How the Framers of the Constitution Created a Political System with Limited Power
Our founding fathers were very much afraid of a powerful government, such as the one they had in Great Britain. Therefore, they tried to assign as little power to the government as possible without hurting or making it weak. Therefore, they created the constitution, which defined and assigned all powers that the different governing bodies should have. Since our nation is based on the constitution, democracy, and federalism, we need to explain these terms to get a better understanding.
Democracy is a system of government in which the people of that country participate in the electing of representatives, voting for various decisions that affect the society and running for offices. This idea of government is widely accepted as the fairest and most peaceful type of government. The other term, which should be explained, is federalism. Federalism is a specific type of a government in which the power is divided into several branches, to not only allow a more democratic administration but also exclude the possibility of tyranny.
To check if founding fathers successfully created a government with limited powers, I will examine the three concepts, namely power separation, checks and balances, and federalism, with the view of showing how they limit the government and/or how they support democracy.
Separation of Power
My opening supporting case will be the separation of authority. Separation of authority involves partitioning the government’s supremacy into numerous sections. This act not only eliminates the possibility of one branch becoming too powerful but also promotes a more specific and professional regulation. This concept was created in response to the 17th century concerns about absolutist administration, which was present in the British government.
Therefore, James Madison, one of the founding fathers, stated the following: “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself” (Acemoglu, Robinson, and Torvik 845). We can witness how the impact of overpowered the British government is present. He wanted to make sure that the government could be controlled.
My support of the above point is valid because the doctrine of separation of power depends on an inter-branch bargain in which at least two of the braches assume a position in the formulation of a law (Michaels 532). The first endeavor of the US into collective self-governance was short-lived. Few years after independence, it emerged that the Articles of Confederation excluded the immediate implementation of even the simplest national powers.
The leading diplomats fashioned a framework for fresh governing. The constitution they drafted conferred significant federal power. However, the constitution framers split the authority among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. From James Madison ‘s perspective, the significant protection against the concentration of powers in one department involves designating the essential constitutional means and personal impetus to those who administer each department to resist encroachment from others. They endowed each branch with unique dispositional, institutional, and political characteristics, thus making each group accountable to various constituents and demands.
By virtue of the divergent characteristics, grounds of accountability, and operations timelines, the branches were expected to harbor incompatible agendas. In turn, such conflicts would sharpen competition between institutions while enlarging and enhancing federal decision-making, hence hindering the consolidation of federal power for potentially tyrannical ends.
The above point supports my thesis since each branch of the government has control over the other under the system of power separation. For example, the legislative body formulates laws, but the president can sanction it (body), whereas the Supreme Court can decide whether the decision of the executive is constitutional. The president appoints the highest bench while the senate confirms or rejects the appointment. In turn, the Supreme Court can nullify actions by the executive and legislative branches. Such a relationship allows each branch to impede the power of the other branches to safeguard its own.
Critiques of the system of power separation argue that it bars effective leaders from attaining their constructive mandate. Such opponents assert that the absence of separation of powers facilitates the sharing of responsibilities throughout the entire nation, thus encouraging more participation of the citizens in the government. However, my argument is right since a unitary government operates just as slow as the system of separation of power. Therefore, as much as the system makes tyranny less likely, it also hinders concerted actions, hence limiting government involvement.
Checks and Balances
My second supporting point is the concept of checks and balances. The concept of scrutinizes and restricts power among the three branches of the government through the system of power separation. Without checks and balances, the president can implement his or her preferred policies. However, the idea of checks and balances allows the legislature to modify some elements of the president’s policy.
My support for the idea of checks and balances is valid because any core paradigm in the political economy stresses the role of constitution and election in restricting the elected politicians (Acemoglu, Robinson, and Torvik 845). Based on this prototype, politicians are citizens’ agents to whom they have delegated policy decisions and elections. Therefore, the concept of checks and balances guarantees that the elected representatives perform the wishes of the citizens, minimize their taxes, and/or constraint the policies that they follow for their ideological agendas or self-interest. In other words, the idea guarantees a counterbalance to the extent that political authority is not excessively bestowed on few people or systems.
The above point supports my thesis since elections may be incapable of facilitating effective control of politicians. In this case, citizens may decide to rely on various forms of checks and balances that further limit the behaviors of politicians. In fact, in the Federal Papers, James Madison clearly articulated the role of constitutional checks and balances.
Opponents of the concept of checks and balances include Ward who argues that the checks and balances technique interferes with democratic discussion about a country’s security details through including such matters in the wider policy program (1). However, my line of thought is correct since a formalized version of Madison’s ideas shows the way a set of political institutions that differentiate decision-making power over taxation and spending decreases the fees that politicians can impose on voters.
My third supporting point is federalism, which denotes the system of the division of power between central and regional governments. In the US, the state and national governments have significant sovereignty. Although the framers of the constitution initially desired to design somewhat a unitary system of government, the states were maintained because the presence of political institutions, including the attachment that Americans had with their states. To maintain the cohesion among states, the framers granted a few expressed powers to the government while reserving a portion to the states.
My support of the above point is valid because federalism regulates the authority of the state concerning relations between state governments. Dual federalism was first developed in 1789, setting clear distinction between centralized authority and government supremacy. Government supremacy dealt mainly with promoting businesses while leaving most of the governing mandates to the states. The system lasted until 1937 when it was replaced by cooperative federalism.
The concept was characterized by the partnership between the national and state administration. The cooperation started to dilute the traditional boundaries of the authority. To encourage states to comply with the initiatives of the national government, federalism provided funds to the local government. Consequently, the government power expanded while the states maintained most of their traditional powers.
The above point supports my thesis because the federal system involves competition for power. The system is characterized by resurgent of the state in the centralized structure. Both parties have maintained cooperation in common goals, with the highest court acting as the referee in the event of power struggles.
According to Rich and White, opposing arguments assert that federalism maximizes government power by allowing it to raise the cost of health in the US unopposed. However, my argument is right because “the federalist strategy weakens the political position of health reform opponents” (283). Hence, the government has a limited room to interfere with any of such health plans.
Our early parents grew with the fear that a powerful administration would deny them their rights, including the right to expression and good health. The paper has shown how such founding fathers developed concepts such as power separation, federalism, and check and balances as a way of ensuring that the government had little powers. The paper has confirmed that the strategy worked since most of the decision-making processes involved the ordinary citizens who would in turn ensure that they were well secured by the government.
Acemoglu, Daron, James Robinson, and Ragna Torvik. “Why do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?” Review of Economic Studies 80.1 (2013): 845-875. Print.
Michaels, Jon. “An Enduring, Evolving Separation of Powers.” Columbia LawReview 115.3 (2015): 515-597. Print.
Rich, Robert, and William White. Health Policy, Federalism, and the American States, Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, 2006. Print.
Ward, Kenneth. The Fog of War: Checks and Balances and National Security Policy, 2006. Web.