Federalism in Public Administration

Concept of Federalism

Federalism refers to the combination of the state government with the central government with the motive of ensuring that the public receives the best of services. US constitution adopted in 1787 allowed for the unification of governance between the two systems leading to the development of the best modern example of federalism in the world. Powers are divided equally between the two systems of government (King & Chilton, 2009). Federalism typically relies on democracy in ensuring that it adheres to the rule of law and submits to the subdued powers between the two government systems. Historians have concluded that federalism is the best system of governance in a country with numerous ethnic groups in which a state of dominance and disparity could arise especially with the majority races (King & Chilton, 2009).

There are reasons as to why federalism was adopted in the US, Germany, Canada, Brazil, and the European Union and was recently proposed in Syria. Ideational theories believe that societies hold more values to the decentralization of powers and committing to making people of a nation be as close to the government as possible (King & Chilton, 2009). Cultural-historical theories assert that federalism is suitable for a community that has ethnic and cultural background variations. Social contract theory explains that federalism acts as a link and a mode of negotiation between the powerful dominating sections of the society to the lesser few in the region. Infrastructure power theories point out the contribution of federalism in merging potentially uprising federations to harmonize and project their objectives to a far reach (King & Chilton, 2009).

Managerial Decentralization

The concept refers to the delegation of powers and responsibilities to lower ranks of dignitaries but retaining the responsibility of the outcome of their actions and decisions. The top management could be responsible for making decisions but the implementation of the made decisions lies in the hands of the lower ranks and the outcome of the interventions is accounted for by the decision-maker (Shafritz & Hyde, 1997). Managerial decentralization is more applicable in the government’s relationships when the top decisions made by the Congress legislatures as a component of the central government are passed down to for implementation by the state governments. The state government passes down the laws and orders to the local government so that they can be implemented to benefit the public (Shafritz & Hyde, 1997). It does not necessarily mean that the national government has to forcefully pass down laws that are dictatorial and expect full adoption.

Have any questions about the topic? Our Experts can answer any question you have. They are avaliable to you 24/7.
Ask now

The state and the local governments are at lower ranks in relation to the central government. The decisions made by Congress are for the better good of the American citizens and, therefore, their implementation can be much easier (Shafritz & Hyde, 1997). Nevertheless, the responsibility and consequences of the implemented laws passed down from the central government are claimed by the same body. That is why when policies like Obama Care are criticized after their implementation by the state and local governments, it is the government of President Obama that has to take full responsibility for the critics.

Mayor Council, Council Manager, and Commissions

Mayor council is common in most large cities of the US. Mayors are elected and can sometimes be so strong depending on how they chose to implement the local laws. In fact, the mayor position is viewed as the stepping stone to become a stronger politician capable of running for congress and gubernatorial races. Mayors play chief executive roles in the towns and cities that they represent (Wright, 1974). They are also elected directly by voters and, therefore, should serve the interest of people to the best of their abilities. However, they often can play ceremonial roles.

Council manager governments are another form of local government that is dominant in bigger cities such as New York. They are responsible for the execution of the legislative functions at the municipalities and pronouncing policies. The large cities participate in electing mayors into offices and the elected mayor is charged with running operations that will implement policies and, at the same time, ensure proper administration of the city (Wright, 1974). Administrative functions, therefore, mean that the interest of businessmen and residents, as well as the cleanliness of the cities, are ensured in accordance with the agreement. The mayor works closely with the governors given that they are crucial implementers of the governor’s manifestoes.

Commissions are appointed by the Congress or the central government to look into critical issues affecting the government. They are given official positions and charges to act independently and to provide results that are credible (Wright, 1974). The commissions usually provide investigations on matters that are diplomatic in nature and do not necessarily require the use of armed forces.

Importance of Studying Public Administration

            Studying public administration at the local and state level facilitates the knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of each public official. It is, therefore,  much easier to address a grievance to an office that is supposed to be handling it (King & Chilton, 2009). As such, a career opportunity can be created in ensuring that the residents of the cities are advised accordingly on different avenues. Lawyers make income by the fact that they know who and where to approach with particular concerns of their clients. Knowledge of public administration helps in evaluating the effectiveness of certain officials and as a result of lobbying for the best out of their leadership without having to hide under the shadows of other hard-working officials.



King, S.M., & Chilton, B.S. (2009). Administration in the public interest. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press.

Shafritz, J. M., & Hyde, A. C. (1997). Classics of public administration (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Wright, D. S. (1974). Intergovernmental relations: An analytical overview. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science416(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1177/000271627441600102