Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, and Federalism

The American government operates on three main principles; the separation of powers, checks and balance, and federalism. The three principles guide the functions and coexistence between the federal and the state governments and the three departments of the government, the judiciary, legislature, and the executive. Separation of powers ensures the three arms of government perform different functions for the governing body’s joint operation. For instance, while the legislator through the two Houses of representation formulates laws and policies, the executive works to ensure such laws are implemented. Besides, the legislature represents the people’s supremacy and democratic prowess. On the other hand, the judiciary offers advisory opinions and interpretations on the legislation put in place. Simultaneously, operating as equals, the various arms of government monitor and set limits to their powers. Additionally, through federalism, the states and federal governments can work within their jurisdictional authorities to offer Americans governance.

The constitutional principle on the separation of powers in America was founded on the need to prevent tyranny in the county’s political leadership. Based on Madison’s ideologies, the founders were determined to blind down those in power at the federal level, with constitutional chains restricting abuse of power at the government’s various arms (Gailmard, 2017). Consequently, the principle ensures power is distributed across the three government arms to limit the influence of one from the other. The principle of separation of powers recognizes each arm’s autonomy of the government and its role in ensuring check and balance during governance. In his statement on the need for America to have separation of powers, Madison explained that the powers and influence of one arm of the government could only be countered by power and influence from another government component (Beermann, 2020). Therefore, the law should ensure the various forms of government work independently and act as a check and balance to other government arms to avoid tyranny and power abuse.

The constitution recognizes both state and federal levels of government. The two groups of government are independent but jointly operate in governance and implementation of policies. Both governments have three arms of government, the judiciary, the executive, and the legislator performing the same functions at both levels of government. The federal government depicts the country’s sovereignty and international identity as the national entity. On the other hand, state governments are considered independent and equal in terms of authority. However, there are instances of power overlap where the federal state’s influence may be felt at the state level (Gailmard, 2017). First, the constitution lays sovereignty powers at the federal level, giving the federal state the constitutional powers to act on behalf of all state members, especially in national security and international policies. Consequently, questions have arisen on the existing power overlap that legally establishes the federal government’s dominance over state governments.


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DemoEssays. 2022. "Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, and Federalism." December 28, 2022.

1. DemoEssays. "Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, and Federalism." December 28, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, and Federalism." December 28, 2022.