Constitutional FAQ Answer #146 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #146

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Q146. “Your page on the Articles of Confederation says that there are no
more confederations existing in the world. I beg to differ — Switzerland
is a confederation.”

A. There have not been many confederations in the past two centuries or so,
and the main reason is that governments are not very willing to share power in
the way that they have to to have a successful confederation. One text book
I have lists just three: the United States (1781-1787), Germany (1815-1866),
and Switzerland (1815-1874). Europe has some of the traits of a confederation,
but until the “national” parliament acquires more power, it can’t be called
one. The wider acceptance of the euro and the wider ratification of the
European Constitution would also help. The United Arab Republic tried be a
confederation, but only lasted from 1958-1961.

As to Switzerland, it is officially known as a confederation: its official
name is in Latin, Confoederatio Helvetica, to avoid preference to any of
the three main languages. It is a federal republic, much like the United
States in many ways, with 26 small cantons in the place of states. Under the
Swiss constitution, the cantons hold all powers not delegated to the federal
government, but the most important powers of a nation, economic and military,
are reserved to the federal government, and preclude calling Switzerland a true
confederation, despite the name. The CIA
lists Switzerland as “formally a confederation, but similar in
structure to a federal republic.”

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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