from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units.
- n. Advocacy of such a system of government.
- n. The doctrine of the Federalist Party.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. System of national government in which power is divided between a central authority and a number of regions with delimited self-governing authority.
- n. Advocacy of such a system.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. The principles of Federalists or of federal union.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The doctrine or system of federation or federal union in government; the principle of assigning to the care of a central government such matters of common concernment as may be agreed upon, and all others to that of the governments of the federated states, provinces, or tribes; more specifically, the aggregate principles or doctrines of a federal party, as the Federalists of the United States.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. the idea of a federal organization of more or less self-governing units
The term federalism conjures up more functional and pragmatic ideas about the role of the states....
All of these things are wrapped up in the term federalism, so I don't think we know the extent of the actual differences and whether they could be breached at some later time.
The term federalism is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces).
Just because insurance interests can get a law to pass in their state does not mean that federalism is threatened by Obamacare.
Just because this Court has shown a predisposition to privilege federalism above the substance of issues in previous arguments does not mean that arguing federalism is a principled way to proceed.
As Rick notes, the foot voting rationale for federalism is one that I have advanced in various articles (e.g. here and here).
However, the conventional story that federalism is bad for minority rights overlooks other, at least equally lengthy, periods in American history when a unitary federal policy would have been worse for minority rights than federalism.
However, as Ilya points out, federalism is a double-edged sword.
The federalism is important because the majority of the country did not support public education for quite a while, but a majority of many states did support it.
As you mentioned, federalism is not libertarianism or even a component thereof.