Social Studies - 2019-20

GOVT.5a, b, c, d - Federal System of Government

The student will apply social science skills to understand the federal system of government described in the Constitution of the United States by 

a) evaluating the relationship between the state government and the national government

b) examining the extent to which power is shared; 

c) identifying the powers denied state and national governments; and 

d) analyzing the ongoing debate that focuses on the balance of power between state and national governments.

Adopted: 2015


Big Themes/Concepts: Power & Authority, Relationships


The Constitution of the United States provides for a federal system of government in which power is shared between the states and the national government. 


The Constitution of the United States establishes a federal form of government in which the national government is supreme. 

The powers not given to the national government by the Constitution of the United States are reserved to the states or people (10th Amendment). 

Powers of national government 

• Expressed powers are those directly stated in the Constitution of the United States, such as the power to levy and collect taxes, make war, and regulate trade among the states. 

• Implied powers are those reserved by the national government but not specifically listed; the source for implied powers is the elastic clause or “necessary and proper” clause (Article I, Sec. 8). 

• Inherent powers are those that the national government may exercise simply because it is the national government, such as establishment of diplomatic relations and regulation of immigration. 

Areas where powers are shared 

• Taxation 

• Education policy 

• Criminal justice laws 

Conflicts between the state and national authority in a federal system are found in concurrently held powers. 

Powers denied to both the national and state governments 

• Ex post facto laws 

• Tax on exports 

Federalism is not a static relationship between levels of government. The distribution of power between the states and the national government is the source of considerable political debate. 


Updated: Jun 22, 2017