Types of Government: Examples of Federalism

By Robin L.

One of the most well-known examples of federalism is the United States. Learn what other countries use this type of government and how it works.

Federalism Federalism is a system of government that divides power between a political units and a central authority. Power is spread between a minimum of two units with powers divided between the parts. The number of branches in the government and the way power is divided is not the same for all federalist governments.

Some examples of Federalism include the United States, Canada, and the European Union. There are certainly other nations with a federalist government, however, these are some of the largest and most well recognized.

The United States

The United States is probably the most well-known of the examples of Federalism. There are multiple federalist systems in place within the United States. Each state has individual sections, such as counties, which are governed by a state government made up of multiple branches. Each state is ultimately governed by a federal government made up of three branches. Two of the branches, the legislative and the executive, are elected positions.

The ability of the federalism philosophy was most rigorously tested in the United States during the Civil War. It was during this time that many of the southern states chose to secede from the national government. However, the national government headed by President Abraham Lincoln did not recognize their power to do so and thus they never officially seceded from the United States.


In Canada, the powers of the government are divided between the ten individual provincial governments and the federal parliament. Legislative powers were specifically granted by the Constitution Act of 1867. The federal government in Canada is limited in part by the powers that were specifically given, in this act, to the provincial governments.

As with many federalist systems, the amount of power each branch holds is often in debate.

The European Union

While many people in Europe hesitate to call the European Union a federalist government, it does fit the basic requirements and most federalism authorities do classify it as such. Each of the European Union countries has their own system of governments, much like the states in the United States and the Canadian provinces. They then have the European Council which is made up of the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the head of state or government for each of the member nations.

Other Examples of Federalism

There are numerous examples of Federalism throughout the world. Some of these include Australia, Brazil, China, India, the Russian Federation, and Belgium. Other nations have adopted federalism in the past but do not currently adhere to the tenants such as Iraq and Czechoslovakia. Because federalism is a philosophy of government it is not restricted to national governments. Other examples of federalism can be found in private and religious organizations.


Standford University http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/federalism/

Federalism in Canada http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/aia/index.asp?doc=why-pourquoi-eng.htm&lang=eng&page=federal&sub=why-pourquoi

World Fact Book https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ee.html

Berkley University http://www.law.berkeley.edu/centers/csls/CSLSspeakerseries/Federalism.Chapter1.pdf

Photo Credit: Horia Varlan

Popular Pages