Federal Centralization of USA

Federal Centralization of USA at each level of the U.S. federal structure, power is further divided horizontally by branches–legislative, executive, and judicial. This separation of powers feature makes the U.S. federal system even more distinct, since not all federal systems have such separation of powers.

Growing Needs of the State:-

Centralization is the shifting of governing authority from lower or member units to higher units, with a tendency for power to grow at the top. Federal centralization is, accordingly, the tendency for the national government to assume influence or control over functions which formerly were considered under State jurisdiction. The Constitution limited the authority of the Central Government by prescribing that Congress might exercise only those powers expressly enumerated while the residuary powers were given to the States.

This was specifically stated in the Tenth Amendment. But it was inevitable in the state of things in which United States began its career as a federation that the process of centralization should grow rapidly and the development in the expansion in the power and authority of Federal Government had been continuous. There were three principal factors which significantly contributed in increasing federal authority.

The first is the part played by Federal Judiciary. Secondly, the express powers of Congress have considerably expanded and in effect added to by legislative, judicial and administrative interpretation. Finally, certain express powers of Congress, particularly the commerce clause, have been chiefly responsible for centralizing tendencies.

A chief actor in the entrenchment of a strong federal government was John Marshall of Virginia, staunch Federalist and Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835. His decision in the famous case of Murbury v. Madison gave the power to the courts to interpret the Constitution and declare Acts of Congress unconstitutional, although the Constitution itself contained no express provision to this effect, 1819 Marshall, again, in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland established the doctrine of federal supremacy over the States, and enunciated the principle of implied powers of Congress.

Both these doctrines are landmarks which made federal centralization inevitable. But Marshall went even beyond the doctrine of implied powers by invoking the theory of resultant power. A resultant power is a power that is deducible from two or more express powers. Thus where the doctrine of implied powers has a broadening effect, the concept of resultant powers has no limits at all except the judiciary itself exercises restraint.

Marshall also declared in McCulloch v, Maryland that the United States was a union of the people and that the Central Government was both in theory and in fact a national government resting directly on the people. He aimed to emphasis that the federal government was held to have its powers direct from the people and not by way of the States, The Constitution only established a framework in which a national government could and should develop.

This point was further stressed by Justice Holmes in Missouri v. Holland. The words of the Constitution, he observed, called into life a being, the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation.

The nation has grown and expanded and so have its needs. Since 1787 United States has grown from a poor, sparsely populated, agricultural country to a rich and densely populated and highly integrated industrial nation. Until recently the United States had no positive foreign policy. Her isolated geographic position, a favorable balance of power in Europe, and no embroilment in Asia, enabled her to keep aloof and repose in her security.

Today, it has all changed and the United States takes on herself the burden of maintaining world peace and assumes the role of super-power. The obvious result is that all the changes involve a powerful impact on government The altered social, economic, political and international conditions require re-allocation of responsibilities and the overall general tendency pas been strengthening the national government gr the expense of the States.

With all these changes there has been simultaneous change in people’s attitude towards the national government, irrespective of the party in power. Determined to make America great and strong, the platforms of both the major parties reflect the wishes of the people and their programmes call for greater activity by the Central Government helping its domain to grow.

In fact, from the beginning the logic of events has helped the national government’s sphere to expand. But the real swing in the Federal-State relations begins from 1860 when the federal Government began to exercise what had hitherto been regarded as exclusively the reserved powers of the States. Many factors and  various devices have contributed to that end and the National Government is today doing more things, spending more money and coming much closer to the people than was contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. It engages in such activities as public health, agriculture, poor s¢lief, highway construction, labor relations and many others and yet the formal constitutional powers of the national government remain the game today as they were in 1789.

An important way to bring about the present Federal-State inter-relations is the system of grants-in-aid, that is, the amount of funds flowing from the national to State treasuries. The Committee of the Council of State Governments defines federal grants-in-aid as payment made by the national government to state and local governments, subject to certain conditions for the support of activities administered by the states and their sub-division.

This aid is given under the power grant in the taxation clause which authorities the use of Federal funds to provide for the general welfare. The practice is based on the assumption that some activities conducted by the States and local governments, like housing, agriculture, education and health, are matters of general welfare and, consequently, justify Support by the Federal Government. Then, the revenue resources of the Federal Government are enormous as compared with those of the States.

Grants-in-aid are the means by which the Federal government provides aid in financing State functions which otherwise would have been either insufficiently performed or tardily performed, Finally, the modem idea of the functions of the State does not compartmentalize its role withing geographic jurisdictions of administration, the functions are national in scope and though there is virtue in their local administration, yet, they must be standardized at a high level.

The Central Government, therefore, gives to the States financial aid up to a certain proportion of the total amount of expenditures on the beneficent departments, on the condition that the States and their local units administer the programme in accordance with rules said down by Central Government.

The earliest grants made to States were in land or money without the imposition of conditions on their use. Today, the grants given are almost wholly conditional. This means that grants are made for specified purposes and subject to conditions stipulated by Congress or the administrative agency. It is a matter of common experience that one who gives money has a loud voice in calling the tune. Grants-m-aid are a prolific source of centralization.

They offer a middle ground between direct Federal assumption of certain state and local functions and their continuation under exclusive state and local financing, with haphazard coverage and diverse standards. It makes possible the achievement of national minimum standards, yet retains most of the benefits of administration close to the people. Thus, by the grants-in-aid the Federal Government is able to promote programmes in schemes of social services which it could not do otherwise without amending the Constitution.

Federal grants have increased stupendously, in 1911-12 their total was near about $5 million, but during the mid 1950’s, the total was about $3 billion annually. In the late 1960’s, all forms of Federal grants, including grants-in-aid, shared revenues, emergency grants, and payments to individuals within States exceeded $ 15 billion per year. This figure enormously swelled in the decades to follow.

One of the vexatious problems of the Confederation period was the trade barriers which the States had been creating against One another. The Annapolis Conference of 1786, which led directly to the Constitutional Convention of the following year, was really summoned to relieve the embarrassing commercial situation so created. The Constitution, therefore, contains a clause conferring upon Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States.

In defending this power of Congress, Hamilton wrote in the Federalist that a unity of commercial as well as political interests, can only result from a unity of government. What Hamilton meant was that the political power must be commensurate in its range with the matter which it is permitted to regulate.

Today, the problem of inter-State and foreign commerce is not the same as it existed in 1787. It is now a gigantic problem and includes all commercial activities covering production, buying, selling, and transporting of goods.

The power of Congress to regulate commerce should, accordingly, grow at equal pace with the growth of that commerce. The Supreme Court has consistently accepted this argument. Laws have, therefore, been enacted, upheld by the Supreme Court and subsequently administered in such fashion as to indicate that apparently no appreciable area of economic life lies outside the sphere of federal intervention.

The power to regulate is the power to prescribe rules by which commerce is governed, that is, the right to foster, promote, protect and defend all commerce that affects more states than one. Since today there are few aspects of the United States economy that do not affect commerce in States more than one, and as the term commerce now includes the wheel complex mass of transactions covered by the word business,most business transactions are subject to national regulation.

As such, significant aspects of employment as collective bargaining, hours of work, wages, working conditions, and the conduct of Strikes in large sectors of American industry have been largely withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the States, Summing up the astounding expansion of Federal Government power under this heading, Ferguson and McHenry remark, in decade of 1936 to 1940 alone, Congress has validity employed the commerce power to regulate labor relations, control radio broadcasting Provide retirement System for railroad employees, fix minimum wages an um regulate inter-State bus and truck lines control streams even of doubtful navigability regulate stock exchanges, forbid transportation of strike breakers, punish exporters, kidnappers and vehicle thieves. All these are federel encroachments on the constitutional power, of the States.

The Central Government is Constituting, ally responsible for protecting the country f, external aggression and, when necessary for waging war. The problem of common defense today is entirely different from what it was 1787. No country can afford to wait for defense until war is declared. It must always be Prepare to ward off the probabilities of war and to win,  it actually comes. It means the ability to man the industrial resources of the country and to apply nation’s scientific knowledge to the task of defense.

Everything from the physics course taught in schools to the conservation of national resources and the maintenance of economy affects the war-making potential. When the country is in the midst of hostilities it must gear up the entire life of the nation in a bid to win war. It means to conscript men, control all the channels of production, transportation, distribution, and in fact every aspect of economic and social life in the country.

And when the war ceases the government must tackle problems of demobilization and postwar reconstruction. The change-over from wartime conditions to peace-time conditions must be smooth and it needs proper planning and co-ordination.

It must also give aid to war veterans and to remove the maladjustment in the economy caused or aggravated by war. In brief, the national government has the power to wage war and wage it successfully. In total war this means total power. As long as we live in a world where war is an ever-present possibility, the defense activities of the government will be many and varied and they will impinge on all aspects of our lives.

The people of the country at all stages of its development had always looked to the national government for solving their problems. Their desire to make the country big and prosperous necessitated big business, big agriculture, big labor and, all add up to thirties big government.

The World Economic Depression of thirties of the present century considerably enhanced the prestige of the Central Government. There were over twelve million unemployed out of a total labor force of fifty million, and many more million were destitute. The resources of the states were absolutely inadequate to give relief on such a mass scale and simultaneously devise means to steer the country out of economic and financial difficulties. The Federal Government came to the rescue of the people and the bold policy of Roosevelt led the country to the path of recovery.

Simultaneously to the increased confidence of the people in the national government, there has been decreasing tendency to holding on to the traditional ties of loyalty to States. This is due partly to the development in the means of communication and transport and, consequently, greater mobility of the population.

Secondly, most of the States had no independent existence prior to their becoming members of the Union. There developed, accordingly, no strong feelings of local pride and the original settlers long looked to the Central Government for their betterment.

The States themselves, too, are in a way responsible for it. Even within the limits of their jurisdictions and their resources most States have not kept abreast and, thus, failed to instill local loyalty. Washington D.C. is almost a model of refection when compared to some state capitals which are graft-ridden, inefficient, and unable to provide the services that the people expect.

Co-operative Federalism:-

All this process of centralization raises a question as to whether the United States is any longer properly classified as a federation. Constitutionally speaking, observes Griffith, it would appear as though the Supreme Court would no longer impose any substantial barriers to national legislation in the economic sphere as constituting an invasion of the states rights.

As for all other areas of constitutionally permissive governmental action, it would appear to be open to the National Government to dictate or at least to dominate policy through the use of conditional subsidies. He concludes that exclusive jurisdiction, even in the most traditional State and local functions, the smaller units may no longer have. But autonomy they still have in large measure.

Their vitality is still very great. The same social conscience that was among the factors causing the Supreme Court to let down the barriers to increased governmental activity nation ally has had its counterpart in its wide extension of the sphere of permissible state activity.

Congress too, in practice has shown very considerable restraint in curtailing State discretion through conditional grants-in-aid, Internal-level co-operation has considerably increased and regional administrative units, often federal in nature, are created with problems (chiefly river basin conservation and development) on wider than State lines. Loyalties to the States are still strong among all the fifty States. The traditional advantages of federalismexperiment, differentiation, political education, diffusion of power still have great opportunities for expression in the United States to a degree very largely lost in Britain.

But in term of governmental functions, it cannot be denied that federal government has assumed inconceivable powers and federalism, as practiced in the United States, is today no obstacle in assuming functions which in the interest of national strength it is important to handle at the national level.

But as Carl Friedrich says,

It would be a mistake……… , to declare federalism in the United States dead; in some areas the states have recaptured some of their power through more vigorous insistence on their participation in the federal administration.

A new conception of federal interrelations has developed lately. Co-operative federalism, as it is described, emphasizes mutual administrative assistance among the different levels of government instead of administrative competition and conflict.

Co-operative federalism, observes Potter, may be, as some charge, often less efficient, surreptitious centralization. It may be, as others charge, often less efficient than full centralization. But in view of the fiscal supremacy of the national government on the one hand, and the strength of local political sentiments on the other , it is almost certain to remain one of the most important aspects of the administrative element of American federalism.

According to Richard M. Leach, a United States expert on federalism, In operation, federalism requires a willingness, both to cooperate across governmental lines, and to exercise restraint and forbearance in the interests of the entire nation.

The traditional theory of federalism stands modified to fit into the needs and demands of the present conditions. No society can afford the luxury of a rigid division of powers which was possible in the social and economic conditions of the eighteenth century.

There is, accordingly, not much of substance in President Reagan’s assertion that he made on January 20, 1981 in his inaugural address. The new President emphasized that it was his intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the states or the people. He reminded the nation that the Federal Government did not create the states; the states created the Federal Government.

This is true, but the course of United States constitutional development now extending to more than two centuries cannot be so summarily changed. It is an unavoidable conclusion that older patterns of decentralization whether in the form of local autonomy under a unitary system or of States rights in a federal union were doomed to dissolve in corrosive acids of twentieth century politics economics and technology virtually all the era driving forces in modern society combine in centrist direction.

The traditional theory of federalism is a political anachronism Now. Vile expresses the opinion that co-ordinate status of the federal and regional governments is as difficult to sustain as their independence in the spheres assigned to them. Their status of equality may be defensible in legal terms, but it is very difficult to interpret in terms of power and influence. The leadership of the federal government is unchangeable and all federal unions have moved alike in the same direction.

Of late, a new concept of creative federalism has emerged in the United States and is widely advocated. It puts emphasis on getting the job done without regard to who is in the pivotal role, the center or the units of a federal polity, This is in sharp contrast to President Reagan’s commitment to revitalised federalism which he made in his inaugural address. It is defined as a return of authority and revenues to State and local governments; the essence Of the federal polity with which United States started her career.