?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.
Liberals believe the government has a responsibility to the citizens who cannot afford healthcare while conservatives believe they should protect the free market system. The problem is that the free market system not only has flaws, but it should not be the determining factor in a basic human right such as healthcare. It is easy for the branches of government to get entangled within their own system and start confusing the issues. The desire for control, power, and money has begun to overreach any real desire to even the playing field in the United States.
What has become par for the course over the last 12 years is that Congress is incapable of adopting adequate legislation without gutting any proposed bill into complete ineffectiveness. But as McLennan points out, the excuse of political gridlock is an exaggeration, although it is an effective means for not really accomplishing anything of value in a nation with a dwindling middle class and a rising poverty level (163). The system was designed to counter ambition, but has instead become a means of furthering it.
While the system of Checks and Balances and the Separation of Power are necessary to avoid tyranny, they are currently used in this country to widen the gap between socioeconomic classes. 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.