Strengths And Weeknesses In The American System Of Separation Of Powers At The Federal Level
Strengths And Weeknesses In The American System Of Separation Of Powers At The Federal Level
For every decision made, there will always be pros and cons. However, the finality of a certain decision is reached by weighing the advantages and disadvantages as well as the strengths and weakness. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the choice which has the more pros and will often benefit the majority wins. On the other yet, criticisms will never go away and no matter how good a decision is, people will always find a way to criticize it. America is a very powerful country and everyone knows that. When America is in good shape, every one benefits from it. When America is having a crisis, the world suffers even more.
America is almighty that the world depends on it. Its economy is the world standard—which is why a lot of banks and financial firms are having a crisis now with bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers. The US election is debated not only in the country, but throughout the world. Whatever America does, the world listens and feels for it. That is why the government, which is considered as the primary and core source of the direction of the country, plays a crucial and important role as to how this country will move. The structure of a government defines how a country will perform.
The current government faces a lot of crisis and trials as they are faced with the most problematical term so farm. The economy is going down. Prices are going up. Terrorism is still every where. Critics are saying that America is not as strong as it was before. Disapprovals abound here and there. The current government has created so much hurt and pain to many families by sending troops to Iraq. It has also hurt the world in a huge way. War causes the economy to go down. And with the election looming, controversies are expected and the world will be watching.
Sometimes, the performance of a country depends mostly on the structure of its government. Hitler’s dictatorship and clamor for power became bloody. Usually dictators’ stories are often tragic. On the other hand, the democratic type of government (also known as the government for the people), is often known having their heroic stories. Usually, democratic countries have dramatic revolts wherein the people succeed and the chosen leader wants only the betterment of the majority. This is how America works. And it has been this way for a long time. The separation of powers of the federal level is another distinct characteristic of our government.
The United States is a federal republic wherein states, districts, towns set their own rules. This has been criticized as well because it will just create confusion amongst many people. However, this can be beneficial to the residents of that certain state or city. Before exploring federalism, it is just necessary to explain about democracy—America’s type of government. It was mentioned earlier that the democracy is the probably the most dramatic because it has endured many wars and it resiliency is proven through time. Critics say that a democratic government has a weak leadership.
They say it is so because the people limit their government. On the other hand, this allows the people or the majority to hear their sides and have their rights to oppose a certain issue. Over the course of history, democracies have been perceived as weak and few. Nevertheless, it has endured political failure, economic crises and even foreign invasion. Debates and dissents are commonly held in democracies and these can be very grueling in time and energy. Instead of acting upon more important thing such as alleviating poverty, politicians are facing the media debating upon a bill that is to be signed.
Then again, this weakness of democracy is in fact its underlying strength. Yes, democratic decision-making can be grueling, messy and complicated but in the end the efficiency of the deliberations and the outcomes for the betterment of the majority can never be criticized. This exhausting process is much better than a regime whose power is just perched on military force and worse, unelected people who only aim for the good of themselves. Democracies believe that it is very important to keep the government close to the people.
That is why it has developed a system of checks and balances ensuring proper political displacement and centralization. In general, checks and balances mean two things: federalism and separation of powers. The separation of powers is one thing that America has done and it has gotten several critics. This is also somehow blamed for the current performance of the country. So what is federalism? Federalism is the division of government among the national, the state and local levels. This allows cities and towns to have their own laws when the need arises. A perfect example of this is the United States of America.
The United States of America is a federal republic with states that have their own permissible standing and independent authority from the Federal Government. This is why certain laws may not be applicable in some states. These often involve controversial and questionable laws such as same sex marriage, abortion, etc. Although, national level power may have been very dominant in the United States for the twentieth century, local levels such as states still take control over the significant topics such as education, health, law enforcement and transportation.
Let’s say that a certain state has a significant number of gay communities. Should there be a need for a state to write a bill on The Rights of the Third Sex, then it should be done. Significant issues are usually tackled by the local levels and it may not be applicable to the rest of the 49 states if it reaches the national level. It will also be more time consuming for a certain law or bill is to filed on a national level. Sometimes, a certain bill or law needs to be approved immediately because of the change it will bring to a state.
So how does the division of power affect the regulations of local communities? In a centralized or unitary system, health, education, transportation and law enforcements are directly managed by the national level. However, the United States have followed the federalist model and delegated those tasks to the states. Now one of the major weakness and challenge that the federalist model (particularly the division of power) will face is that it will never be governed as neatly as everyone wanted it to be.
The federal state and the local town or city may have conflicting and overlapping ideas on education, health and transportation. This can lead to further debates, protests and even violence. Looking at the brighter side, federalism allows the people to be involved in such crucial issues. It maximizes the citizen rights—something of which is very imperative in a democratic society. Checks and balances refer to the separation of powers that the authors of the 1789 Constitution established so that the political power will not be concentrated solely on one branch of the national government.
James Madison (who later on became the fourth president of the country) was the central figure in the draft of the Constitution and his main reason for drafting such is as follows: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands… may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. ” However, critics say that the separation of powers is yet another misleading term for the people. In fact, the powers are not separated but are still shared. Legislation belongs to the Congress but the laws passed by the Congressed can be rejected by the president.
If such a case occurs, the Congress must gather two-thirds of the House of the Representatives and the Senate to supersede the presidential veto. The president selects and nominates members of the cabinet and ambassadors. But these are all upon approval of the Senate. This is also applied in the selection of judges. Another conflicting example is this. The Constitution states that only the Congress has the power to proclaim war. But the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces so if the two disagree on dealing with a crisis, it is most likely that a tension will occur.
True enough, this became apparent during the Vietnam War is the 60s and the Gulf War in the 90s. The need of a political agenda to be approved by the Congress has led political scientist Richard Neustadt among others to describe that presidential power in the United States is not a matter of commanding but instead persuading. Aside from the growing complications of the separation of powers, some checks and balances are not mentioned in the Constitution. Some practices have developed by practice.
The most important probably is the declaration to have the Supreme Court the power to proclaim acts of Congress unconstitutional. Problems usually arise in the separation of powers and the division of labor is often inefficient. But one thing that separation of power prevents is the abuse of some politicians—something that a democratic government must face. One of the most important decisions that a country must face is choosing its leader. There are actually two ways of choosing. One is the parliamentary system—the majority party or an alliance of parties sets up a government headed by the prime minister.
This system is currently used first in Great Britain and later on is practiced in Europe, Canada, India, the Caribbean and many countries in Africa and Asia (most of them former British colonies). The other method is what the United States use. It is by voting directly the president. This system is also practiced in Latin America, France, Poland and the Philippines. Now what are the differences between a democratic and parliamentary government? The main difference would be legislature and the executive. They are basically one and the same in the parliamentary system as the members of the cabinet are drawn from the parliamentary party.
The government’s term of office will typically run for four to five years unless the prime minister loses the majority of the parliament. The separation of powers in a parliament system is far from the American style as most of the power is taken internally. In a democratic system, both the head of state and the president are combined in one office. The president is elected by the people as well as the Congress. The members of the cabinet are different from the Congress as this is part of the separation of powers. Presidents can also be removed from the office upon committing of serious crimes.
A legislative majority exists in the office of the president to help ease the programs of the leader. However, his term does not depend on the majority unlike the prime minister. Just like any other democratic election, the two US presidential candidates are most likely to go on a showdown on debates with regard to their plans for the country. The two candidates will face challenging questions from the critics and political scientist. Aside from that, the country is now facing a dip in the economy—with the announcement of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the AIG. The two have recently announced to unite in solving this huge problem.
The government has just lent billions of dollars to the investment baking firm thus resulting to another increase in the oil price barrel. Another topic that they have to face is the issue of pulling out the troops in Iraq. If the two candidates agreed on the economic settlement of the country, they have contrasting ideas on war. This will definitely lead to a heated debate that the world will watch out for. So which makes a better structure of government? And does the separation of powers help make America a better country? Instead, does it make it worse by the inefficiency of the division of labor?
When the Constitution was drafted in the 18th century, the aim was pure. The separation of powers was made to ease the leadership of the president. With America being really big, it would be too big a task for the national government to handle all fifty states. However, no system is perfect and problems will arise here and there. The good thing about it is that each state is given a chance to do it their way—something that all states would agree on. In general, as messy as it may seem, the separation of powers aims nothing but the best for each and every state of the United States of America.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 November 2016
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