Difference Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 20, 2022


Difference Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism Difference Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism

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Federalism in the U.S. has evolved, beginning with the highly centralized system of the Articles of Confederation and ending with a much more decentralized system, commonly referred to as dual federalism, today. But dual federalism isn’t the only type of federalist system possible in the U.S., and there are several different types of federalism that have emerged throughout history, including cooperative federalism. Here’s what you need to know about dual federalism vs. cooperative federalism and how they compare to one another to help you decide which one might be best for your country or area of interest.

Dual federalism is a system of intergovernmental relations in which the state and national governments are inherently separate (or dual) yet share overlapping responsibilities. Dual federal systems are typically structured around a weak national government and a strong regional or local government. In other words, dual federal systems assign significant governing powers to subnational units, such as states or provinces, and promote significant levels of non-governmental power beyond traditional governmental control (hence dual). Cooperative federalism is a system of intergovernmental relations in which both national and subnational governments participate in policymaking at some level and can shape each other's policies through formal consultation or informal influence; indeed, cooperative federalism requires that both levels of government consult with one another when making policy decisions that impact both layers of government. Cooperative federalism occurs when national and subnational governments cooperate on public policy issues. The terms cooperative and cooperatively refer to actions taken by two parties working together for their mutual benefit.

Dual Federalism vs Cooperative Federalism

The Current Debate What is federalism, and how does it work in America? The U.S Constitution establishes three separate branches of government with distinct duties and responsibilities- that of national, state, and local governments –also referred to as dual federalism or cooperative federalism. But what does that mean exactly? What is dual federalism or cooperative federalism and how do they differ from one another? Why are these terms used in today’s political dialogue regularly when talking about matters per training about legislation, immigration reform, gun laws, and any number of other policy issues? Let’s take a look at what dual federalism means and how it has evolved into what we know today as cooperative federalism. Dual Federalism Dual federalism is an arrangement between national and state governments where powers not specifically given to either entity remain reserved for the states or for Cooperative This system was first established by Article, I Section 8 of our Constitution which gives Congress certain enumerated powers such as to coin money, regulate commerce among states, declare war...etc while reserving all remaining powers for individual states. In addition to specific enumerated powers granted by our constitution, there are also implied powers not explicitly stated but still derived from constitutional principles like those mentioned above; however, many of these have been usurped by Congress over time through various acts passed since its inception.

Difference between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism in Tabular Form

Table: Dual Federalism vs Cooperative Federalism
Dual Federalism
Cooperative Federalism
Dual federalism is a political theory that sees each level of government as having sovereignty in its respective sphere, with power being divided in such a way as to prevent one branch from usurping another.
Cooperative federalism is designed so that people can help shape policy without having the national parts in everything.
The U.S. Constitution gives both levels of government equal power under each branch
The U.S. Constitution gives only Congress power over domestic policy; it reserves other powers for states
A strong central government allows for consistency throughout the country
A strong central government can lead to tyranny
Both levels of government are responsible for implementing policies
States implement most policies
States have control over many internal issues
The national government has control over most external issues
National laws can supersede state laws
State laws can supersede national laws
States must follow decisions made by higher courts
Higher courts must follow decisions made by lower courts
State officials are elected directly by citizens
National officials are elected indirectly through the popular vote
Local officials are appointed or hired by local entities
Local officials are elected by voters
Citizens have little say in national affairs
Citizens have more say in national affairs
Citizen input is limited
Citizen input is encouraged
The federal government makes decisions on behalf of its citizens
States make decisions on behalf of their citizens
Power flows from the top down
Power flows from the bottom up
Changes need approval from both state and federal legislatures
Changes do not need approval from either level
The supremacy clause in Article VI states that national law supersedes state law
The supremacy clause in Article VI states that state law supersedes national law
States hold veto power over national legislation
The national legislature holds veto power over state legislation
Majority rules
Consensus rules
The president appoints judges
Judges are appointed by judges
States elect senators
Senators are elected by majority vote
Senators represent states
Senators represent people
States elect representatives
Representatives represent people
Representatives serve for two years
Representatives serve for four years
President serves a four year term
President serves six year term

What is Dual Federalism?

Dual federalism is a political theory that sees each level of government as having sovereignty in its respective sphere, with power being divided in such a way as to prevent one branch from usurping another. The term dual federalism refers to both national and state governments being regarded as co-equal branches of government, and citizens are simultaneously nationals (citizens) and state nationals (citizens of their respective states). This can be traced back to James Madison's arguments for bicameral legislatures contained within Federalist Paper No. 10, which was published in 1787–1788; it posits that states would be stronger if they could resist encroachments by both central government and other states. However, there has been some debate about whether or not dual federalism is a valid concept. For example, John C. Calhoun believed that nullification was justified under dual federalism because he saw rights as belonging to individuals rather than states—and therefore he saw no problem with individual states nullifying actions taken by either central government or other states.


It permits security of nearby purviews from national Government overextend. It keeps the national government from having an excess of force in its grasp.


It guarantees that pressure among the state and the national government generally remains at the edge. This rising strain between them isn't positive for the turn of events and the prosperity of the state and the country overall.

What is Cooperative Federalism?

We use many different systems to work, teach, and learn together as a group; it's what allows groups of people with varied interests and specialties to all come together for a common goal. In government, cooperative federalism is how we work together to make policies that work for everyone in our country and address issues on both state and national levels. Instead of one person or entity making laws for an entire country, politicians from both local states and at a federal level negotiate with each other—this leads to policies that are beneficial for us all bottom-upset they’re made by people who can identify with our unique situation. While working within these negotiations, every side the supremacy of their voice. This system keeps things fair by ensuring no one the supremacy to take over completely.

Cooperative federalism is designed so that people can help shape policy without having the national parts in everything (and when you think about it, there’s no way any single individual could know everything about every issue!). When politicians from different areas get together and talk about topics like gun control or healthcare reform, for example, they bring their expertise into play when creating new policies. These policymakers will always have more experience with some issues than others do, but bringing them all together helps create a better solution than any single politician could develop alone.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Cooperative federalism isn't intended to remove powers from the states. The framework is intended to permit the public government to step in and address gives those states can't fix alone. Nonetheless, some might see Cooperative federalism adversely because it gives the public government the power to assume control over specific issues when required.

The Main Difference Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism in Points

  • Dual federalism is when state and national governments exercise different areas of power. While dual federalism works for America it may not work well in other countries like India which has strong, tight rules on where nation the l government must stay out of and where state government must not go into (Indian Constitution).
  • Cooperative federalism agreement between states that cooperate with form a confederate type alliance such as in Alabama where there are still separate local state legislatures, just that they work together by having lawmakers consult one another before making decisions.
  • This also allows them to share resources without creating a superstate or central government. This can be compared to networking in business today. When you network with people you build trust among those people and get help from them if needed.
  • In addition, cooperation means working towards common goals while remaining independent at all times so that no single member controls what happens within the group (which could lead to corruption).
  • This differs from dual federalism because under cooperative federalism states do not have their interests but instead share interests with others while retaining their independence at all times; whereas, under dual federalism, states are competing against each other for resources and wealth.
  • However, both forms of federalism allow for citizens to decide how much autonomy they want in comparison to how much control they want over their lives. Both forms allow more freedom than a centralized government would give its citizens.
  • If a country uses both forms of federalism, then it will likely become more prosperous than if only one form was used. But using only one form might lead to serious problems since it will limit self-governance and economic growth based on each region's needs.
  • It is best to use both forms of federalism so that everyone benefits from greater freedoms and prosperity.
  • A federal system is any political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government that retains some sovereign powers.
  • It can also mean a federation, i.e., a political entity composed of autonomous member units that delegate certain powers to a central authority.
  • The term federal is derived from the word federation, which stems from the Lain word federal, which means league, o finally meant treaty, pact, or covenant. Modern federations such as Australia, Canada, and Switzerland are examples of federations.
  • A federation often occurs when several previously unconnected political units—often sovereign states —decide to jointly govern their affairs. At a sub-national level, it can mean a regional government that administers a federalist system of government. Federalism is a compound of constitutionalism and decentralization.
  • It is akin to devolution but in reverse. Where devolution grants sovereignty to constituent states, federalism takes sovereignty away from constituent states and gives it to a central authority. Unitary states are highly centralized states in which most governmental functions are exercised by a central government.
  • These functions typically include justice, law enforcement, national defense, foreign policy, and taxation. Some unitary states have decentralized these functions among lower levels of government, although most unitary states have not done so.


A lot of people don’t know that there are two different federalist models in America, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to governing a state or municipality. While dual federalism might work well in some states, cooperative federalism might be better for others—it all depends on what works best for your local community and its goals for governance, which is why it’s important to take a close look at both models before deciding which one is right for you.



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"Difference Between Dual Federalism and Cooperative Federalism." Diffzy.com, 2023. Mon. 27 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-dual-federalism-and-cooperative-federalism-466>.

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