|Part of the Politics series|
|Basic forms of government|
A central government is the level of government that has responsibility for the whole of a nation-state. In the English language, the term is mostly used to describe the national governments of unitary states; the alternative term, "federal government," is usually preferred for the national government of a federation, though the adjective 'central' is sometimes used to describe such a government, or to refer to national, as opposed to local, governments in general, in contexts where the unitary or federal character of the state is unimportant. The structure of central governments varies, as does the division of powers between the central and local governments. Many countries have created autonomous regions by delegating wide-ranging powers from the central government to governments at a subnational level, such as a regional, state or local level. Based on a broad definition of a basic political system, there are two or more levels of government that exist within an established territory and govern through common institutions with overlapping or shared powers as prescribed by a constitution or other law.
The term central government may be used to refer to a lower-tier government, for example a state in a federation, where the express aim is to draw a distinction between that lower-level government and the even more local governments that exist within its territory. However, this usage is uncommon because of its ambiguity, inviting confusion with whatever higher tiers of government also have responsibility for the area, and more precise terminology such as state government, provincial government, territorial government, regional government, etc., is generally preferred.
The central government has the power to make laws for the whole country, in contrast with local governments. Moreover, in a unitary state, the central government is usually free, provided correct procedure is followed, to make laws addressing any subject, while local governments may only legislate on specific subjects. Responsibilities usually reserved to the central government include defense, maintaining national security, foreign relations including treaties, and monetary policy including the issue of currency. Other matters, such as public health, education, policing, social assistance and public works, may be split between central and local government, or even entirely delegated to local government, though the central government can modify or rescind any such delegation at any time. For definition of levels of government see also general government (in economics).
Generally, the difference between a central government and a federal government is that the autonomous status of self-governing regions exists by the sufferance of the central government and are often created through a process of devolution. As such they may be unilaterally revoked with a simple change in the law. An example of this was done in 1973 when the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 abolished the government of Northern Ireland which had been created under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It is common for a federal government to be brought into being by agreement between a number of formally independent states and therefore its powers to affect the status of the balance of powers is significantly smaller (i.e. the United States). Thus federal governments are often established voluntarily from 'below' whereas devolution grants self-government from 'above'.
Examples of (non-federal) central governments
There are many countries which have delegated powers, some include:
- People's Republic of China government - see Autonomous areas of the People's Republic of China
- Denmark government - see the autonomous regions of Faroe Islands and Greenland
- France government
- Republic of China government
- Georgia government - see autonomous republics
- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics government - see Republics of the Soviet Union
- Spain government - see autonomous communities
- Portugal government - see autonomous regions of Portugal
- Ukraine government - see, the autonomous Republic of Crimea
- United Kingdom government - devolved powers to governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Vietnam government
Examples of federal governments
A federal government is the common or national government of a federation. Examples include
- Austria government
- Argentina government
- Australia government
- Belgium government
- Brazil government
- India government
- Canada government
- Germany government
- Malaysia government
- Mexico government
- Nigeria government
- Pakistan government
- Russia government
- Sudan government - see South Sudan, which is now independent
- Switzerland government
- United States government
- Venezuela government
The United States is considered the first modern federation. After declaring independence from Britain, the U.S. adopted its first constitution, the Articles of Confederation in 1781. This was the first step towards federalism by establishing the confederal Congress. However, Congress was limited as to its ability to pursue economic, military, and judiciary reform. In 1787, a Constitutional Convention drafted the United States Constitution during the Philadelphia Convention. After the ratification of the Constitution by nine states in 1788, the U.S. was officially a federation, putting the U.S. in a unique position where the central government exists by the sufferance of the individual states rather than the reverse.
Other states followed suit in establishing federal governments: Switzerland (1848); Canada (1867); Germany (1871 and again 1949); Brazil (1891); Australia (1901); Austria (1920 and again 1945) and India (1947 and again 1950).
Examples of confederations
- List of autonomous areas by country
- Autonomous government
- National government (disambiguation)
- "The Constitution". US federal government. Retrieved 17 Jul 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Watts, R., "Comparing Federal Systems" (2nd ed.) SPC Queen's U (1999) pp 20-26.