Unitary And Federal Government

Unitary And Federal Government. Unitary Government considered from the point of View of the concentration and distribution of power and the relation between the central and local authorities, governments may be classified as unitary (or centralized) and federal. Where the Whole power of government is conferred by the constitution upon a, single central organ or organs, from which the local governments derive Whatever authority or autonomy they may possess, and indeed their very existence, we have a system of unitary government.

It is characteristic of this form of government that there is no constitutional division or distribution of power between the central government of the state and the subordinate local governments. There is, in short, but one common source of authority and but one will exerted. For convenience of administration all unitary states are in fact subdivided into circumscriptions or districts (provinces, departments, counties, communes, eta), each of Which has a certain sphere of autonomy and restricted powers of local government, but generally those local areas are created and altered at will not by the constitution but by the central government, and whatever autonomy or power of local government they may possess is delegated to them by the central government and may be enlarged or contracted at its will.

They are, in short, merely parts of the central organization created by the latter to act as its agents for the purpose of local administration they are subject to its control and whatever autonomy or governmental competence may have been conceded to them exists by sufferance rather than by constitutional guarantee.

The governments of Great Britain and most of the Countries of continental Europe and of Asia belong to this class. In Great Britain the counties and cities in fact possess a consider able sphere of local autonomy and of self-government, but it is derived from ordinary acts of parliament, it may be enlarged or restricted at the will of parliament, and many of the activities of the local government are subject to the control of the central authorities.

On the Continent, the government of France is the outstanding example of a unitary government. The country is divided into territorial circumscriptions called “departments” and these are subdivided into cantons, arrondissements, and communes, each having its own organs for certain purposes of local government, but the autonomy which they possess is very restricted, it is derived not from the constitution but from acts of parliament the local organizations are in large measure mere agents of the central government, and the exercise of the powers of government left to them is subject to wide control by the central government even when those powers relate to matters of local administration.

In the other countries of continental Europe (except those in which the federal system has been established Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) the situation in this respect differs only in degree from that of France.

Federal Government Explained :

Federal government as contra-distinguished from unitary government, is a system in which the totality of governmental power is divided and distributed by the national constitution or the organic act of parliament creating it, between a central government and the governments of the individual states or other territorial subdivisions of which the federation is composed.

These latter governments are not the creations of the central government of the union in most federal systems the reverse is the case, that is, the central government has been created by the constituent members through the act of federation, they are something more than parts or agents of the central organization, their sphere of autonomy is determined not by the central government but by the general constitution of the federation or, as in the British dominions, by an act of the imperial parliament which serves the purpose of a constitution. Consequently, they do not exist by the sufferance of the central government nor may their competence be restricted by it.

Federal government may, therefore, be defined as a system of central and local government combined under a common sovereignty, both the central and local organizations being supreme within definite spheres, marked out for them by the general constitution or by the act of parliament which creates the system.

It is dual government as contra distinguished from unitary government and confederate government. The territorial areas of these local organizations are not therefore mere administrative districts, but autonomous and, in a certain sense, self-created political communities, having their own constitutions and political systems.

The central and local governments are not, however, totally separate and disconnected from each other in organization. Federal government is not, as is often loosely said, the central government alone, but it is a system composed of the central and local governments combined. The local governments are as much a part of the federal system as the central government is, although they are not the creations of or subject to the control of the central government.

Distribution of Powers in the Federal System :

The principle upon which the powers of government are distributed between the central and local governments in a federal system is that those affairs which are of common interest to the federation as a whole and which require uniformity of regulation should be placed under the control of the central government, while all matters not of common concern should be left to the care of the local governments.

In short, there should be one government for national affairs and a number of local governments for local affairs. In respect to the former, therefore, federal government resembles unitary government, while in respect to the latter it is more like confederate government. Opinions differ, however, as to what affairs require uniformity or regulation and What should be left to local regulation, and hence the line of demarcation between general and local matters is in practice drawn differently in different federal systems.

In most states having the federal form of government, however, such affairs as foreign relations and international intercourse, war and peace, interstate and foreign commerce, coinage of money, patents and copyrights, have been placed under the control of the central government. In international relations the component members of the federal union are largely non-entities, but they have shown themselves able in certain instances to interpose obstacles in the way of the successful prosecution of a common foreign policy by the central government.

In the more recently established federal systems of Europe the notion of what requires uniformity of regulation and what Will permit of diversity of control is somewhat different from that which has prevailed in the United States, and consequently the principle of distribution has been different. In these states many affairs are treated as being of general interest and hence requiring uniformity of regulation, which in the United States are left to local regulation. Thus, in Germany the Whole body of civil, criminal, and commercial law and the law of procedure, as well as the law of marriage and divorce, is national, not local that is, instead of widely varying legal systems in these domains, there is a single uniform code for all the component parts of the federation.

The evils that have arisen in the United States in consequence of the extraordinary variety of legislation, especially in respect to certain matters that are really national in scope rather than local, have recently aroused discussion in many quarters in favor of increasing the powers of the national government along various lines.

Method of Distribution :

Two methods have been followed in distributing the powers of government between the central and local organizations, where the federal system prevails. In most such states the powers intrusted to the central government are specifically enumerated by the constitution or organic act of the federation. To the local governments are reserved all the remaining powers except such as may be specifically prohibited to them.

The central government is thus an authority of delegated powers, while the local governments are authorities of resi-duary powers. In other words, the competence of the central government is positively determined by the constitution, while that of the local governments is negatively determined. The presumption of law in case of doubt, therefore, is against the existence of any power claimed by the central government and in favor of any power claimed by the local governments. In the federal system of Canada, however, a different principle of distribution, prevails.

There the local governments are authorities of enumerated powers, while the central government is one of both delegated and reserved powers. Whatever may be the method or principle of distribution, or the nature and extent of power delegated or reserved to either government, neither may enlarge its competence or redistribute the powers of government differently from the way in which they already have been distributed by the constitution on organic act of the union. Only the sovereign itself can do that.

Federal Control and Coercion :

In some federal systems, however, the central government is given a limited control over the organization and acts of the local governments. Thus, in the United States it is made the duty of the national government to see that only republican governments shall be maintained by the individual states, from which it may be inferred that the national government may prohibit such local organizations as do not in its judgment conform to this requirement.

Similarly the German constitution of 1919 (Art. 17) requires that every state (Land) shall have a republican form of government-one in which the representatives are elected by universal,equal, direct, and secret suffrage of both men and women, according to the principles of proportional representation, and also that it shall have the cabinet system. The same provision is found in the Austrian constitution of 1920 (Art. 95).

In Canada, the Dominion government has the power to disallow the acts of the provincial legislatures likewise in the federal republic of Venezuela the national government may veto the acts of the local legislatures. In Germany the central government may by the process of federal execution compel, by armed force if necessary, a delinquent or recalcitrant member of the Reich to perform the duties imposed upon it by the constitution (Art. 48).

This right of federal coercion against the states for the non-performance of their constitutional obligations distinguishes the German federal system from that of the United States. In the latter country it is generally admitted that the national government has no such power and in practice it has never been attempted.

This does not mean, however, that the national government cannot employ force to protect the public property of the United States, to execute the provisions of the federal constitution, laws, and treaties, and to enforce the processes and decrees of the federal courts. The Supreme Court has said that the United States has the constitutional power to “brush away every obstacle” to the enforcement of its authority on every foot of the national territory.

In case the authorities of a particular state interfere with or attempt to prevent such action, the force employed will necessarily be directed against them, but this is not the same thing as federal coercion or federal execution in the sense in which it is authorized by the German constitutional was in pursuance of this right that President Lincoln justified his course in sending the armed forces into the southern states in 1861.

Local Execution of Federal Laws :

In one other respect the federal system of the United States, Brazil, and most other countries which have it, differs from that of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In the first-mentioned group of countries the national government possesses its own officials and governmental machinery for enforcing its laws, collecting its revenues, and performing the other services With which it is charged.

The constitution of Brazil (Art. 7, sec. 3), expressly declares that the laws of the Union and the acts and judgments of its authorities shall be put into execution throughout the country by federal officials. Nevertheless, it provides that the execution of federal laws may be intrusted to the governments of the states, with their consent. This devolution of authority may also occur in the United States, provided the state authorities so consent, but in practice it is rarely done.

In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, on the contrary, it is the practice to rely, in large measure, upon the governments of the states (Ldnder) or cantons to carry into execution the laws enacted by the national legislature.

In Germany the constitution (Art. 14) declares that the laws of the Reich shall be executed by the state authorities, unless otherwise provide ed by law. Except for such matters as are committed exclusively to the jurisdiction of the Reich (foreign affairs, national defense, coinage, customs, postal administration, and a few other matters),the Reich does not depend upon its own officials and agents but relies upon those of the states.

The constitution of Austria (Arts. 10-11) likewise provides that While federal legislation inrespect to certain specihed matters shall be executed by the federal authorities, the execution, of federal laws relating to various other matters shall be intrusted to the state authorities. In Switzerland likewise a considerable part of the legislation enacted by the federal parliament is left to the cantonal governments to be executed, and certain federal taxes (e.g., the military exemption tax) are collected by the cantonal authorities.

Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. Reliance upon the state or local authorities avoids the duplication of administrative machinery, but it possesses the disadvantage which results from throwing upon the local governments responsibility for the execution of national laws and the defense of national policies to Which they, supported as they Often are by local public sentiment, may be opposed or as to the enforcement of Which they may be indifferent. In order to insure that such legislation will be properly executed by the local governments, the federal systems of Germany, Austria and Switzerland provide for federal supervision, inspection, and as stated above, for federal coercion of the local governments, When they are charged With the execution of federal legislation.

Thus, in Germany, the federal ministry is empowered to issue instructions to the state authorities as to how the federal laws shall be carried out and it may dispatch commissioners to the state governments to supervise the execution of those laws (Art. 15). The constitution of Austria (Art. 15) likewise provides for federal supervision of the execution of national laws. Similarly, in Switzerland the government of the confederation exercises supervision over the cantonal administration of various federal laws.

Federal Intervention in Local Affairs :

In most countries where the federal system is found the national government has a certain right of intervention in local affairs, especially for the preservation of internal order. In the United States the national government may intervene, by the use of armed force, if necessary, to suppress domestic violence in any state, provided application has been made for such aid by the legislature, if it be in session, or by the governor if it is not in session.

If the disturbance inter-feres with the operations of the national government, the processes of the federal court’s, or with the movement of interstate commerce the President is not bound to wait for an application from the governor or the state legislature but may upon his own initiative-send federal troops to the scene of the disturbance and prevent such interference, as President Cleveland did in the case of the Chicago strike in 1894.

In Brazil the federal government is empowered to intervene in the affairs of the states to repel invasion, to maintain the republican form of government therein, to reestablish order and tranquillity (upon request of the state governments), and to insure the execution of federal laws and the judgments of the federal courts. The constitution of the United States goes further and makes it the duty of the United States to intervene to protect the states against invasion, and to maintain the republican form of government.

The constitution of the Swiss confederation (Art. 3) makes it the duty of the federal government to guarantee the integrity and “sovereignty” of the cantons, in so far as they are recognized to be sovereign. Its right to intervene in the case of internal disturbances is affirmed by the constitution, and it is not necessary to wait for an appeal from the cantonal authorities (Arts. 14-16). There have been eleven cases of federal intervention in the cantons since 1848, live of them being in the canton of Ticino.

In Germany the constitution (Art. 48) provides that if the public safety and order are materially disturbed or endangered the president of the republic may “take the necessary measures” to restore it, and if necessary he may intervene by force of arms To this end he may temporarily suspend wholly or in part, the liberties of the people as guaranteed by various articles of the Constitution and proclaim the existence of martial law.

Leave a Comment