Americans have discovered or invented many significant things, but by far, the most significant is federalism. It is uniquely American and it has led to the most free and prosperous society in the history of civilization.
The single most important principle of government that sets America apart from the rest of the world, is federalism. It is the founding principle of the form of government that the framers constructed. Before digging into what federalism is, maybe we should first say what it’s not.
Federalism is not a doctrine of centralized government. Federalism is not about “states rights”. By the way, do states have rights? Or is it the people that have rights? Just a thought. Finally, federalism is not just about the interaction between the federal (national) government and the state government.
Alexis de Tocqueville (a mid-17th century French political thinker) wrote in his book, Democracy in America:
The human understanding more easily invents new things than new words, and we are hence constrained to employ many improper and inadequate expressions. When several nations form a permanent league and establish a supreme authority, which, although it cannot act upon private individuals like a national government, still acts upon each of the confederate states in a body, this government, which is so essentially different from all others, is called Federal