federation

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federal government

federal government or federation, 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.

Bibliography

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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Federation

 

a state system in which a single sovereign state is composed of several united states, each of which juridically maintains a certain degree of political independence. Historically, the first bourgeois federation was the USA, established by the Constitution of 1787. Other federations include the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, India, Pakistan, Burma, Malaysia, Australia, and Nigeria. The USSR, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic are socialist federations.

A federation is marked by the following features: (1) territorial extent, a federation is coextensive with the area occupied by its individual members—its states, cantons, Lander, union republics, or other territorial units; (2) the member states of a federation usually have the right to adopt their own constitution; (3) the limits between federal and state jurisdiction are set forth in the federal constitution; (4) each member state of a federation has its own laws and judicial system; and (5) in most federations, a person is simultaneously a citizen of the union and a citizen of one of its united states. Some federations have a bicameral system in which one chamber represents the interests of the federation’s member states.

Socialist federations, which differ radically from bourgeois federations, are based on another principle entirely. In the USSR and in the socialist countries, for the first time in history the state system of federation has become the basis for resolving the national question. The socialist federations are based on the principle of national territoriality and the voluntary union of the sovereign and equal members of the federation, each member having the right to secede from the federation. The development and organization of national states have been influenced by the historical experience of the socialist countries, and particularly of the USSR; this influence is evident in some countries, such as Burma and India, that were freed from colonial dependence and that formed a type of federation consistent with their national makeup.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

federation

1. the union of several provinces, states, etc., to form a federal union
2. a political unit formed in such a way
3. any league, alliance, or confederacy
www.nga.gov.au/federation
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
For example, he argues that the federal-provincial division of powers does not need to be re-drawn, contrary to the views of many premiers: "Either level of government has sufficient constitutional authority to intervene in virtually any policy area that is deemed to be of significance in the 1990s" (220).
The division of powers between the Board and the Treasury also was cloudy.
The muddiness in the division of powers between the Board and the Reserve Banks and between the Board and the Treasury, as well as in the conception of the Board's mission, led to floundering and conflict in the early years of the System.
(7) This work coalesced, to some extent, with a judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in October 2005 when, in a case similar to Insite, the Court offered a fairly straightforward answer to the division of powers question.
In Insite, the British Columbia Court of Appeal addresses the division of powers question in an aridly formal way.
(14) Or, wisely taking the advice articulated by Hester Lessard in this volume, what other ways of seeing might emerge from an analysis of division of powers questions "textured by critical oppositional politics and by the democratic engagement of politically marginalized groups that takes place outside established channels of power"?
To make this argument more apparent, I will compare the result in Insite with three other division of powers cases in which the Court chose a formal approach to federalism to answer the question posed, leaving other questions of equality and colonialism unexplored.

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