Federal Governments Around the World: A Comparative Perspective

Proposals for the Philippine government to shift to a federal form of government appear to imply that such form of government is ‘better’ than unitary governments and that all federal governments operate the same. The study sheds light on this misguided idea by examining the similarities and differences of 15 federal governments around the world. Various data on different indicators concerning a federal government’s history, sociopolitical and cultural context, their form of government and fiscal federal features were utilized. Comparison-and-contrast is done on these federal governments against a set of indicators and assessed if they follow the theoretical features of federalism. Federal governments were then grouped according to income and equality to check if a pattern may be observed in terms of federal characteristics. The results reiterate existing literature that similarities between federal governments are only limited to their foundational elements—constitutions and an outline of expenditure and revenue responsibilities. Apart from this, there is no one-size-fits-all form of government as presented by the wide differences in the indicators. Also, even when federal governments were grouped according to income or according to equality, no distinct pattern can be observed between the groupings. Further, numerous examples of divergence between theoretical principles and actual practice (through the constitution) have been outlined. Finally, federal governments are constantly evolving organizations, frequently experiencing constitutional amendments and experiencing amendments according to political desirability.

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