Although the term “checks and balances” is thrown around quite frequently in government, not many people know how it all started. To ensure that one branch of government wouldn’t become too powerful, checks and balances system was developed. The U.S. government is divided into legislative, executive and judicial. These three branches of the have various limits and controls of the government. This separation of power in the government is how the system of checks and balances was developed.
Before the United States
The idea of separation of power wasn’t first thought of by the U.S. government. Dividing power in government comes from the minds of philosophies of the Greek statesman and historian Polybius. He created branches known as monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. These branches represented chief magistrate, the Senate, and the people. Philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, during the Enlightenment, also thought that government must have divided powers. He believed that despotism was the greatest threat in any government.
Our Government’s Interpretation
By taking the ideas of philosophers and political scientists, the great minds who created the U.S. Constitution divided the powers and responsibilities of the new federal government into the legislative, executive, and judicial. Along with power separation, the system of checks and balances designed to ensure there was no tyranny no branch would have too much power in the government. It’s important for the power in government to stay equal and balanced. No one person or branch should have more power than another. The checks and balances system is what is best not only for the government but for the people.
How Checks and Balances Work
Each branch has certain powers and responsibilities over the government. The president is the head of the executive branch and is also the commander in chief of the military forces. However, Congress, which is the legislative branch, appropriates funds for the military and has the power to vote to declare war. Any peace treaties must be ratified by the Senate must ratify. Another example is the declaration of law. The Supreme Court and other federal courts are the judicial branch and may declare laws or presidential actions unconstitutional through judicial review. But the president has the power to check the judiciary through the power of appointment. This can easily change the direction of the federal courts. The power to impeach both members of the executive and judicial branches falls to Congress.
Throughout U.S. history, some powers and responsibilities have changed. However, the government still remains balanced, as it was intended when the checks and balances system was created through the U.S. Constitution.