Federalism: An Architecture for Freedom

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New Europe Law Review


In a country whose business is business, the Constitution has served as the best export article ever. The United States Constitution has influenced community life in most of the modem world. Its model of pitting power against power in a variety of ways, as well as its more or less absolute limit to governmental control set by the Bill of Rights, has become a blueprint for many communities around the globe that call themselves "democratic." Despite the relative youth of the community it governs, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest of its kind. Scolded for many perceived imperfections, it still provides a highly successful model of prescriptions on community governance. Its central notion is the idea of allocating power vertically, between the national government and its, by now fifty, component states. The label "federalist" was chosen to express the essence of the Constitution in the title of its most authoritative explanatory statement as well as in the name of the first dominant political force of the Union. Thus, it is no small wonder the idea of federalism is most closely connected with its U.S. version. In a rising tide of victory, particularly after World War II, the notion of federalism has come to characterize an ever greater number of systems of government. Today, the term "federal" is used to denote structures of government as diverse as those of Switzerland and Brazil, Nigeria and Germany, Canada and India. The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Tito's Yugoslavia provide other, albeit now largely historical, examples. In an extension of the concept, the European Community has been included as an embryonic example of a "treaty-based" federalism.- What is the status of federalism today? Can it be a model for the emerging and restructuring communities of the New Europe?

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