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Why is Federalism Important for Democracy? Show more Show less
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Federalism is the division of a territory into states or units. Certain powers are devolved to each state to some degree, in parallel with the powers of the central government. Many important political thinkers believe federalism is essential for a democracy to function properly.

Federalism supports meaningful democratic change Show more Show less

Federalism a pure form of democracy. It allows people to participate in a way that is meaningful to them on a local level. The wants and needs of individual groups can be better served by a combination of a central and regional government.
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Federalism promotes democratic participation

Individual voters are more likely to see their views represented on the local level. It is easier for individuals to take an active role in politics because there are more smaller bodies of government for interested individuals to get involved with.

The Argument

People are more likely to engage with politics under a federalist system because they are less likely to feel alienated. People’s confidence that their political system works is raised by the ability to see grassroots democracy in action. Disengagement with politics is often fuelled by the belief an out of touch central government somewhere is controlling everyday life. Voters in regional elections can see the effects of their vote on the community.[1] Voters are far more likely to see their views and values reflected in local laws. There are likely to be more local elections and more politicians from the local community interacting with the electorate. More organs of state are given power on a local basis, which means it is easier for people to get involved with politics in their own community. [2] Federalism allows for more meaningful voter participation. People’s votes are more likely to be heard which decreases voter alienation. There are more bodies of government for people to get involved with on a local level.

Counter arguments

In the US in particular there is not much evidence people are engaged in their local community or know anything about local politics. In many countries the turnout for local elections is far lower than the turnout for national elections. In the US turnout in local elections have been consistently low in comparison with national elections.[3] Local government is just as likely to be taken over by wealthy and out of touch elites as the central government is. Small communities often contain a large number of voters who hold extremist views and who put pressure on local government. As a result, local government often endorses strange, extreme, and unhelpful laws which increases voter frustration with democracy.[4] More local government does not necessarily create more democratic engagement. Local government is just as likely to be out of touch, elitist, or held to ransom by extremism as the national government. Local elections typically have low voter turnout.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Voters are more likely to participate in democracy because they feel less alienated [P2] There are more local bodies of government for voters to get involved with [C] Federalism increases the likelihood of democratic participation

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://diamond-democracy.stanford.edu/speaking/speeches/why-decentralize-power-democracy
  2. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/~/~/link.aspx?_id=01BCB24E8E7F444CB487FCD05C981A3E&_z=z
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/22/opinion/why-does-no-one-vote-in-local-elections.html
  4. https://connectusfund.org/15-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-federalism
This page was last edited on Sunday, 1 Nov 2020 at 18:22 UTC

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