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Thread: Federalism: does it suck ?

  1. #1
    zombologist Senior Member doc_bean's Avatar
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    Default Federalism: does it suck ?

    So with our recent election past and talk about the EU constitution going around again, I was wondering: Is federalism really all that great ?

    I don't think so.

    Take, for instance , the boring example of Belgium (I'll keep it brief) which consist of a small amount of 'states' (3). There are three issues I'd like to consider

    1) because one state is obviously the biggest it controls most of the political power and people in that state feel entitled to getting their way despite what the other parties think, because there's simply more of us and that's 'democratic' and 'fair'. Meanwhile people in the other parts take what they can which leads to...

    2) Since every politician needs to be elected in his 'state' and so tries to be popular in his state, often doing things not in the benefit of the nation, but in the benefit of his or her electorate.

    3) Another issue related to the first is that one 'state' is not happy with the way the federal government runs things (or the other states run things). It thinks it might be better of on its own and considers leaving the 'federation'.

    Now, while these problems affect boring Belgium, they are similar to problems you often hear about in the US. Certainly the second point, which is well know as 'pork' seems to be a big problem in American politics. I believe the first and the third problem are related, essentially it's nearly impossible to have a balance between 'state' rights and federal 'rights', it's like a pendulum swinging back and forth from more state rights to less state rights to more etc.

    Frankly, is federalism really worth it ? The constant power struggle between state and federal government for power, which mostly just revolves around some politician's ambitions anyway. And the pork isn't helping us as a whole, quite the opposite.

    Let's look at a more recent federal country: Iraq.
    Now, it's a country with a lot of problems which can hardly be blamed on federalism, but one often neglected problem is 'Kurdistan', a part of the country with relative autonomy which seems intent on declaring independence someday in the future, clearly problem 3 arises here again.

    So what are my conclusions at the moment ?

    1) Federalism is inherently unstable, though this doesn't mean ti can't work in the long term, it means that the balance of power will constantly shift
    2) Federalism doesn't work for countries with a small amount of states. The threshold for stepping out is imo much smaller if a 'state' has half or over half of the resources of the country. It also makes it easier for the rich part to say they'll leave the poor part since they'll only get richer (I believe Kurdistan has many oil reserves, in Belgium it's also the rich part seeking independence.) the poor part has little to offer them.

    So I'm not saying the US should just split up or form a confederation, I know too little of the situation to say that at the moment. I will predict a future move towards more state rights though (can there be much less ?).

    I am however, seriously questioning the move of europe towards a federation. IMHO it can be a huge mistake. Things have to be carefully looked at, not decided by some hothead politicians who just want to end up in the history books as the Old Worlds james Madison or whoever.

    EDIT: errr....if the final word in the title is 'a bad word' could some mod please change it ?
    Last edited by doc_bean; 06-17-2007 at 20:38.
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  2. #2
    TexMec Senior Member Louis VI the Fat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Federalism: does it suck ?
    That depends on the country. Unlike the Belgians, we wouldn't swallow it.
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  3. #3
    Clan Clan InsaneApache's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Louis VI the Fat
    That depends on the country. Unlike the Belgians, we wouldn't swallow it.
    Spit it out and say what you mean.....
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    Στωικισμός Member Bijo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Federalism: does it suck ?
    No: it has no ability to, unless you refer to those being or representing the federation -- they certainly can and will / do.


    To seriously address your words: the reasoning I observe seems correct and I can therefore find no error at the moment.
    Last edited by Bijo; 06-17-2007 at 23:45.
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  5. #5
    Kanto Kanrei Member Marshal Murat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Didn't Socrates write on this?
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    Have you just been dumped?

    I ask because it's usually something like that which causes outbursts like this, needless to say I dissagree completely.

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    The Usual Member Ice's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Well Doc, I tend to agree to an extent.

    Some federal government is necessary though. For example for our armed forces, diplomacy, taxes, etc. to name a few.

    Things like abortion and gay marriage though are best left to states.

    The United States tried a confederate system first actually before we became a Federal Republic (The Articles of Confederation).

    In short, our country is to big to be a confederation. It simply wouldn't work with 50 states running around printing their own money.



  7. #7
    Liar and Trickster Senior Member Andres's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    In a country the size of Belgium, it doesn't just suck. It's completely ridiculous.

    For Belgium there are only two reasonable choices: a) split b) go back to a unitary state.

    All other options lead to Absurdistan, where we are now, at the moment.

    In order to achieve a) or b), you need competent politicians with strong leadership and vision.

    Unfortunately, those politicians are non existant.

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  8. #8
    Dux Nova Scotia Member lars573's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Some times federalism sucks, sometimes not. But when it comes down to it I trust the federal government a lot more than the provincial one.
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    American since 2012 Senior Member AntiochusIII's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Well, the Federation is superior to a Confederacy, so...

    America tried its hand on a Confederacy before. As has often been proven, human greed, selfishness, and provincialism kills any sort of meaningful cooperation without a sufficiently strong central authority.

    Federalism in and of itself is an attempt to balance a unitary state with a confederacy: a middle ground.

    In the USA it makes much sense -- as much as States Right people (the extreme ones, I don't think there's any at the Org) like to say it's better to split up back to the good old Confederacy days or whatever, the truth is that America wouldn't be half a force -- economically, politically, or otherwise -- it is today had it not been a federal state. We might in fact have to go through much more than just one vicious civil war if we remained a Confederacy or just plain split up. In any case the problem of redundancy that doc_bean's Belgian example shows is much less in the USA: with a country this size there would be a need for that amount of infrastructure / government anyway with or without Federalism.

    I'm not sure why the Belgians need it though. You can cross it in a day after all, a unitary state should by all means suffice.
    Quote Originally Posted by doc_bean
    1) because one state is obviously the biggest it controls most of the political power and people in that state feel entitled to getting their way despite what the other parties think, because there's simply more of us and that's 'democratic' and 'fair'. Meanwhile people in the other parts take what they can which leads to...

    2) Since every politician needs to be elected in his 'state' and so tries to be popular in his state, often doing things not in the benefit of the nation, but in the benefit of his or her electorate.

    3) Another issue related to the first is that one 'state' is not happy with the way the federal government runs things (or the other states run things). It thinks it might be better of on its own and considers leaving the 'federation'.
    On point one, that actually has been a central conflict during the USA's Constitutional Convention. States like Virginia and New York think they should have greater power than Connecticut and Maryland. The US solution is a balance of power between the two: a bicameral legislature.

    Federalism as is taught in the USA actually considers Separation of Powers to be one of its core principles. Competition within the government(s) prevents inertia and all that.

    Compare this to a Confederacy, which is essentially an alliance between States -- and we all know how alliances last in this kind of world -- or a unitary state where one tyrant is sufficient to ruin everyone's lives and it actually isn't that bad.

    Point 2: it actually is a benefit in some way. In larger states with vastly different interests -- as the EU, should it become a federation, will most likely be -- the good of the nation as a whole has to be balanced with local needs.

    I don't think the third point is a problem exclusive to a Federation. Even with as loose an organization as the EU many Europeans apparently already feel oppressed about it.
    Quote Originally Posted by doc_bean
    1) Federalism is inherently unstable, though this doesn't mean ti can't work in the long term, it means that the balance of power will constantly shift
    2) Federalism doesn't work for countries with a small amount of states. The threshold for stepping out is imo much smaller if a 'state' has half or over half of the resources of the country. It also makes it easier for the rich part to say they'll leave the poor part since they'll only get richer (I believe Kurdistan has many oil reserves, in Belgium it's also the rich part seeking independence.) the poor part has little to offer them.
    It isn't much more unstable than any other arrangements of government when you really think about it. If they [politicians] aren't leading the complains that the Scottish Parliament doesn't get enough respect from Westminster then they'll be competing for favours in the courts of the Kings, the central government hierarchy, or just plain leading their own states to oppose others.

    It has to be somewhere.

    I agree with you though: I think Belgium as a Federation is absolutely ridiculous. I'm aware (partially) of the cultural conflicts and all, Flemings Walloons and what-have-you, but does it really justify such levels of redundancy in a country that size?
    Last edited by AntiochusIII; 06-18-2007 at 06:16.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Senior Member naut's Avatar
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    Default Re: Federalism: does it suck ?

    Kinda yeah. But we have Howard as our leader.
    #Hillary4prism

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