Federation is a union of different states. It is generally constituted by the states lying in geographical vicinity of one another. It is constituted in order to secure strong defence and sound economy.
A federation may come into existence by an agreement of a number of states formerly independent The federating states create a common central government for the administration of certain common affairs of national importance and retain with them an ample measure of autonomy.
A second type of federation may be formed by splitting a unitary state into component units and allowing them some autonomy. In the first case, a federation comes by decentralization. The United States, Swiss and Australian federations furnish examples of the first kind and Canadian federation represents the second type.
1. Desire for Union:
“There should be a desire for union rather than unity,” in the opinion of Dicey. The federating states should not merge their separate identity into the common whole. Unity means complete absorption of all the states in a common centre and it leads to the creation of a unitary government but the union means an association of different states which retain a part of their independence and surrender the rest to the federal government and consequently a federation is formed.
2. Geographical Contiguity:
The country for which a federation is proposed must have geographical contiguity. There should be no natural barriers like lofty mountains or deep rivers to separate the different parts of the country for which a federation is proposed. These barriers do not give an opportunity to the people to have any deep social contact. A federal union of areas widely separated by land and sea can never be real.
The central idea of a federation is political co-operation between the federating states in relation to affairs of common interest. Distance adds to the difficulties of co-operation and weakens the bonds of national unity. In modern times, however, difficulties arising out of natural barriers obstructing geographical contiguity have been overcome to a great extent.
Means of communication and transport have been revolutionized. Aerial navigation has begun. International traffic is, therefore, going on a mass scale. All these factors have created chances for a federal union of countries separated by land and sea. That is why certain philosophers are proposing the formation of a world federation.
3. Community of Language, Culture, Economic Interests and Religion:
The country for which a federation is proposed should have a community of language, culture, tradition and general economic interests. These elements create a sentiment of unity and a sense of common nationality and hold together people hitherto organized into separate communities.
Unity of religion is also conducive to the formation of a good federation. Religious disunity creates discord among the people and weakens federal ties.
Although linguistic and religious unity is favorable for the formation of a good federation yet America, Canada and Russia have developed into good federations in spite of the fact that these countries had variety of religions and a multiplicity of languages.
4. Equality of Units:
It is desirable that the federating units should be equal in size and population as far as possible. If any one of the units outbids the rest in power and importance, it becomes a dominant partner and the federal character of the union is liable to be impaired.
The German federation before World War I was notorious for the glaring inequality among its component states. Prussia, being the largest of all, dominated the German federation. It could not stand the test of time as it was a sort of compromise between a lion, half a dozen foxes, and a score of mice.
In recognition of the principle of equality, every constituent state, large or small is given equality of representation in the federal upper house in many federations.
5. Political Ability:
All the federating states should have equal political development so far as is possible. If some units are politically more backward than the rest, an effective federation cannot be formed. As a federal government is a complicated structure, people in general are required to have a high level of intelligence and political education.