Federalism vs Confederationism

The Founding Fathers did not form a government based on federalism; the Founders established a Confederation where the individual states aligned together but retained sovereignty. The basis of this new government was The Articles of Confederation.

When the Constitutional Convention of 1787 convened, to propose amendments to The Articles of Confederation, the conventioneers proceeded to kick the Articles to the curb and presented the States with a totally and newly written document, the Constitution, changing the Republic based on a confederation into a Republic based on federalism.

Confederation favors states over a central government, and allows states to retain sovereign power; Federalism gathers power to a central government and the individual states become, essentially, children of the central government. The antifederalists attempted to thwart the move to centralized government, even introducing the Bill of Rights, but to no avail.

In Antifederalist Paper #17, the author argues that, “This [new] government is to possess absolute and uncontrollable powers, legislative, executive and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section eighth, article first, it is declared, that the Congress shall have power ‘to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any Department of office thereof.’ “

The writer went on to explain that the “legislative power” given to Congress was “competent to lay taxes, duties, imposts, excises; — there is no limitation to this power, unless it be said that the clause which directs the use to which those taxes and duties shall be applied, may be said to be a limitation… to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”

The lack of specificity in what constitutes the “common defense and general welfare of the United States” has brought us to a thirty trillion-dollar National Debt along with one hundred to two hundred trillion dollars of unfunded liability, and myriad attempts to curtail liberty by elected officials pleading ignorance to the meaning of the Bill of Rights and much of the body of the Constitution, itself. It makes me think of SanFranNan Pelosi, who might put it this way, I guess “you gotta read it to know what’s in it.”

And we can, thus, see that the author of the Antifederalist Paper #17 had good reason for concern.

One of the concerns the author had was that the federal government’s taxing powers would eventually crowd out the taxing power of the individual states. As citizens can only stomach so much taxing – remember, some of the impetus for the recently fought war was a small tea tax imposed by the British on the colonists – and as the Fed’s voracious appetite for revenue grew, it would be more and more difficult for the individual states to impose state taxes on its citizens to fund the needs of the state.

Now, while the situation I want to draw attention to, is not exactly concerned with raising taxes, it is concerned with taxes and the overreach of the federal government. At the last minute there was a change made to the recent $1.9 trillion economic relief package that Biden, subsequently, signed into law. The change was a provision that could temporarily prevent states that receive government aid from turning around and cutting taxes. The Democrats restricted states from receiving grant money and then, in an effort to lighten the load on its citizens, cut state taxes. In other words, the Federal Government is stepping in and telling the individual states how to tax.

As seen in the Democrat’s attempt to standardize or, better yet, federalize voting regulations, something that the Constitution clearly commits to the individual states, the Dems are trying to pass H.R.1, all part of the attempt to have a centralized federal government control everything and have that power in the hands of one party, the Democrats.

Maybe it’s me but, from this vantage point, the antifederalists were right.

Please… Change My Mind!

Published by Paul J DiBartolo

I'm the Most Rational Man in the World.

8 thoughts on “Federalism vs Confederationism

  1. Something I too had thought about. Right off the top of my head, I think a confederation is more closely associated with an alliance of like-minded and similarly ideologically inclined sovereign States–less federalist in composition and intent than a federal sysem of government. In any event, our union was created as you say, but the difference is that in this federal system the States created a federal government whose powers would be limited to certain enumerated “national” objects, all other powers,whether expressed or implied, to reside with the individual States. There was a clear division of authority of the States on one hand, the creators, and the federal government, the created–thus, the doctrine of dual state-federal sovereignty bespoke a near parity in power between States and federal government. On the otherhand, the CSA was a fairly good example of a confederation, as were the Swiss cantons which the framers studied at the time. In the case of the CSA, and unlike our federal union, the powers of the central government were EXTREMELY limited, more so than even the framers would have suggested or sanctioned. I think it could be honestly said that the CSA was closer to a loose military and economic alliance of sovereign States with a titular and very limited central authority to coordinate it all, esp. in the area of foreign relations which as also subject to more direct individual State influence. That said, the CSA was a near-perfect model of a State-dominated union of sovereign States where most powers devolved upon the individual States and, by design, very few devolved upon the national government. I think t he framers would have regarded the CSA with a good deal of admiration, since the CSA most certainly better protected the people and States from its national government than did the federal system our framers, through debate between avid statists and equally avid federalists, eventually adopted. It’s a close call actually. But I really think it comes down to the relative political strength of the States vs the national government. And in the CSA, the States, hands down, were on top. I think that also applied to the Swiss cantons as well. Not so in the union, which is why ratification of the federal system was not a slam dunk. What would I prefer?A confederation of sovereign states with a very limited, almost titular national government whose purpose would be to provide coordination and identity as a operational union of confederated States. Like I said, it’s a close call, but I think I can see the difference between the two. What do you think, Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the CSA started out, with regard to a Confederation, on the right track but my understanding is that the pressures of war caused the central governement to make demands for which its Constitution gave it no authority, for instance, conscription and taxation to fund the war.


      1. I think the problem was, a group of States has just seceded from the Union based on the pretext of “you can’t tell us what to do.” Then after confederating with a group of states that held that common opinion, they were being told, “you have to give us this many soldiers and this much money for the war effort.”


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