Confederation

  • a confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states, united for purposes of common action.[1] usually created by a treaty, confederations of states tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense, foreign relations, internal trade or currency, with the general government being required to provide support for all its members. confederalism represents a main form of inter-governmentalism, this being defined as any form of interaction between states which takes place on the basis of sovereign independence or government.

    the nature of the relationship among the member states constituting a confederation varies considerably. likewise, the relationship between the member states and the general government, and the distribution of powers among them is variable. some looser confederations are similar to international organisations. other confederations with stricter rules may resemble federal systems.

    since the member states of a confederation retain their sovereignty, they have an implicit right of secession. political philosopher emmerich vattel observed: ‘several sovereign and independent states may unite themselves together by a perpetual confederacy without each in particular ceasing to be a perfect state. … the deliberations in common will offer no violence to the sovereignty of each member’.[2]

    under a confederate arrangement, in contrast with a federal one, the central authority is relatively weak.[3] decisions made by the general government in a unicameral legislature, a council of the member states, require subsequent implementation by the member states to take effect. they are therefore not laws acting directly upon the individual, but instead have more the character of inter-state agreements.[4] also, decision-making in the general government usually proceeds by consensus (unanimity) and not by majority. historically, these features, limiting the effectiveness of the union, mean that political pressure tends to build over time for the transition to a federal system of government, as happened in the us, swiss and german cases of regional integration.

  • examples
  • historical confederations
  • see also
  • references
  • external links

A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states, united for purposes of common action.[1] Usually created by a treaty, confederations of states tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense, foreign relations, internal trade or currency, with the general government being required to provide support for all its members. Confederalism represents a main form of inter-governmentalism, this being defined as any form of interaction between states which takes place on the basis of sovereign independence or government.

The nature of the relationship among the member states constituting a confederation varies considerably. Likewise, the relationship between the member states and the general government, and the distribution of powers among them is variable. Some looser confederations are similar to international organisations. Other confederations with stricter rules may resemble federal systems.

Since the member states of a confederation retain their sovereignty, they have an implicit right of secession. Political philosopher Emmerich Vattel observed: ‘Several sovereign and independent states may unite themselves together by a perpetual confederacy without each in particular ceasing to be a perfect state. … The deliberations in common will offer no violence to the sovereignty of each member’.[2]

Under a confederate arrangement, in contrast with a federal one, the central authority is relatively weak.[3] Decisions made by the general government in a unicameral legislature, a council of the member states, require subsequent implementation by the member states to take effect. They are therefore not laws acting directly upon the individual, but instead have more the character of inter-state agreements.[4] Also, decision-making in the general government usually proceeds by consensus (unanimity) and not by majority. Historically, these features, limiting the effectiveness of the union, mean that political pressure tends to build over time for the transition to a federal system of government, as happened in the US, Swiss and German cases of regional integration.