Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

High School American Government, part 4: Federalism, Dividing Governmental Power

1. Why federalism? Evaluate the arguments in favor of federalism. Give the argument for a compound republic.

Your student should list some of the following benefits of federalism.

  • division of power between nation and state
  • enforces its own laws directly on its citizens
  • neither the nation or state can change the division of power without the consent of the other
  • increases opportunities to hold public office
  • improves governmental efficiency
  • ensures policy responsiveness
  • encourages policy innovation
  • manages conflict
2. What was the original design of Federalism? How does it differ from how it is carried out today?

The US Constitution originally defined American federalism in terms of powers that belong or denied to the national and state governments. The Founders placed a larger emphasis on the powers of state and local governments to make public policy than is placed on them today.

3. Trace the evolution of American Federalism.
  • Supreme Court's broad interpretation of national power
  • national government's victory over the secessionist states in the Civil War
  • the establishment of a national system of civil rights based on the 14th amendment
  • growth of national economy governed by Congress under its interstate commerce power
  • National government's accumulation of power through its greater financial resources
4. Describe how the use of federalism leads to theories of political behavior.
  • Expansion of national government authority in the 1960's
  • Growth of new areas of government involvement
    • fiscal federalism
    • environment federalism
    • competitive federalism
  • Existence of problems that affect multiple and different levels of government
5. Assess how court decisions in recent decades have impacted federalism.
  • Gun Free School Zone act of 1990; 1995 was found unconstitutional because it exceeded Congress' powers under the Interstate Commerce Clause
  • Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 1996, 11th amendment shields states from lawsuit by private parties that see to force states to comply with federal laws enacted under the commerce power.
  • Alden vs. Maine, 1999, states are shielded from lawsuits in which private parties seek to enforce federal mandates.
  • Supreme Court invalidated the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act in 1997, siting that the law's command to local law enforcement officers to conduct background checks on gun purchasers violated the principle of separate state sovereignty.
6. What is direct democracy, who is responsible for it and how does it impact the distribution of power between the federal and state governments.  
  • direct democracy: people can initiate and decide policy questions without the intervention of elected officials
  • populists and progressives responsible for the widespread adoption of three forms of direct democracy: the initiative, referendum and recall.

7. Assess how federal grants have had an impact on state-national relations.

expanded powers in areas previously reserved to the states

8. Describe coercive federalism and explain how it has altered state-national relationships.

federal powers in local affairs has grown as a result of federal rules, regulations and guidelines established as conditions for the receipt for federal funds


  1. The principle advantages of federalism include that it
    1. centralizes power
    2. leads to less governmental efficiency
    3. prohibits local leaders from frustrating national policy
    4. encourages policy innovation
    5. encourages direct democracy
  2. The National Supremacy Clause provides for:
    1. a constitutional justification for a "my country right or wrong" mindset.
    2. a constitutional justification for judicial review of state laws.
    3. those powers not delegated to the states to be reserved to the national government.
    4. the constitution and national law to be the supreme law of the country.
    5. a Supreme Court to determine resolution to institutional conflict.
  3. The case that did more than any other to expand national judicial power by giving the Supreme Court the power to interpret the Constitution was:
    1. Marbury v. Madison
    2. McClulloch v. Maryland
    3. National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation
    4. Brown v. Board of Education
    5. Buffett v. Longboat Key
  4. Two inequalities that can arise from competitive federalism are ______________ and _____________.
    1. "market baskets" and Big boxes"
    2. fait and transport
    3. referenda and initiative
    4. "race to the bottom" and parsed inequalities
  5. Recent decisions of the Supreme Court to take a more restrictive look at what type of federal regulations will be allowed under the interstate commerce clause involved politics on:
    1. gun control and crimes against women
    2. marijuana legalization and taxation
    3. gun control and taxation
    4. crimes against women and legalization of marijuana
    5. fait and transport of particular pollutants
  6. Federal categorical grants differ from block grants in that they make specific provisions for how money allocated to state government implemented programs will be spent. As a consequence, these grants result in:
    1. increase state control over how money is spent on projects.
    2. increase local control over how money is spent on projects.
    3. increase national government control over how money is spent.
    4. nothing, because these grants are no longer used by the federal government.
    5. a result the same as earmarks.
  7. The federal government is now deeply involved in many activities that previously were the domain of the state and local governments because of:
    1. the 10th amendment, which gibes many powers to the national government.
    2. the federal power to ensure domestic tranquility.
    3. the power to tax and spend for the general welfare.
    4. the nationalist interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
    5. the return to a Lochner-era court
  8. A component of the debate over federal government power concerns the use of congressional mandates to compel states to pursue policy goals. Sometimes these requirements cover without any funding from the federal government. The use of mandates has allowed the federal government to:
    1. achieve more policy diversity at more economical costs
    2. address public problems at more economical costs
    3. achieve more policy experimentation and push the costs onto others
    4. address public problems and then push the costs onto other governments.
    5. policy diversity that pushes the costs of policy onto other governments.
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  8. 4

High School American Government

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