The Separation of Powers and checks and balances

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Analyze how the US Constitution implements separation of powers and checks and balances. Briefly explain why the constitutional framers based the new government on these ideas. Evaluate how separation of powers and checks and balances are working out in practice today.
The United States government’s Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances system is organized so that no one group or individual has enough power to dominate the country. Separation of Powers describes 3 branches of government, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. Respectively, they make the laws, enforce the laws, and determine what laws entail and how they should be applied. The authors of the Constitution implemented this system because they had seen tyranny in previous governments throughout history. James Madison pointed out in the Federalist Papers, “ambition must be made to counter ambition” (166). One of the ideologies they were rejecting was the idea that, “political authority was based on the divine right of kings,” which meant that kings were authorized by God to rule (3). Instead, the founding fathers believed in John Locke’s theory of popular sovereignty, in which the people had the right to dictate that which the government would protect and enforce. The problem with this philosophy is that it is impossible to get even a small group of people, such as the Senate, to agree on the right law or even the right interpretation of the law. This is compounded by the fact that those in power, by human nature, wish to have control. One current example of this provided in the text is that of the recent healthcare reform law. The proposed bill is still hotly debated with liberals considering the bill a basic right ensured by the constitution and the conservatives claiming “the law is unconstitutional because it effectively requires individuals to purchase something in the private marketplace” (2). Each side chooses to interpret the constitutionality of the law based on their own ideologies.



References: John, C. Divided we fall: the case against divided government. International Social Science Review, 86(3&4), 166. McLennan, W. Divided we conquer: why divided government is preferable to unified control. International Social Science Review, 86(3&4), 162-164.

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