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Federalism in a Post-Modern World

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Charles Mason
June 16, 2023

Federalism is a form of public policy and administration that divides power between the federal and state governments. It is based on the idea that having different levels of government creates a more effective system for governing by allowing states to pursue their own goals while remaining accountable to the federal government. Federalism allows for different levels of autonomy, from complete sovereignty of one level over another to cooperative decision-making between them. This system also helps ensure that all citizens are represented equally regardless of where they live, as state government decisions can impact federal policy. Federalism has proven beneficial in promoting public participation, encouraging active civic engagement and ensuring equal protection under the law.

In the post-modern era, federalism has been seen as a critical public policy and administration element. It divides governmental power between the national and state governments, creating two sovereign powers. This ensures that each level of government maintains its own autonomy while limiting the influence of both on issues such as taxation, education, health care and criminal justice. The separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution further bolsters federalism by ensuring that no one branch becomes too powerful over the other two branches. Ultimately, federalism helps to maintain checks and balances within our political system so that all citizens have their voices heard and interests respected. However, things have been changing.

The rise of authoritarianism globally is a significant challenge to liberal democracy. Governments that seek greater control over citizens and their public policy and administration are becoming increasingly sophisticated in circumventing the norms and institutions meant to protect human rights and promote equal treatment under the law. This growth of authoritarianism has far-reaching consequences, including deteriorating civil liberties, threats to freedom of expression, access to information and an erosion of trust in democratic institutions. We must take urgent action to address this trend before it further undermines our core values of liberty, justice and equity. We must protect and strengthen public policy and administration, ensuring that they prioritize citizens’ rights over government interests. We must also form solid international partnerships to coordinate our efforts in defending human rights and freedom against authoritarianism. We must do all we can to preserve the values that make us accessible.

In recent years, however, the spread of authoritarianism has threatened to undo this progress. The political landscape has shifted dramatically towards a trend of increasing executive power and eroding institutions that offer checks and balances on the abuse of authority. Governments increasingly rely on cronyism and patronage networks to remain in force—and consolidate their control—at the expense of public policy and administration based on merit. This is leading to a dramatic decrease in democratic rights and civil liberties worldwide and a rise in human rights violations. These developments have profound implications for global freedom, stability and prosperity. Therefore, governments and international institutions must take firm action against this growing threat before it further undermines our collective security.

Therefore, federalism in a post-modern world has become more critical than ever before. Public policy and administration are increasingly managed by central governments rather than regional or local levels. Those in power want to ensure that their decisions made at one level can be implemented effectively across multiple jurisdictions, even when it is against the will of the governed. Federalism is a significant part of the answer to this question. It enables different regions to work together towards mutually beneficial outcomes while allowing them to maintain their own distinct identities and traditions. By providing a framework for cooperation between levels of government, federalism is essential for effective public policy, such as border security and administration in today’s globalized economy.

Nonetheless, the elephant in the room is the administrative state. These unelected bureaucrats have assumed a great deal of power in our government, and it is a power they should not possess. They are running the show without regard for the public policy enacted by Congress or the Constitution itself. This unchecked, unaccountable administrative state has been growing since the New Deal, with federal agencies seemingly immune to any oversight or control. It’s time to regain control from these unaccountable bureaucrats and restore accountability to government decision-making. We must ensure that executive power is used responsibly and that public policies are based on sound evidence and analysis. The administrative state threat highlights just how dangerous this type of system can be for our democracy, and it’s up to us as citizens to push back against this unchecked power of the administrative state.

Author: Charles Mason, MPA, is a Doctoral Candidate at Walden University in Public Policy and Administration specializing in Criminal Justice. He has over 30 plus years of experience in security, local law enforcement, state corrections and military service. He is currently president of Mason Security. He can be reached at [email protected]. Twitter: https://twitter.com/DRCharlesMason

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