- Describe the primary differences in the role of citizens in government, among the federal, confederation, and unitary systems.
In the federal system, there are multiple levels of government (national, subnational), and citizens elect officials at each level. When districts are smaller, citizens in those districts have a greater say than citizens in larger districts. In confederations, citizens are involved at a local level, and the looser overarching level doesn’t have as much power and citizens don’t have as much direct involvement. In unitary systems, the central government is the strongest governing body, so citizens do not have much agency except if involved in central government.
- Briefly explain how you understand the system of division of power.
The government is broken into two levels; national and subnational. In the US, this looks like federal, state, and smaller local governing bodies. This requires a clear definition of each level of government’s jurisdiction, as well as the cooperation between levels. This is accomplished with a strong national constitution which cannot be easily overturned. To further divide power, each level of government is divided into executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Although, the federal government’s legislative branch often has the final say. Lastly, subnational regions are represented at the federal level, so local interests do influence federal policy.
- How does the federal government shape the actions of state and local governments? Write your answer based on doing a bit of research on how the federal government has influenced the actions of NY state and local governments, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government can advise but not require specific action from state and local governments unless the specific issue falls under their jurisdiction. For example, the CDC is a federal agency. CDC mask mandates were advice for all states, but many states did not follow the CDC’s advice, and created different local rules because it was within their jurisdiction to do so. At the same time, New York has been hesitant to pull back its mask mandates, despite the fact that the CDC guidelines were loosened, which is within their jurisdiction as a state within a federal system.