Differences

Difference between federation and confederation

Difference between federation and confederationWe explain the difference between federation and confederation with table. The difference between a federation and a confederation is that while the member states of the former submit their individual sovereignty to the federal government, the member states of the latter retain their sovereignty. The central government in a confederation is simply a figurative organization. It remains accountable to the member states.

On the contrary, the states of a federation must submit their authority to the common central government. They have to accept a subordinate position vis-a-vis the higher central government.

A confederation is a coalition of several sovereign states that reserve the right to secede. These composite units retain primary sovereignty. Unlike such a division of sovereign authority, a federal union reserves preliminary dominance over quasi-sovereign member states.

Comparison table between Federation and Confederation

Comparison parameters Federation Confederacy
Possession of sovereignty Primary sovereignty is subject to the common federal government. Member states retain primary sovereignty.
Authority The central federal government is extremely powerful. The central organization of a confederation is weak.
Autonomy The autonomy of the states is curbed. The autonomy of the member states is maintained.
Possibility of secession Member states cannot easily separate from the union due to the strict legal terms of the alliance. Member states can easily separate from the union.
Scope of power The authorized federal government exercises power in accordance with the constitutional provisions. Their powers usually include defense, foreign policy, national security, etc. The central organization can only exercise power over certain issues as provided by the member states.
Citizenship Dual citizenship is commonly granted to all citizens. No separate citizenship is granted to citizens.
Popularity of each Federations are very popular political systems that are used in various states around the world. Confederations were popular during earlier historical periods, but most have become federations. They are now used primarily as international treaty-based organizations.
Examples United States, Germany. Iroquois Confederation, UN, EU

What is a federation?

The federation is a particular political system that is formed when several constituent states submit a part of their sovereign authority to a common central government. This common federal government possesses expansive powers in the domains of defense, foreign affairs, national security, and finance.

However, states retain a certain degree of autonomy. But the possibility of separating from the union is eliminated. Strong legal ties bind the states. A written constitution is often an essential tool for dictating the division of powers between the federal government and the constituent states. Political decisions made by the federal government are binding on the member states.

Federations are often political systems adopted by former confederations. The United States, Germany, Russia are all examples of this transformation. These nation-states have adopted a federal political structure that marks the end of their confederation states. Several populous countries of the world have adopted the federal form of government.

What is a Confederation?

A confederation is a voluntary alliance of several states that can be formed to achieve certain commonly agreed goals. The coalition can be formed to achieve various economic, political, cultural or social objectives. Member states can separate from the union if they consider that these objectives are not being adequately met.

Sovereignty is only owned by the constituent states. The central organization is a nominally selected figurehead that lacks royal power. You can only exercise those powers that have been clearly assigned by the states. The real role of this central body is to facilitate communication between states and speed up all administrative processes. Furthermore, it remains accountable to the Member States.

Most of the important legislative areas are conserved by the states, making them the true centers of power. Few nation-states have adopted the confederation system. Most international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, are based on the principle of a confederation, where real power rests with the member states.

Main differences between federation and confederation

  1. The main difference between a federation and a confederation lies in the possession of sovereign authority. In a federation, primary sovereignty rests with the federal government. While the primary sovereignty is in the member states in the case of a confederation.
  2. The power and authority vested in the central government are quite contrary in both federations and confederations. Since the central government of a confederation is a nominally appointed figurehead, the real powers are in the hands of the member countries. A weak central government characterizes most confederations. In the case of a federation, the central federal government is extremely powerful.
  3. The autonomy of the constituent member states is extremely significant in a confederation. On the other hand, member states have to sacrifice a part of their autonomy to the federal government.
  4. The influential federal government can exercise its powers over the categories of defense, national security, foreign policy, finance, etc. However, the weak government of a confederation can only exercise powers in areas clearly defined by the member states. It has no de facto powers.
  5. The member states of a federal nation cannot be separated from the federation. Various legal ties bind the member states of a federation. In a confederation, the option of secession is open to all member states. They can exercise it if they feel that this alliance is no longer profitable.
  6. Federations are popular political systems. They have been successfully adopted by various former confederations. Confederations were common in ancient Greek and Italian societies, yet in the contemporary period, very few of them survive as nation-states. Confederations are primarily forms of formation of international organizations.
  7. A federal state can provide its citizens with dual citizenship, where one is representative of the member state to which the citizen belongs and the other is representative of the citizenship of the federal government. A confederation does not grant separate citizenship to its citizens, they simply continue to be citizens of the individual member states.

Final Thought

People often use the term ‘federation’ and ‘confederation’ interchangeably. However, there are powerful differences between these two closely related political systems of organization. A federal system is based on the complete submission of sovereignty to the common federal government in superior position. He exercises unwavering authority over fundamental matters.

A confederation is quite contrary to such an organizational structure. Formed voluntarily to achieve certain common goals, confederations have very limited powers to exercise. Such coalitions are subordinate to the member states.

The stability of a federation is greatly improved due to the lack of a secession clause for such forms of organization. However, the alliance forged under a confederation is not immune to secession. The autonomy of leaving the union rests with the states. Therefore, it is important to know these differences between the two political terms in order to fully understand them.

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