The separation of powers is based on the division of the tasks between the independent legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The power is separated to “prevent tyranny” and “ensure that no government institution nor official gains too much power” (Nelson, 2019, p. 681). Professionalism and ethical principles apply to the separation of powers as they protect the integrity of the three branches. Professionalism is important to the separation of powers as it requires government employees to act according to their competence, knowledge, and skills and prevents conflict between the branches (Box, 2015). Unprofessional conduct and unethical practices lead to the monopoly of power or the lack of individual organizational integrity (Lewis & Gilman, 2012). Ethical principles indicated the Constitution are vital for the branches as they provide government officials with guidance for reasonable decision-making, judgment, and action.
The values of accountability, professionalism, administrative ethics, and fairness are essential in public service. Since the separation of powers is “the backbone of our constitutional democracy,” its fundamental values should be based on democratic principles (Jacobs, 2019, p. 378). However, some of these values are not being met in the White House. For instance, the President ignored the principles of administrative ethics, suspended the journalist Brian Karem’s press pass, and limited the constitutional freedom of the press (Brice-Saddler, 2019). The example demonstrates that the values are applicable to the separation of powers as the approach requires all branches to follow the principles and ideals defined by the Constitution.
Professionalism and ethics positively affect the separation of powers as they prevent the abuse of democratic principles or concentration of unlimited power by a president or a political party. The government officials should pursue professionalism and ethics to protect democracy and support equal rights and freedom for all. According to Coglianese and Firth (2016), “presidential fingerprints can be found on any highly consequential action undertaken by an executive branch agency” (p. 1870). Therefore, the President’s unprofessionalism and the lack of integrity might create the gap between political ideals and institutional practice (Huntington, 1982). Unprofessionalism and unethical practices have a negative impact on the general public in relation to the separation of powers. For example, the infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci was publicly discredited by President Donald Trump at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak (McGinley & Abutaleb, 2020). The ungrounded criticism of respected experts might indicate the abuse of power by the President who acted unprofessionally, misled the general public and undermined the expert opinion’s credibility.
The separation of powers faces several challenges in promoting professionalism and ethical values. The main issue is the PresidentPresident’s domination in the decision-making, despite the need for authority delegation to legislative, executive, and judicial representatives (Coglianese & Firth, 2016). Political institutions reflect the gap between the ideals and practice, while international relations require an efficient administrative ethics system demanding the transparency of all branches. Public sector values are being served when “elected leaders and citizens think about the relationship of the public sector to society” (Box, 2015). The structure of checks and balances is employed to maintain the values by allowing one branch of power to amend the acts of another.
The current state of ethics in the White House is characterized by the conflict of interest caused by the President’s personal connections with US officials and foreign governments. The personal ties undermine the ethics behind the separation of power, as they prevent the Congress and the Department of Justice from acting against the President. The state of the White House ethics determines the agreements, political ideals, and changes in international relations, as the President is the international representative of the nation.
The analysis of the White House ethics demonstrates that the current presidency contradicts the ideals of the separation of powers. Constitutional democracy states that the authority should be given to the head of each branch, not the President. To improve the professionalism and ethical practices, it would be recommended to issue the amendment to the Constitution explicitly establishing control over the President’s executive actions.
Box, R. C. (2015). Public service values. Routledge.
Brice-Saddler, M. (2019). A reporter says the White House suspended his credentials in an ‘attempt to stifle the free press’. The Washington Post. Web.
Coglianese, C., & Firth, K. (2016). Separation of powers legitimacy: An empirical inquiry into norms about executive power. Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law. Web.
Huntington, S. P. (1982). American ideals versus American institutions. Political Science Quarterly, 97(1), 1–37.
Jacobs, S. (2019). The statutory separation of powers. The Yale Law Journal, 129, 378–444.
Lewis, C. W., & Gilman, S. C. (2012). The ethics challenge in public service: A problem-solving guide (3rd ed.). Wiley.
McGinley, L., & Abutaleb, Y. (2020). White House effort to undermine Fauci is criticized by public health experts, scientist and Democrats. The Washington Post. Web.
Nelson, Z. (2019). Mental disability and the executive: A comparative analysis of the separation of powers. Lewis & Clark Law Review, 23(2), 681–745.