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Legitimacy in a Federal System

[journal article]

MacKay, William R.

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Abstract Although federalism of various types has existed throughout history, ancient and medieval federations were, on the whole, short-lived.1 Most federations were non-existent by the time of the enlightenment and the rise of nation-states. So-called modern federalism stems from the American republic founded in 1787, which in many ways is the archetypal one, representing the creation of a federal government by compact among several previous constituent units – e pluribus unum. The federalist structure is becoming increasingly popular as 90 percent of states today contain a plurality of national, ethnic or linguistic groups.2 Nevertheless, a normative theory of federalism has not been fully developed.3 Indeed, Wayne Norman notes that in the history of modern political philosophy, questions of federalism have generally attracted no more than a footnote or a chapter, although cursory discussion can be found in the writings of such luminaries as J.S. Mill, Bodin, Grotius, Montesquieu, Bentham, Constant and Sidgwick.4 Such a theory will aid in setting standards with which we can we assess, evaluate, justify, defend or attack the structure and operation of the federal system. Although I do not attempt in this paper to elucidate a complete theory of federalism through a normative lens, I will attempt to demonstrate one of the primary means by which citizens in a federal state (in particular, Canada) evaluate the legitimacy of government action. (author's abstract)
Keywords political system; federalism; multi-level system; multi-level-governance; ethnic group; language group; political philosophy; political theory; legitimacy; government; Canada
Classification Political System, Constitution, Government; Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture
Document language English
Publication Year 2005
Page/Pages p. 1-14
Journal Federal Governance, 2 (2005) 1
ISSN 1923-6158
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Basic Digital Peer Publishing Licence