This introductory chapter provides an overview of federalism. It first defines the key institutional features of federal governance and presents evidence as to the relative importance of federal states among the nations of the world. The chapter then offers an empirical evaluation of the ability of Democratic Federalism to advance the three objectives embraced by its supporters: economic efficiency, political participation and democratic stability, and the protection of individual rights and liberties. Causation is always a question in such exercises, but the correlations are clear. Societies governed by the principles of Democratic Federalism are richer, safer for personal rights and liberties, and democratically more engaged.
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