A constitutional system of government

For starters; What IS Federalism?

Well, Federalism is a system of government that was born from the constitution. Federalism is, essentially, the system of sharing power between nation and state. It's the kind, caring mother that rewards you with sweets for every A+ on your report card.

Well jeez, how does it work?

I'll tell you!

Federalism works by balancing the power of small regional governments (the states) against the power of a larger central government (the national goverment), with both having some authority. It is meant to divide government power, so that a national government cannot have the final say over all issues, everywhere. The division of power is usually guaranteed by a constitution, to ensure that the national government does not ignore states' rights.

In slightly more detail:

Some powers, such as the power to set criminal penalties, the power to regulate public education, the power to issue driver's licenses, and the like are reserved to the states -- only the states have such authority.

Issues involving disputes between states, or between the whole country and other countries, are handled by the national (also called the federal) government. This includes issues of interstate commerce (such as taxes on imports, or tariffs), defense policy, foreign policy, and national environmental standards.

Finally, some areas, such as public health, see an overlap between state and national governments. The point is that federal governments (or federations) try to balance the power somewhat evenly.

Other systems work differently: in a confederation, the power is distributed mostly to the state governments, with the central government having almost no power at all, and at the other end is a unitary government, where power is very centralized, and state and local governments don't have any powers of their own.