The layer-cake federalism is also known as dual federalism and divided sovereignty. This is a political structure in which power and responsibilities are divided between the federal government and state ones in clearly defined terms. The state governments exercise the powers that were granted to them without the intervention of the federal government.


The main source of this construction was the Constitution of the United States of America, which enshrines the formal separation of powers. Both state and federal governments derive their powers and authority from the dictates of the Constitution, which divides governing powers and responsibilities. The layer-cake federalism is defined in contrast to the marble-cake federalism, in which the federal government and state governments unite and work together in order to develop policies. Because of the fact that each government has its own responsibilities, federalism is easy to understand from the perspective of these distinct layers.

Nevertheless, despite the simplicity of this concept of the federal system’s work, practically, the process of determining and delimiting the powers of each government into separate, distinct, and observable spheres turned out to be problematic and difficult. Despite the fact that it was a clear and direct idea of ​​the federal system, layer cake federalism could not describe the nature of government relations. It happened because the government functions grew, expanded, and changed in unpredictable ways. As both state and the federal governments have their own sovereignty, they often argue with each other in some areas, for example, regulation, taxation, law enforcement. So, this is not very easy to stay in one’s own area and with one’s own responsibilities. Separate layers were not as separate as they seemed.