federal government

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.

federal government



government of a union of states in which sovereignty is divided between a central authority and component state authorities. A federation differs from a confederation in that the central power acts directly upon individuals as well as upon states, thus creating the problem of dual allegiance. Substantial power over matters affecting the people as a whole, such as external affairs, commerce, coinage, and the maintenance of military forces, are usually granted to the central government. Nevertheless, retention of jurisdiction over local affairs by states is compatible with the federal system and makes allowance for local feelings. The chief political problem of a federal system of government is likely to be the allocation of sovereignty, because the need for unity among the federating states may conflict with their desire for autonomy. The Greek city-states failed to solve this problem, although religious and political federations were often attempted and the Aetolian and Achaean leagues had many of the institutions of federal government. The primacy of the central over the state governments was not resolved in the United States until after the Civil War. The distribution of powers between the federal and state governments is usually accomplished by means of a written constitution, for a federation does not exist if authority can be allocated by ordinary legislation. A fairly uniform legal system, as well as cultural and geographic affinities, is usually necessary for the success of a federation. Varieties of federation include the Swiss, where the federative principle is carried into the executive branch of government; the Australian, which closely reflects American states' rights and judicial doctrines; and the Canadian, which reverses common federative practice and allots residuary rights to the dominion government. Other examples of federal governments are the German Empire of 1871 and the present state of Germany, modern Russia, Mexico, South Africa, and India.


See J. Bryce, The American Commonwealth (rev. ed. 1959); K. Wheare, Federal Government (4th ed. 1964); D. J. Elazar, American Federalism (2d ed. 1972); W. H. Stewart, Concepts of Federalism (1984); H. Bakvis and W. M. Chandler, ed., Federalism and the Role of the State (1987); K. L. Hall, Federalism (1987).

Federal Government

the national government of a federated state, such as that of Australia located in Canberra
References in periodicals archive ?
The federal government has to be told that it is going in the wrong direction.
I want to stress, however, that pandemic influenza preparedness is not only the responsibility of the federal government.
President Bush, like President Clinton before him, has invoked the Constitution many times to justify usurping powers that are either nowhere constitutionally delegated to the federal government or are specifically delegated to one of the other branches.
The federal government then threatened to prosecute the UDV pursuant to the federal drug law.
At the end of 2007, however, the federal government will likely scale back its exposure even further or get out of the terrorism insurance business altogether.
Tax Executives Institute appreciates your support for establishing a single corporate income tax collection system with the federal government.
The federal government has exclusive responsibility for national defence and security issues--reinforced by its constitutional primacy in the field of criminal law and its exclusive jurisdiction over foreign diplomatic policy.
Whenever TRIA expires, the federal government, insurance markets and policyholders will all need to participate in crafting long-term replacements.
We have to be the principal protagonist in resolving our debt problems, but the federal government as our biggest creditor has the final word," he says.
105-277), signed into law October 21, 1998, represented the Clinton administration's intent to move quickly to a federal government that offered comprehensive electronic access and services.
Many people who choose to work for the federal government, including myself, are committed to serving our country.
Will people from the "Live Free or Die" state tell the federal government to keep its NCLB regulations?

Full browser ?