- Jun 9, 2011
This sounds really, really excellent.
I am actually quite surprised. Unless you were thinking of deploying threats or the army, a union sounds far too... voluntary for your tastes.
I agree with the premise that the distinction fundamentally is between whether the powers are given to the local entities from the central government, or to the central government from the states. However, I'm not sure if what the two of you present is a true dichotomy. I think we should separate between the process of federation and devolution on one hand, and the difference between a federation and a devolved state on the other. For the latter you hint at three different criteria:
- The powers of the states and the national government is discrete or not discrete. (Which really ought to have two dimensions: whether certain powers are reserved to just one level, e.g. minting and foreign affairs, and whether the different levels must be authorised to expand their powers into the non-reserved areas)
- Whether the levels and/or their powers is entrenched in a constitution, so that it cannot easily be removed.
- Which level of government has the power to make changes to the position between them.
These criteria surely create a spectrum of different arrangements. One country might choose to have a constitution that places very strict limits on what the federal government can do, whilst at the same time leaving it up to a federal parliament to make changes to the constitution. Another might give local entities only strictly defined powers, but leave changing the constitution to the local entities alone. A third might only reserve powers to the national government, require the consent of both local and central powers to change the constitution and also include a right for the local entities to secede.
The process of creating local assemblies in Britain would surely be by devolution, but whether the country will become what we might describe as a federation or a devolved unitary state will surely depend on how devolution is done. In the case of Britain, I imagine it would especially depend on whether the Liberals choose to abandon the concept of parliamentary sovereignty and adopt an entrenched (and written) constitution.
(( Oh quite, it is definitely a spectrum. For example, the OTL Scottish Parliament is on a reserved powers model - it has any powers not specifically reserved by the UK parliament. But, on the other hand, the UK parliament could abolish the Scottish Parliament with a single law if it wanted to. So the devolved bodies only exist because the UK parliament tolerates them. Federalism on the other hand, would protect them from the threat of being abolished.
Besides which, Liberal policy, historically, was for "Home Rule all around" - which would necessitate some kind of federalism. So I can see devolved assemblies being set up across the UK but once they become established then I would not be surprised to see the reorganisation of the UK into the FK (Federal Kingdom) ))