Unitary vs Federal Government: Difference and Comparison

A government is known as a nation or state’s controlling and organising body. It is a source through which enforcement of laws and policies takes place.

The legislature, executive and judiciary are the three major tiers of a government. All of them have varying importance and distinct functions.

Historically, various types and forms of government prevail all around the world. Whether it is a monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, dictatorship or tyranny, every single form of government has its own made set of rules and policies that it acts upon.

Governments are classified into Unitary and Federal according to the type of relations the national government and the local governments have between them. Both these types of government differ based on the division of powers and many other aspects.

A federal government allows national and local governments to operate independently in their jurisdictions. On the other hand, in a unitary government, the central government is the supreme controlling body of the nation.

Key Takeaways

  1. A unitary government is a system in which all power is held by the central government, while a federal government divides power between the central government and regional governments.
  2. In a unitary government, the central government has the final say in all matters, while in a federal government, the regional governments have some degree of autonomy.
  3. The main difference is that a unitary government is more centralized, while a federal government is more decentralized.

Unitary Government vs Federal Government

The difference between Unitary Government and Federal Government is that a unitary government is a single system where the central government has all the powers. In contrast, a federal government is a dual system of government where the powers are divided between the national and local governments.

Unitary Government vs Federal Government

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonUnitary GovernmentFederal Government
System of Government A unitary government is a single system of government where the central government has supreme authority.A federal government is a dual government system where the national and local governments work independently.
Division of PowerAll the powers are incorporated within the central governing body. The powers are divided between the national and the local governments.
ConstitutionIt can either have a written or an unwritten Constitution. While it ought to have a written Constitution.
RigidityThe Constitution can either be rigid or flexible. Whereas the Constitution must be more or less rigid.
JudiciaryThere is no special judiciary. There is a special judiciary with unique powers.
BalanceThe central government can issue orders to the local governments being the only authority. While here, there is a balance between the national and local governments.
CountriesCountries like Japan, Britain, France, Italy etc., have a unitary government. Countries like the US, Australia, Russia, Canada etc., have a federal government.

What is a Unitary Government?

A Unitary government is a system of government in which all the powers reside in the central governing body or the central government. The central government is the supreme authority of powers in a unitary state.

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The central government has the authority to establish, demolish, distribute and amend laws. It also has the power to issue orders to all the local or state governments, and they ought to obey those.

The decision-making authority only lies with the central government. The local governments or the nation’s citizens do not have enough ability to voice their opinions against the government.

Coming to the Constitution of a unitary government is not bound to be written or rigid. It can either be written or rigid and also unwritten or flexible.

There is no special judiciary in a unitary government. In times of emergency, the government is known for reaching conclusions at the right time.

The unitary government comes in several mannerisms and parts. It is very similar to that of a dictatorship form of government where the opinions and rights of the citizens are not prioritised.

unitary government

What is Federal Government?

A Federal government is a system of government with two levels of government, i.e., the national and the state or local. The national government, as well as the local governments, are allowed to function independently in their jurisdictions.

There is a balance of power between both these levels of government. The States are independent in making decisions and bringing reforms.

A federal government is the opposite of a unitary government; all the powers are never vested in a single body here.

The Constitution of a federal government must be a written one. The articles should be drafted in a written format.

As there is an equal division of powers, chances of rifts and disagreements between the central and the state authorities are common. For this purpose, a judiciary with special powers is established, known as the special judiciary.

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The federal government is an expensive system of government as the authorities with powers are more in number. The modes of operating of a federal government differ from that of a unitary one.

federal government

Main Differences Between Unitary Government and Federal Government

  1. The central government is supreme in a unitary government, while the national and state governments are independent in a federal government.
  2. The federal government has a written constitution.
  3. The rigidity of the constitution is essential in a federation.
  4. A special judiciary is present only in a federation.
  5. There is no balance between central and state governments in a unitary system.
References
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9299.1990.tb00760.x
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3110305

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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24 thoughts on “Unitary vs Federal Government: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The article’s detailed explanation of unitary and federal governments is excellent, offering valuable insights into their distinctions and constitutional requirements.

    Reply
    • I couldn’t agree more, Samuel Cox. The discussion about the division of powers in a federal government is particularly enlightening.

      Reply
  2. The article effectively illustrates the distinctions between unitary and federal governments, shedding light on the impact of their constitutional rigidity.

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    • I couldn’t agree more, John. The discussion about the constitution’s rigidity in both systems is thought-provoking.

      Reply
  3. The article’s in-depth comparison of unitary and federal governments is both enlightening and thought-provoking, enhancing our understanding of governmental systems.

    Reply
    • While the article is informative, the delineation of the central government’s decision-making authority in a unitary government is particularly noteworthy.

      Reply
  4. The article provides a comprehensive comparison between unitary and federal governments, enhancing our understanding of their unique features and functionality.

    Reply
    • While the article is informative, the analysis of the authoritarian aspects in a unitary government is particularly intriguing.

      Reply
    • Absolutely, Dale42. Understanding these systems is crucial in grasping the political dynamics of different nations.

      Reply
  5. This article effectively explores the differences between unitary and federal governments, emphasizing the diverse systems of governance present across different countries.

    Reply
    • I completely agree, Katie. The article’s focus on the distribution of powers and constitutional requirements is particularly enlightening.

      Reply
  6. Impressive analysis of unitary and federal governments, providing an insightful comparison of their governance structures and constitutional aspects.

    Reply
  7. This article is eye-opening. It’s interesting to see how the division of power varies in unitary and federal governments, emphasizing the importance of governmental structures.

    Reply
  8. Very informative article explaining the differences between unitary and federal governments, and their impact on the distribution of power. It’s essential to understand these concepts.

    Reply
    • I completely agree, Fox. Understanding the differences can help us better comprehend the political structure of different countries.

      Reply
    • The article provides a clear overview of the two types of government. It’s enlightening to learn about the balance of power within federal governments.

      Reply
  9. The detailed comparison of unitary and federal governments in the article is enlightening, highlighting the varying governance structures and authorities in different political systems.

    Reply
  10. A well-researched article that effectively delineates the disparities between unitary and federal governments, providing an insightful examination of their governance models and power distribution.

    Reply
    • The article effectively captures the essence of unitary and federal governments, elucidating their differences in a comprehensive and articulate manner.

      Reply

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