Federalism and Public Policy
“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.” – Alexander Hamilton
The U.S. Constitution established a national government based on the principle of federalism – which delineated government responsibilities at the federal and state level. Although the word federalism does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, sections of the U.S. Constitution explain powers held solely by the federal government, shared by both the federal and state governments, and reserved to the states.
Watch Constitutional Hall Pass: Federalism, a brief video explanation of federalism from the National Constitution Center.
Since ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, the federal and state governments have been, on occasion, embroiled in a series of authorial and policy making debates regarding the U.S. Constitution – in particular the evolving interpretation of the Tenth Amendment. This debate between federal power and state’s rights has many public policy examples.
- Identify the constitutional principles of federalism.
- Select a specific example of federalism from one of the following fields:
- Economic policy (for example, U.S. allocation of federal grants)
- Education policy (for example, the implementation of Common Core)
- Environmental policy (for example, the Clean Air Act)
- Healthcare policy (for example, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare))
- Welfare policy (for example, Medicaid)
- Explain this specific example of federalism.
- Is this specific public policy a federal, state, or local public policy?
- How does this specific public policy affect the roles of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches within a federal government?
- Why does this example interest you?
- How does this example affect you?
- Support your analysis with information obtained from the text, the U.S. Constitution, and/or subsequent federal and state laws.
National Constitution Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://constitutioncenter.org/.
The Constitution of the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution.