From Hobson's Choice
A form of governmental structure in which the polity is divided into subordinate states; or, the sovereign entity that governs over these subordinate states. Per John Locke, the federative function of the government is the function that deals with relations with other governments.
Types of Federal States
There are several varieties of federal states:
- In some cases, federal governments are provided for by a group of existing states; examples include the United Arab Emirates, the Federation of Tanzania, and (potentially) the European Union.
- In other cases, such as Brazil and China, the country's administrative divisions were accorded a high degree of internal autonomy.
- In some peculiar cases, such as Ethiopia, the Russian Federation, and the USSR, the authorities awarded such autonomy on the basis of long-standing ethnic or linguistic divisions.
- Another common, and historically significant case, is the hybrid of 1 & 2: countries such as the USA, Canada, and India.
Nearly all examples of type 1 & 4 emerged from colonial rule; the UAE was created from the merger of 7 sheikdoms, all of which had previously been British protectorates since the 19th century. Canada emerged in 1867 from a confederation of several provinces that had just recently gained internal self-government; like the USA, it managed the development of the Western territories into new provinces. Switzerland is a federation of principalities from the 13th century; from the core of 3 cantons (1291), it won the alliance of 5 more (by 1353), and gradually secured subject areas (later reorganized into new cantons). The Netherlands was created from the union of 8 republics that formally repudiated the rule of Philip II, HRE.
An interesting case is the Federal Republic of Germany: prior to its creation in October 1949, and prior to the period of the Third Reich, both the German Empire and the Weimar Republic had been federations of pre-existing nation-states. However, roughly 60% of the land area, and 80% of the population, belonged to the Freistaat of Prussia; and the pre-Empire Kingdom of Prussia had been, after France, the greatest military power in Western Europe. After 1949, West Germany was divided into 11 Länder, with the Prussian component greatly subdivided. With the incorporation of the former East Germany, this number of Länder has risen to 16. Also, in December 1918 the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes—formerly several different components of adjacent states—was created, and later renamed Yugoslavia. This nation was a monarchy until 1941. After the War, Yugoslavia was reconstituted as the Socialist Federal Republic, with the old component states restored.
Purpose of Federation
The classic object of federation is to delegate responsibility for local issues to local government. In some cases this permits more direct democracy under a common language or cultural milieu. In the US, states have formal rights which are commonly regarded as sacrosanct. The popularity of local rule arises from sharply different regional attitudes towards governance and taxes; more cynically, it may also arise from local elites who have an easier time building up local party machines. As a practical matter, there are topics of policy that are widely thought to be decided by a smaller subset of the electorate: urban planning, for example, affects people living in a particular city most intensely, so logic suggests that they need electoral control over planning policy. If city policies were settled by a central government far from the affected city, then conflicts between the urban population and the administrators of the policy could become unmanageable. The electorate would have no really convincing tools of accountability or even feedback, since their vote against unpopular officeholders would be diluted by voters offended by something unrelated.
Federation is also a strategy for avoiding implacable ethnic conflicts; frequently, ethnic groups with a long history of antagonism toward the center can be placated by providing them with a close approximation of independence.
- ↑ John Locke, "Second Treatise of Government," XII.146
- ↑ Helen Chapin Metz, editor, Persian Gulf states: country studies, 3rd ed., Federal Research Division, Library of Congress (1994)—"Independence"
- ↑ The initial provinces of Canada were Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec, resp.), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (1 July 1867). See "Constitutional History: Confederation," Canadian Encyclopedia
- ↑ Prior to the creation of the first alliance, much of Switzerland had been under the rule of the Zähringen family (Kingdom of Arles) and the Savoyards. Hermann Kinder & Werner Hilgemann (trans. by Ernest A Menze), The Anchor Atlas of World History, Vol. I, Anchor (1974), p.192
- ↑ Representatives agreed to the confederation 1584 in the Hague. The 8 republics were Friesland/Fryslân, Geldern, Groningen, Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, and Zeeland, plus Drenthe (which is usually not included in the list). Holland took a leadership role in the alliance, but it was a very loose federation. Hermann Kinder & Werner Hilgemann (trans. by Ernest A Menze), The Anchor Atlas of World History, Vol. I, Anchor (1974), p.244
- ↑ Slovenia was formerly the Austrian province of Carniola; Croatia was a kingdom in royal union with Hungary since 1089, and detached after the revolution in Budapest; Bosnia-Herzegovina had been under Austrian occupation since 1878; Serbia and Montenegro had been independent from the Ottoman Empire since the mid-19th century. King Alexander I (formerly King of Serbia) changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia in 1929 and abolished the old boundaries to erase any nationalist base of power.
- ↑ States of the former Confederacy have traditionally been extremely jealous of "states' rights," using them exclusively to defend slavery, segregation or, subsequently, corporate control of state government. In such states, the role of powerful party machines dominated by durable "bosses" has been exceptionally strong. A good introduction to this is John Egerton's Speak Now Against the Day, University of North Carolina Press (1995)