A form of government in which the major geographical subdivisions of the country have their own governmental organizations that retain numerous independent rights of policy-making and decision that may not be overridden by the central government, and in which the central government's rights of policy-making and decision are severely restricted. The distinction between a federation and a confederation is not always easy to make, but generally speaking, confederations assign much more limited powers to the central government than do federations -- typically only national defense and foreign relations, plus a few other minor functions. One practical criterion often used as the key to distinguishing federations from confederations is that in the latter the central government does not have direct taxing or enforcement authority over individual citizens but rather must depend upon the regional governments to provide its revenues and give effect to its laws governing individuals.

[See also: state, federation, empire]