What are the Positives and Negatives of a Federalist Type of Government? (Middle School Reading Level)

Federalism chart red and pink main

Federalism is a way to divide power between the central government (in Washington DC) and smaller local governments (states and cities). It’s a big part of the United States Constitution, but other countries use it too. There are different ways to do federalism, and it can be good or bad depending on how it’s done. People have been debating federalism for a long time because it’s complicated.

Pros of Federalism

One good thing about federalism is that it allows local governments to focus on the specific needs of their area. For example, the jury system is set up so that people from the local area are on the jury. This helps make sure that local needs are met. At the same time, some things are important for the whole country, like foreign affairs and freedom of speech.

Federalism promotes diversity by allowing different states to have different needs, personalities, and make different choices. This leads to various ways of doing things and allows for trying ideas. It also allows different types of people to take part in governing.

Federalism allows for citizen involvement by making the government less distant from each person. Local governments allow each person to have more ability to directly take part in public life and have their needs addressed.

Increased liberty is another function of Federalism. It divides power and allows individual states to protect liberty more than the national government.

Federalism is also efficient because it divides the burden of governing a big country in various ways. It allows for specialization in each branch of government and makes things more efficient.

Cons of Federalism:

There are some negative aspects to Federalism. It can threaten individual freedom by giving local governments broad discretion and special privileges. It can also make it harder to uphold the goals of the Constitution, such as justice and promoting the general welfare. 

Federalism can be inefficient because it allows states to block the federal government from carrying out its powers, and it can increase conflict between states. 

Another weakness is that Federalism limits majority rule, as states have different sizes and populations and have certain powers that apply only within their borders.

How does federalism affect education? Find out here.


Federalism is so basic to our view of the United States government that we speak of the “federal government” when talking about the national government.  

But, the United States did not create the concept of federalism.  It was present from ancient times as seen by the practice of the Roman Empire allowing local areas a large amount of power.  Like the United States, the Romans did so for various reasons, including because their empire was just too big for the central government to rule each area any other way.

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A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.