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Federalism vs. Anti-federalism

MTGandP
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10/5/2009 5:20:59 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
I am currently writing a speech for school about why Anti-federalism is superior to Federalism. I would like some revision and refinement of my arguments, but do not want to start a debate since I don't want to be obligated to write any more than I already have to. So I hope that I can present my arguments and you can offer improvements, counter-arguments, and arguments for the Federalist side that you think I am likely to face.

I am arguing that Anti-federalism is superior to Federalism, in the context of the ratification of the American Constitution.

========

Definitions

Federalism: Support of the creation of a stronger government, esp. the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Anti-Federalism: The political philosophy that "the central governing authority of a nation should be equal or inferior to, but not having more power than, its sub-national states (state government)." Esp. the rejection of the ratification of the United States Constitution in favor of a smaller national government.

========

Source for arguments: http://www.constitution.org...

Contention 1: A major problem with central government is that, not only does it have too much power, but it represents the interests of a very narrow spectrum of people. The three powers (legislative, executive, judicial) are an attempt to counteract this problem, but will not be successful. The powers cannot effectively keep each other in check, because they share too many interests. The powers are far more similar to each other than they are from the common folk.

Contention 2: The United States government is greatly imbalanced. Congress has the power to create "the supreme law of the land", which everyone in the nation must abide by. The executive and judicial branches cannot match the power of the legislative branch.

========

Source for arguments: my brain

Contention 3: Government officials have historically been made up almost entirely by the upper class. This imbalanced representation is not indicative of a truly republican government. In a Federalist governmental system, the power of the wealthy will be further exaggerated and the gap between social classes will grow.

Contention 4: Large governments have a tendency to overextend themselves. Powerful state governments, with a single overarching central government, will make local and regional matters much easier to deal with, and government will be far less prone to collapsing under the pressure.

Contention 5: State governments are far better at dealing with local situations. A single large government has much more difficulty dealing with or even supporting the more minor issues. But stronger state governments are conducive to local support: giving power to smaller governments allows these issues to be dealt with much more efficiently and appropriately.

========

Any feedback is appreciated.
LeafRod
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10/5/2009 5:33:07 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
There needs to be some sort of clarification, maybe, as to what is federalist and what is anti-federalist. An opponent might talk about how, before the Constitution and under the Articles of Confederation, the central government was too weak.
Xer
Posts: 7,776
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10/5/2009 5:44:08 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
You also want to add:

- Federalism allows for a greater chance of tyranny with stripping of freedoms due to virtually unlimited powers
- National government is not as efficent as local. Also, nat'l gov'ts can more easily collapse under pressure. For example, if the US was less centralized, the economic recession may not have hit us as hard.

That's just off the top of my head - I think you have covered most of the arguments though.
comoncents
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10/5/2009 5:51:32 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
Another movement calling itself "Federalism" appeared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. New Federalism, which is characterized by a gradual return of power to the states, was initiated by President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) with his "devolution revolution" in the early 1980s and lasted until 2001. Previously, the federal government had granted money to the states categorically, limiting the states to use this funding for specific programs. Reagan's administration, however, introduced a practice of giving block grants, freeing state governments to spend the money at their own discretion. New Federalism is sometimes called "states' rights", although its proponents usually eschew the latter term because of its associations with Jim Crow and segregation. Unlike the states' rights movement of the mid-20th century which centered around the civil rights movement, the modern federalist movement is concerned far more with expansive interpretations of the Commerce Clause, as in the areas of medical marijuana (Gonzales v. Raich), partial birth abortion (Gonzales v. Carhart), gun possession (United States v. Lopez), federal police powers (United States v. Morrison, which struck down portions of the Violence Against Women Act), or agriculture (Wickard v. Filburn). President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) embraced this philosophy, and President George W. Bush (2001-2009) appeared to support it at the time of his inauguration.

Education Policies under Federalism
Education has also been very controversial under New Federalism, but for different reasons. Almost all groups, State and Federal, agree that a controlled education system is absolutely critical. The division, however, is that some believe that the education system should be nationally united (and therefore controlled by the federal government), while opponents believe that education should vary by State (and therefore be controlled by the State governments).

Some New Federalists, such as President Reagan, have flirted with the idea of abolishing the Department of Education, but the effort is unsuccessful. During the administration of George W. Bush, the president and Congress cooperated to pass the No Child Left Behind legislation, arguably the most well known, and most often debated, of recent federal attempts to exert its control on the education system. Many Republicans who favor a smaller federal role in education, including Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. of Utah, vehemently oppose the legislation. Some Democrats also stand against the act on the ground that it creates unfunded mandate, unnecessarily creating a dilemma for poorer states.

http://en.wikipedia.org...
MTGandP
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10/5/2009 6:21:38 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 5:33:07 PM, LeafRod wrote:
There needs to be some sort of clarification, maybe, as to what is federalist and what is anti-federalist. An opponent might talk about how, before the Constitution and under the Articles of Confederation, the central government was too weak.

Were my definitions not clear? It is basically national powers vs. state powers. Should the national government be much more powerful than the states, or should they be on about the same level?
MTGandP
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10/5/2009 6:24:18 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 5:44:08 PM, Nags wrote:
You also want to add:

- Federalism allows for a greater chance of tyranny with stripping of freedoms due to virtually unlimited powers
- National government is not as efficent as local. Also, nat'l gov'ts can more easily collapse under pressure. For example, if the US was less centralized, the economic recession may not have hit us as hard.

That's just off the top of my head - I think you have covered most of the arguments though.

Very helpful. Thanks Nags. The conciseness of the arguments is nice -- it allows me to do the expanding so the arguments will be more original.
Lexicaholic
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10/5/2009 7:15:08 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
Arguments for federalism (by which I mean a strong national government):

1. State governments are often inept or corrupt, and rarely help their people. The argument that political ties will affect the relationship of each national branch of government as to each other can be extended to state governments, and actually is more of a problem there as state governments are often controlled by a single elite social majority, where as the federal government represents several groups of social elites vying for power like mad dogs. It is much more difficult to transform government into a personally beneficial corrupt corporation when you have competition. Consider, for example, how comparatively mild the incidence of criminality in federal government is comparatively to state government; in one, spying on your enemies or having sex in your office ruins your career, where as in the other, it likely begins it. Also, when it comes to spending, state governments are often much worse than the federal government. I have seen multiple instances of states where the government spends millions on equipment it allowed to sit in a warehouse and rot. At least the federal government uses its $500 wrenches.

2. Without a strong national government, the individual states will often make decisions that are non-uniform as to other states, making collective efforts troublesome as the value systems of the states grow apart. This creates a burden on trade. Imagine if you had to have a different color car to drive in each state because of visibility requirements. Are you going to buy 48 cars or paint your vehicle 48 times to travel through the states? No. So your range becomes limited just by that. (The paint example is, of course, just an example ... for comparative cases see tinted windows and vehicle weight restrictions.) Additionally, imagine if coughing in public was a crime in one state, while having sex before marriage was punishable by death in another. Without a strong national government, ridiculous laws like these would probably get by, as the checks against rational relationships to legitimate public purposes that prevent such laws were handed down by the Supreme Court. Heck, without a national judiciary, sodomy would probably still be illegal (which means no sex other than in the missionary position, period, sexual orientation be damned).

3. National elections are far more advertised than state elections, which tends to result in better popular representation. Sure, you've voted for the president a few times ... how many times have you voted for your county commissioners? Municipal officers? Local judges? Probably rarely, if ever, unless such issues come up during a national vote. The sheer broadness of the appeal of the national election process convinces voters to weigh in on the future of their nation. By comparison, very few states provide such coverage of local elections (though a few states, such as California and Texas, certainly do).

Those are at least three arguments I can think of off the top of my head. I'll let you know if I can think of any more.
http://mastersofcreationrpg.com... - My new site and long-developed project. Should be fun.
PervRat
Posts: 963
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10/5/2009 7:41:15 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 6:24:18 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 10/5/2009 5:44:08 PM, Nags wrote:
You also want to add:

- Federalism allows for a greater chance of tyranny with stripping of freedoms due to virtually unlimited powers
- National government is not as efficent as local. Also, nat'l gov'ts can more easily collapse under pressure. For example, if the US was less centralized, the economic recession may not have hit us as hard.

That's just off the top of my head - I think you have covered most of the arguments though.

Very helpful. Thanks Nags. The conciseness of the arguments is nice -- it allows me to do the expanding so the arguments will be more original.

Of course, it is completely false. The smaller your localization for setting laws, the more likely at least some states will incur tyranny-of-the-majority-over-a-minority cases.

Examples of this in U.S. history were state-by-state Jim Crow laws. The entire civil rights battle of the 1950s and 1960s was about efforts to have the federal government to overrule tyrannical Jim Crow state laws, such as segregation. This was very similar to the anti-federal efforts a century prior where states defied federal mandates to eliminate slavery; the states revolted to prevent having to abide by the Emancipation Proclamation and, to further their avow to sovereignty of the states over the union, formed a weak confederacy that, of course, was defeated for, among other reasons, the inability to have a coherent confederacy capable of mustering economic or industrial cooperation.

Unfortunately, I know of no examples to make the case that an anti-federal state is superior to a federal one, because in most cases, a federal state has proven stronger. As is the case with any system of government, of course, it can be abused especially when the people lose interest in maintaining an active, educated interest in politics.

Such was the case of relatively minor powers like the Vizigoths defeating the "too big to fail" Roman government which had an early pseudo-federal framework.
Xer
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10/5/2009 7:57:10 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 7:41:15 PM, PervRat wrote:
At 10/5/2009 6:24:18 PM, MTGandP wrote:
At 10/5/2009 5:44:08 PM, Nags wrote:
You also want to add:

- Federalism allows for a greater chance of tyranny with stripping of freedoms due to virtually unlimited powers
- National government is not as efficent as local. Also, nat'l gov'ts can more easily collapse under pressure. For example, if the US was less centralized, the economic recession may not have hit us as hard.

That's just off the top of my head - I think you have covered most of the arguments though.

Very helpful. Thanks Nags. The conciseness of the arguments is nice -- it allows me to do the expanding so the arguments will be more original.

Of course, it is completely false. The smaller your localization for setting laws, the more likely at least some states will incur tyranny-of-the-majority-over-a-minority cases.

Examples of this in U.S. history were state-by-state Jim Crow laws. The entire civil rights battle of the 1950s and 1960s was about efforts to have the federal government to overrule tyrannical Jim Crow state laws, such as segregation. This was very similar to the anti-federal efforts a century prior where states defied federal mandates to eliminate slavery; the states revolted to prevent having to abide by the Emancipation Proclamation and, to further their avow to sovereignty of the states over the union, formed a weak confederacy that, of course, was defeated for, among other reasons, the inability to have a coherent confederacy capable of mustering economic or industrial cooperation.

That's why anti-federalism is superior. If you don't like the policies of one state, you can leave for another state where the laws suit you better. Instead of a national government where the laws are the same no matter where you go and you have virtually no say in your governing.

Unfortunately, I know of no examples to make the case that an anti-federal state is superior to a federal one, because in most cases, a federal state has proven stronger.

Depends on what you mean by "stronger".
PervRat
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10/5/2009 8:00:22 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 7:57:10 PM, Nags wrote:
That's why anti-federalism is superior. If you don't like the policies of one state, you can leave for another state where the laws suit you better. Instead of a national government where the laws are the same no matter where you go and you have virtually no say in your governing.

No, you can't, because there's no interstate authority that can override states' rights that might jibe against each other to allow each others' citizens to freely move.

Every case of freedom in states versus the federal government, it was the states resisting the federal government's efforts to bring about more rights to the people that states steadfastly refused to allow. I challenge you to find a contradictory example within the United States.

Unfortunately, I know of no examples to make the case that an anti-federal state is superior to a federal one, because in most cases, a federal state has proven stronger.

Depends on what you mean by "stronger".

Militarily, politically, economically, financially ... take your pick.
Ragnar_Rahl
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10/5/2009 8:07:54 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
it was the states resisting the federal government's efforts to bring about more rights to the people that states steadfastly refused to allow.
Tariffs that discriminated against Southern farmers in favor of Northern factory owners in the Calhoun-Jackson controversy came to mind in about 5 seconds.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Xer
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10/5/2009 8:09:35 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 8:00:22 PM, PervRat wrote:
At 10/5/2009 7:57:10 PM, Nags wrote:
That's why anti-federalism is superior. If you don't like the policies of one state, you can leave for another state where the laws suit you better. Instead of a national government where the laws are the same no matter where you go and you have virtually no say in your governing.

No, you can't, because there's no interstate authority that can override states' rights that might jibe against each other to allow each others' citizens to freely move.

That's where some form of national government comes in. Anti-federalism does not mean "No national government whatsoever" it just means the powers of the nat'l gov't is highly curtailed.

Every case of freedom in states versus the federal government, it was the states resisting the federal government's efforts to bring about more rights to the people that states steadfastly refused to allow. I challenge you to find a contradictory example within the United States.

See: Supremacy Clause (http://en.wikipedia.org...)
>So it is impossible for me to find a contradictory case.

Also, I want to point out that the point of anti-federalism is for states to have maximum rights, not necesarrily individual rights. So your argument is bordering on straw man.

Unfortunately, I know of no examples to make the case that an anti-federal state is superior to a federal one, because in most cases, a federal state has proven stronger.

Depends on what you mean by "stronger".

Militarily, politically, economically, financially ... take your pick.

Militarily: Duh.

Politically: Prove it.

Economically and Financially: Prove it.
PervRat
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10/5/2009 8:31:41 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 8:07:54 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
it was the states resisting the federal government's efforts to bring about more rights to the people that states steadfastly refused to allow.
Tariffs that discriminated against Southern farmers in favor of Northern factory owners in the Calhoun-Jackson controversy came to mind in about 5 seconds.

Funny considering how fickle Calhoun was, just a decade earlier pressing for high protectionist tariffs. Wasn't he also one of the nationalist nuts that pushed for the war of 1812 to attempt to conquer Canada, only for it to backfire when Canadian and British forces marched to Washington, torched the White House, and we barely managed to push the line back?

Of course a confederacy would allow for states to levy tariffs against one another. No federal interstate commerce authority. Wouldn't that be grand?
PervRat
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10/5/2009 8:50:26 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 8:09:35 PM, Nags wrote:
That's where some form of national government comes in. Anti-federalism does not mean "No national government whatsoever" it just means the powers of the nat'l gov't is highly curtailed.
When I learned prefixes in school I learned "anti-" means opposed to -- deadset against, none tolerated. Anti-federalism, then, is no union government whereas confederate is a relatively weak union government.
See: Supremacy Clause (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

That's a clause that merely states the states may not pass laws violating federal law, such as a state attempting to tax the federal government. Granted, this was an effort by the federal government to prevent states from attempting to tyrannize over the federal government, but in my book that's too much of a stretch since it didn't really involve the state's citizens having their rights taken away.

Also, I want to point out that the point of anti-federalism is for states to have maximum rights, not necesarrily individual rights. So your argument is bordering on straw man.

Maximization of individual rights is a supreme concern over the rights of the state; you defeat your own claim that anti-federalism is freer and less tyrannical than federalism. Your point defeats your entire argument.
Militarily, politically, economically, financially ... take your pick.

Militarily: Duh.

The confederacy could build a stronger military than the union?

Politically: Prove it.

The Confederacy could not get much recognition as a state anywhere outside of itself despite appeals to be recognized as a valid, sovereign state among European powers. Further, the very nature of a confederacy means the states are allowed to diverge politically against their union.

Economically and Financially: Prove it.
Economically - A stronger federation of states can pool their industries to trade and have a stronger, unified currency to trade with.

Financially is easier to demonstrate, since the federal government can take less money per citizen in tax and, from the strength of the union, have a lot more income to do much more. Individual states flounder in the finances of their governments, even the states within our federation are struggling today. A few minor nudges to restore income and other federal taxes to the wealthy and would get the federal deficit under control, though of course there is too much opposition to allow that. State governments facing serious problems, such as California, would have to tax each of its citizens far more deeply than the federal government would in order to bring its deficits under control. Its a simple matter of scale -- by definition, the union of states is bigger than the individual states.
Ragnar_Rahl
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10/5/2009 8:50:27 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 8:31:41 PM, PervRat wrote:
At 10/5/2009 8:07:54 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
it was the states resisting the federal government's efforts to bring about more rights to the people that states steadfastly refused to allow.
Tariffs that discriminated against Southern farmers in favor of Northern factory owners in the Calhoun-Jackson controversy came to mind in about 5 seconds.

Funny considering how fickle Calhoun was, just a decade earlier pressing for high protectionist tariffs
LOL irrelevant. I wasn't using this as a character defense of Calhoun. Just bringing the example you asked for.

Personally, I'm rather indifferent in the general sense to federalism. I don't care one way or another which party to the dispute is federal and which state, I'm too concerned about the content of the dispute.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
regebro
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10/6/2009 12:12:12 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/5/2009 5:20:59 PM, MTGandP wrote:
Definitions

Well, good thing you had these because for me, federalism is:

The political philosophy that "the central governing authority of a nation should be equal or inferior to, but not having more power than, its sub-national states (state government)."

And the US is federalist. The other option is to not have sub-states at all. That would for me be anti-federalist. :)

Is your usage the common one in the US?
So prove me wrong, then.
studentathletechristian8
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10/6/2009 3:32:19 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 12:12:12 AM, regebro wrote:
At 10/5/2009 5:20:59 PM, MTGandP wrote:
Definitions

Well, good thing you had these because for me, federalism is:

The political philosophy that "the central governing authority of a nation should be equal or inferior to, but not having more power than, its sub-national states (state government)."

And the US is federalist. The other option is to not have sub-states at all. That would for me be anti-federalist. :)


Is your usage the common one in the US?

Yes. I have no idea where your definition came from.
regebro
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10/6/2009 3:38:34 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 3:32:19 AM, studentathletechristian8 wrote:
Yes. I have no idea where your definition came from.

Everybody else? :-)

Anyway, I'm happy to see that the discussion in the US obviously is about how much power should be at the federal level vs the state level, not about whether one should have a federation of independent states, or just one whopping state,
So prove me wrong, then.
MTGandP
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10/6/2009 5:42:48 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 12:12:12 AM, regebro wrote:
At 10/5/2009 5:20:59 PM, MTGandP wrote:
Definitions

Well, good thing you had these because for me, federalism is:

The political philosophy that "the central governing authority of a nation should be equal or inferior to, but not having more power than, its sub-national states (state government)."

I have read that definition before. I think it refers to a 20th-century movement in which the definitions of federalism and antifederalism were pretty much reversed. It's funny how political philosophies will do that.
comoncents
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10/6/2009 6:53:27 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 3:32:19 AM, studentathletechristian8 wrote:
At 10/6/2009 12:12:12 AM, regebro wrote:
At 10/5/2009 5:20:59 PM, MTGandP wrote:
Definitions

Well, good thing you had these because for me, federalism is:

The political philosophy that "the central governing authority of a nation should be equal or inferior to, but not having more power than, its sub-national states (state government)."

And the US is federalist. The other option is to not have sub-states at all. That would for me be anti-federalist. :)


Is your usage the common one in the US?

Yes. I have no idea where your definition came from.

Another movement calling itself "Federalism" appeared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. New Federalism, which is characterized by a gradual return of power to the states, was initiated by President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) with his "devolution revolution" in the early 1980s and lasted until 2001. Previously, the federal government had granted money to the states categorically, limiting the states to use this funding for specific programs. Reagan's administration, however, introduced a practice of giving block grants, freeing state governments to spend the money at their own discretion. New Federalism is sometimes called "states' rights", although its proponents usually eschew the latter term because of its associations with Jim Crow and segregation. Unlike the states' rights movement of the mid-20th century which centered around the civil rights movement, the modern federalist movement is concerned far more with expansive interpretations of the Commerce Clause, as in the areas of medical marijuana (Gonzales v. Raich), partial birth abortion (Gonzales v. Carhart), gun possession (United States v. Lopez), federal police powers (United States v. Morrison, which struck down portions of the Violence Against Women Act), or agriculture (Wickard v. Filburn). President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) embraced this philosophy, and President George W. Bush (2001-2009) appeared to support it at the time of his inauguration.

Education Policies under Federalism
Education has also been very controversial under New Federalism, but for different reasons. Almost all groups, State and Federal, agree that a controlled education system is absolutely critical. The division, however, is that some believe that the education system should be nationally united (and therefore controlled by the federal government), while opponents believe that education should vary by State (and therefore be controlled by the State governments).

Some New Federalists, such as President Reagan, have flirted with the idea of abolishing the Department of Education, but the effort is unsuccessful. During the administration of George W. Bush, the president and Congress cooperated to pass the No Child Left Behind legislation, arguably the most well known, and most often debated, of recent federal attempts to exert its control on the education system. Many Republicans who favor a smaller federal role in education, including Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. of Utah, vehemently oppose the legislation. Some Democrats also stand against the act on the ground that it creates unfunded mandate, unnecessarily creating a dilemma for poorer states.

http://en.wikipedia.org......
regebro
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10/6/2009 7:06:32 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 5:42:48 AM, MTGandP wrote:
I have read that definition before. I think it refers to a 20th-century movement in which the definitions of federalism and antifederalism were pretty much reversed. It's funny how political philosophies will do that.

Yeah, federalism of course means that you like the idea of having a federation of free states. What that means depends completely upon who you discuss with. Those who want only free states and no federation, or those who want no free states (and hence, not a federation, but one super state). Politicians tend to be of the later sort. :)
So prove me wrong, then.
JBlake
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10/6/2009 8:08:47 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
For Federalists you will be likely to hear some version of Madison's argument in Federalist 10. His argument being that small republics and democracies cannot protect the nation of the Tyranny of the majority. Only a large republic can do so because it has so many competing interests (and factions) that none of them can become too powerful. The antidote for factionalism is more factionalism.

One of the main arguments you will likely hear is the one mentioned earlier by Lexaholic. One of the biggest reason Federalists sought to increase the power of the central government was because of the chaos resulting from the numerous policies and currencies from the many states. The antidote for this, of course, being a strong central government with authority over such decisions (especially currency).

Another big one that I don't think has been mentioned yet is mutual defense. You will probably see an argument about how only a strong federal government can bankroll and protect the several states from the large nations abroad, as well as Native threats. Without even a show of a central government, the states would either be outright conquered, or each state would be heavily influenced by different European nations, leading to a pseudo-colonialism.

Similarly, combination would also increase their influence in world affairs.
JBlake
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10/6/2009 8:10:00 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
When I finish class this evening I'll offer a rebuttal to each of your contentions. Hopefully that can help you prepare for arguments you may see.
MTGandP
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10/6/2009 10:31:49 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 8:10:00 AM, JBlake wrote:
When I finish class this evening I'll offer a rebuttal to each of your contentions. Hopefully that can help you prepare for arguments you may see.

Very much. Thanks.
MTGandP
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10/6/2009 6:17:37 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
RE Lexaholic: Your second argument does not seem useful unless you make an actual connection between state government and corruptness/ineptness. All that you demonstrate is a correlation. Your arguments are good, but that connection is necessary to fill a small -- but very important -- hole.
Lexicaholic
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10/6/2009 7:32:43 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
At 10/6/2009 6:17:37 PM, MTGandP wrote:
RE Lexaholic: Your second argument does not seem useful unless you make an actual connection between state government and corruptness/ineptness. All that you demonstrate is a correlation. Your arguments are good, but that connection is necessary to fill a small -- but very important -- hole.

To answer this question I need to illustrate a principle of governance, which means that I need an example of state government acting in a way that federal government couldn't, to the detriment of its citizens. It would be very difficult to cite every example across every state I have witnessed, but here is one close to home ... in the county in which I presently reside, over a period of about ten years, two local judges used their influence and political connections to profit from the judicial process. This is what they did:

1. Met with contractors for a juvenile detention and rehabilitation center and agreed to help them meet people to advance their commercial interests;

2. Received compensation for helping these businessmen establish their facility;

3. Began regularly sentencing juveniles to the facility even were such sentences were not called for by the facts;

4. Profited from the continued improving business relationships that the judges developed with the detention center contractors by sending said contractors all of their "business."

5. Judges were finally caught and indicted when the FBI decided to investigate.

In case you had trouble following, these judges basically put their objectivity aside so that they could profit from imprisoning children. The reason they weren't caught for so long was that they were politically connected such that only by bringing in an outside party could any reasonable investigation of these abuses occur.

By comparison, the 'corruption' we see headlined in issues of national governance rarely relates to such severe abuses ... more often it is something minor like improper sexual relations or political spying, not the malevolent intent to ruin people's lives for profit. The reason we don't see federal judges engaged in such behavior (or at least not for as long a period of time before they are caught) is that they are under such intense scrutiny it would never fly. The sheer number of competing powerful interests at the federal level prevents any group (besides the financial sector, I suppose) from controlling the direction and processes of government in criminal and abusive ways.

This doesn't mean that federal politicians and agents are saints. It just means that they are a bunch of self-regulating sinners. The smaller the organization, the fewer groups are effectively vying for control, and the more likely it is that one group will dominate and become corrupt.

To put it simply ... in a game of mafia where most people are members of the mafia, who wins? In a game of mafia where everyone in divided equally into three groups of competing mafias, who wins? State government is like the former situation and federal government is like the latter. Except in rare circumstances, federal governance should prevent total domination by any one section of society.
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MTGandP
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10/7/2009 5:02:39 AM
Posted: 7 years ago
RE Lex:

(This is my counter-argument. I mostly agree with your point.)

Your argument only applies when the federal government is the primary investment. These unfortunate cases were not caused by lack of competition, but instead were caused by a failure to properly organize the government. Where the government is federal, people have less incentive to invest their time and money into a state government, and so quality deteriorates. The solution is to focus more effort on state governments so that not only will large government organizations improve their quality, but the public will work to improve their quality.
JBlake
Posts: 4,634
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10/7/2009 4:40:11 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
Responses

Contention 1:
It is precisely the balance of powers that will protect the people from the narrow interests of which you speak. Each branch is devised to have some overlap so that they are in competition with each other. This ensures that no one branch becomes too powerful in any one area - they provide a check.

You mention narrow interests who, left unchecked, will result in tyranny. This is a concern for every form of government that has yet existed, and that will ever exist. The question, then, is how to check this power. This I will discuss in the following paragraph.

A strong Federal government is the best safeguard against narrow interests. Small republics and democracies are unable to protect the people from these interests. In a small geographic area there are likely to be few of the interests mentioned by the anti-federalists. As such, it is easier for fewer interests to gain access to the reigns of power than it is for many interests. For instance, the cotton interest in South Carolina is so powerful that no other interest stands a chance at matching or checking its influence. When more than one interest exists, a combination of the two or more interests can more easily gain majority support than more numerous interests.

In a large republic, on the other hand, the number of narrow interests are much greater. Due to the great number of competing interests, no one power will be able to wield undue influence. It becomes nearly impossible for one interest to gain a majority support. The same is true for combinations of interests. The diverse nature of narrow interests in a large republic are such that even these combinations will find it impossible to reach anything near a majority support.

Therefore, the best solution for narrow interests and factionalism is more narrow interests and factions. The only way to achieve this is through a large republic. Large republics are less vulnerable to this threat than thirteen smaller republics.
JBlake
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10/7/2009 4:47:53 PM
Posted: 7 years ago
MTGandP
Contention 2: The United States government is greatly imbalanced. Congress has the power to create "the supreme law of the land", which everyone in the nation must abide by. The executive and judicial branches cannot match the power of the legislative branch.

Contention 2:

This is flat out untrue! The legislative branch does indeed have the power to make all laws. However, three very important checks exist - on from each branch, as well as from the general populace.

The Executive: The executive branch has the power to veto any legislation that he finds to be inconsistent with the constitution, or counter to the national interest. This means that the legislature does not have free reign over laws, as the anti-federalists would have you believe. It is also important to note here that the legislature can override this veto with a two thirds majority in more houses. This means that only the most widely supported legislation will survive a presidential veto.

The Judiciary: The judicial branch has the ability to review the constitutionality of any law passed by congress. Therefore, if the legislature attempts to engage in tyranny, the judiciary can strike down the oppressive law. This branch is uniquely situated to remain above the influence of democratic passions, being that it is not elected by the people.

The People: The people always have the ability to check the legislature by refusing to reelect congressmen. If the legislature passes a measure that the people find disagreeable, they can simply vote in people who promise to overturn the oppressive measure.

As we can see, there are ample checks on the legislature's power.