“States move forward,” says Salt, “from alliance to confederacy, from confederacy to federation, from federation to complete union, that is, from lower to higher forms. These successive forms, therefore, may be regarded as a biological series.”
W. F. Willoughby maintains, “This step taken (the formation of a federation), there immediately develops a steady growth of the spirit of nationalism and, in response to needs actually felt, a progressive development, both absolutely and relatively, of the powers of the central government as opposed to those of the states.
So marked is this that it may almost be said that from the moment the system of multiple government is adopted, the tendency is for efforts to be mode to get away from the consequences of the decision that has been made.”
To Lipson it seems an unavoidable conclusion that “older patterns of decentralizations whether in the form of local autonomy under a unitary system or of states’ rights in a federal union were doomed to dissolve in the corrosive acids of twentieth century politics, economics and technology: Virtually all the great driving forces in modem society combine in a centralist direction.”
The critics of federalism further assert that integrated economic planning and true federalism are incompatible. A planned economy is national in character and it is an expression of unity, while federalism is based on division, diversity and limited powers.
Where does not accept the point of view that federal government is really no more than a stage towards unitary government. He says, “This is a prophecy, not an historical judgment, for so far, no federal government—as I define it—has become a unitary government.”
He admits that war and economic depression are the enemies of federal government, and that if they occur frequently, they “will almost certainly turn federal governments into unitary governments.” So far as the growth of social services is concerned, he says, that they, too, will tend towards the same end.
But he also says that the growth in the powers of the central governments is only one tendency. “One other tendency at least must be noticed. It has not been the general governments alone which have grown in strength.
The regional governments have also expanded. In all the federations the regions now perform functions which at the establishment of the federations, they performed either not at all or to a much less degree than now.”
This is one element in a tendency, he adds, “Which may be broadly stated by saying that there has been a great increase in the sense of importance, in the self-consciousness and self-assertiveness of the regional governments. This has gone on side by side with the growth in importance of the general governments and it has obviously been stimulated by it.”
It has led to a sense of grievance in the regional governments that their position is being imperilled by this tendency towards centralisation. “And in some cases they have felt so unjustly treated by the general governments that they have talked of resigning from the federation. The secession movement in the State of Western Australia was one example.”
Where’s emphasis that the reason which originally prompted the independent States—oneness of the State with the separateness of the units—to form the federal union and not a unitary union, have not ceased to operate.
True it is, he further says, that every region in a federal system does not feel the desire for independence to the same degree, “but in every federation a few regions feel it so intensely that no attempt could be made to impose uniformity without bringing into view the possibility of breaking the union in pieces.”
Keeping these considerations in mind, Wheare concludes that “the prospect of federal government is not as short as is suggested by those who concentrate entirely on the tendency of the general government to increase at the expense of the regions.
Federal government is still desired by some regions in all the federations. There is no conclusive evidence that federal government is to be no more than a stage in the process towards unitary government.”
Referring to the United States, particularly where the centralized activities assumed new dimensions during and after the Second World War, Carl Friedrich says, “It would be a mistake, however, to declare federalism in the United States dead; in some areas the states have captured some of their power through more vigorous insistence upon their participation in the federal administration.”
Kennedy, who takes a more liberal view of the minimum requirements of a federal constitution, observes, “The real questions to decide, shorn of all theories are these: Are the national and provincial governments related to one another as principal and delegate?
What is the real and precise nature of authority which they exercise within their spheres?” The regional governments have “a juridical status and a corporate personality. They are clothed with plenary powers, legislative and executive.
The provisions of the constitution relating to the scheme of distribution of powers cannot be unilaterally altered. Finally, in every federal country there is the provision of an independent tribunal in the form of the Supreme Court to give interpretations to the constitution with finality. This is the crux of the whole problem.”
People and countries have not lost faith in federalism so far. While federal States have shown signs of closer unification, other States, especially those new born, are adopting federal constitutions and many writers predict a further union of States on federal basis. It happened very recently in the case of Egypt and Syria with the consequent emergence of a federation named the United Arab Republic, though Syria seceded subsequently.
Nationalist leaders from many parts of Africa met from December 5 to 12, 1958 to attend the All-African People’s Conference with a view to getting rid of the remaining Colonial regimes on their Continent, and to begin the first steps toward a federation of their existing States.
Only weeks after the Maastricht treaty came into force, the Greek government on December 21, 1993, launched its plans for its turn at the helm of the European Union (new name adopted for the European Community), by suggesting that work on a real federal constitution for Europe should start in the next few months.
Theodore Pangalos, the Deputy Prime Minister of Greece, suggested that a committee of personalities possessing political and scientific qualities spend the first few months of 1994 “designing a truly federal structure with a central government responsible to the European Parliament and national ministers reduced to acting as a Senate.”
Pangalos, who took over as Chairman of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council on January 1, 1994, compared his suggestion, which had also been floated by MEPs and the French government in 1986. But it is highly doubtful if the proposal succeeds.
Even Pangalos admitted that he had no idea whether his plan would gather the unanimous support it would need to go ahead. But the germs are there and it is also likely that the plan may become an accomplished fact at some distant date.
Federalism, in fact, has made an important contribution to the solution of the world’s political problems. By reconciling the claims of local autonomy with those of national unity, federalism paves the way for the adjustment of inter-State disputes.
Even a great admirer of unitary government, W.F. Willoughby, admits that we should not “close our eyes to the immense service which the development of the idea of multiple government has rendered in the past and may still render in knitting together under a common government peoples whose political interests are largely identical but which for sentimental reasons are unwilling wholly to surrender their political autonomy.”
Federal government, as Wheare says, does not stand for multiplicity alone. “It stands for multiplicity in unity. It can provide unity where unity is needed, but it can ensure also that there is variety and independence in matters where unity and uniformity is not essential.” This exercise in self-governments, he further says, “is sufficiently valuable to be worth the cost it entails and federalism marches towards triumph.”