Federal systems in the US

The United States is made up of 50 states, it has a federal system of government that splits power between the national, state and local governments. The national government is made up of three branches; the executive, the legislative and judicial branches. The executive is presided over by the president. The president also acts as the commander in chief of the armed forces and the head of diplomatic relations.

The legislative branch makes laws, it consists of the congress. The congress is divided into two houses; the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate encompasses two senators from all the states. The judicial branch is headed by the chief justice. The chief justice is appointed by the president and approved by the senate. The judiciary is made up of the Supreme Court which is the highest court and the federal courts. The Supreme Court gives final judgments to cases. It has nine members. If a case is challenged in district courts, it is taken to the Supreme Court.

The states are divided into counties. The power granted to the states is known as reserved power, while that given to the national government is known as enumerated power. Power shared between the state and the national government is known as concurrent power. The national government can declare war. It is also responsible for regulating interstate and foreign commerce, immigration and citizenship, and copyrights and patents. Other enumerated powers include; controlling crimes at sea, military powers and federal courts. The state is responsible for education, police protection, and licensing. It also rules over the local government and regulates people and corporates to maintain safety and public health.

Certain powers are shared between the national and the state government. Some of them include; controlling taxation and transportation, making and enforcing laws and utilization of the private property for public use when necessary. The private property owners should be compensated. Other concurrent powers also include; borrowing money, spending and allocating resources for the public welfare, establishing courts and chartering banks and corporations.

Also known as federalism, the federal system of government in the US is decentralized. It divides power between the local and the national government. This seeks to ensure that people are fully represented. Federalism was engrained in the constitution by the forefathers of the United States. They knew that centralized governments can easily oppress people.  While the states are responsible for controlling issues such as issuing marriage licensing, education and transportation. The national government provides security through the military and regulates interstate and foreign trade.


Lachapelle, E., Borick, C.P. and Rabe, B., 2012. Public Attitudes toward Climate Science and Climate Policy in Federal Systems: Canada and the United States Compared 1. Review of Policy Research, 29(3), pp.334-357.

Mandelker, D.R., Wegner, J.W., Griffith, J.C., Tyson, C.J. and Kenneth, W., 2014. State and local government in a federal system (pp. 33-34). LexisNexis.

Bakvis, H. and Brown, D., 2010. Policy coordination in federal systems: Comparing intergovernmental processes and outcomes in Canada and the United States. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 40(3), pp.484-507.

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