. These powers allow for the states to more properly control on a regional scale, rather than a sweeping national scale which may not fit properly everywhere. This more confederal look at the governing system in America allows for many different people to be satisfied with their legislature without sacrificing the security of a national government.
Some might go so far as to say that reserved powers have become more dominated by the federal government through the necessary and proper clause and/or supreme court decisions like mcCulloch v. Maryland, but it is apparent that the states still have a good share of the power through the 10th amendment. The states still retain power over the health, sanitation, marriage, etc. in their own respective states, and these issues are just as important if not more important than the powers that the federal government seeks to control through creeping categorization and other forms of backhanded manipulation.
The third and final piece of the federal system we employ here in America is that of the concurrent or shared powers. These powers are the most important when speaking on the system of checks and balances within legislature. The courts are ruled under these powers, and when one form of government oversteps its bounds, the other has the jurisdiction to take that government to court. And because there is an institutionalized rivalry of sorts between the two states, each is more than willing to help the individual with rights that may have been infringed upon.
All in all, the three different parts of the federalist system in America are all essential to the American tradition of compromise and checks and balances. It allows for the flexibility that is necessary with a developing nation of such diversity, and it provides the stability and rigidity to stand up to the test of time and hardships like war. If the framers had not retained this sense of necessary flexibility and rigidity, then surely the United States’ governing body would have failed long ago.