Доклад: American Federalism in 1990s
American Federalism in 1990s.
While it would be an overstatement to suggest that the average American has a
clear concept of meaning of federalism in 1994, there is some evidence than
issues, involving locus of governmental power are important to many. For
example, polling organizations frequently ask citizens - which level of
government most enjoys their trust and confidence. The results consistently
indicate, that people trust their local governments most and their national
government least. The states drift along in the middle. So, most Americans
view local government the most favorably.
However, as is the case in most areas of our political life, attitudes change
significantly when citizens are faced with specific issues. Even though
Americans appear to be committed to federalism in the abstract, they always
seem to have lengthy list of problems which they want the federal government
because state and local governments have failed to resolve them, or a list of
services which are perceived as poorly provided or not provided at all. It is
common for individuals and groups to respond to such perceptions by demanding
that the national government create new standards or mandates or provide
direct or indirect expenditures of money. Sometimes, they seek both.
While it is traditional to expect demands for increased national government
activity from more liberal, so-called «big government», elements in American
society, conservatives, who see themselves as a defenders of state’s rights
and local self-government also may jump on the bandwagon and demand national
action. Thus it is quite unsurprising that recently liberal elements in
American society have sought national legislation controlling access to
firearms, as reflected in recently-adopted Brady Bill, which requires dealers
to run checks on purchasers. On the other hand, it seems unusual, from a
federalism perspective, that conservative elements have sought national
government action to eliminate or restrict access to abortions or to permit
the introduction of prayers in the public schools.
Perhaps the best recent example of such a demand for national action may be
found in public safety area. There is a general perception, that high levels
of criminal activity made the persons and property of the average citizen in
this country unsafe. In general, however, the definition and control of
criminal behavior has historically been a state and local responsibility. Our
national officials sense that there is a demand for them to do something in
response to state and local failures. The result is anti-crime legislation at
the national level which has been proposed by the President and which is
largely supported by members of Congress. While many of us doubt the
effectiveness of the specific legislation, few people have seriously objected
to this activity as destructive of basic fabric of our federal system.
The result is an inconsistent and often confusing approach to solving
governmental problems in a federalist concept. In terms of practical
politics, the system provides multiple forms of access. Various groups, no
matter what ideological view of the federal system, take a pragmatic
approach. That is, when their preferred level of government fails to produce
policy results, that are satisfactory, they seek action at another level.
None of the models of the federal systems seems to describe this state of
affairs very well.
There is also confusion about federalism at another level in the US. We often
observe this best when trying to teach about the system in our American
Government classes. For some, federalism is equated with democracy. This is
to say that they believe that unitary systems are by definition undemocratic.
These patriotic souls are skeptical of evidence which demonstrates that some
unitary systems are quite democratic, and that some federal systems are quite
autocratic in nature.
Still, others confuse federalism with the concepts of separation of powers
and checks and balances which are so important in understanding American
government. While federalism does indeed divide governmental powers and
involve some checking and balancing, separation of powers is a term, normally
reserved to discussions of the relations between the executive, legislative,
and judicial branches of our governments. This distinction is troublesome for
many of our students.
Due to my limited time I would like to state some most nuisance problems,
that became a heavy burden for every American, involved in active politics in
any way. First, we should mention the so-called «unfunded mandate», that
became the biggest bone of contention in American intergovernmental rules. An
unfunded mandate can be said to exist when the national government requires
new or improved services or level of regulation, but leaves funding largely
to state and local governments. This permits national level officials and
institutions to establish their own policy without any considering costs.
While that seems a poor way to operate, it fits in well with some traditional
American political attitudes in which costs of government services are either
ignored or assumed to be borne by someone else.
Some examples may illustrate the reasons for state complaints. In 1993, the
Congress passed a law requiring the states to provide a system of voter’s
registration which was