This study guide reviews 2 of the major concepts of the US government: checks and balances and separation of powers. Powers in the American government are split up between the president, Congress, and the courts. This process demonstrates the systems of checks and balances and separation of powers that were stated in the Constitution.
Checks and Balances
The concept of checks and balances goes hand in hand with the concept of separation of powers because it checks that one branch is not becoming dominant over the others.
Through checks and balances, the three branches of government must work together and share power. An example of this is the nomination of cabinet members. The president has the power to choose who they want to nominate however the nominees must be approved by the Senate before they are able to serve.
Checks and balances work for the good of the people through the impeachment and removal process.
Impeachment is the process of legal action against any public official. If a public official seems to be abusing their power, they can be impeached and sent to trial. If they are convicted, they are removed from office.
This shows another way that the Constitution is set up to make sure that no part of the government is becoming dominant over the other branches.
Separation of Powers
The concept of the separation of powers was borrowed from Charles de Montesquieu, a French political philosopher.
The framers of the Constitution used this idea to delegate specific powers to three different parts of the government. The three parts were the executive branch (represented by the president) that enforced laws, the legislative branch (represented by Congress) that made the laws, and the judicial branch (represented by the courts) that interprets the laws.
This system prevents one part of the government from overpowering others. Also, it is important to know that a person may only be a part of one branch at a time. For example, if someone is a judge they can not be a congressperson at the same time.
Federalist No. 51 reflects the same ideals as the checks and balances and separation of powers.
James Madison argued that together the checks and balances and the separation of powers would make sure that no part of the government would gain complete control.
This idea was greatly favored by the framers of the Constitution because they did not want to live under a tyrannic government like that of Great Britain which they just escaped.
Although the creation of separation of powers and checks and balances makes the policy making process lengthy, it allows for stakeholders, institutions, and the people to have a say in the development of policies, making it possible for public policy to be influenced for the good of the people.
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