A sovereign nation is run by the government, judicial bodies, citizens, and most importantly, the Constitution. This is why the US Constitution lies at the heart of both America’s historical greatness and uniqueness. When the framers of the Constitution, several principles undergirded their efforts, acting as the building blocks. Among the said principles, the main ones include; federalism, separation of powers, and the checks and balances.
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The Framers of the Constitution wanted the nation and the states to operate as partners in governing. To foster the desired partnership, the Framers used federalism to structure the Constitution. Informed by the principle of federalism, they assigned certain powers to the federal government (delegated powers). They also defined the powers of the state governments (reserved powers). Lastly, they defined powers shared by the federal and state governments (concurrent powers). The shared powers bind the American people together. Notably, the main objective of employing federalism was to ensure that the powers of the national government and those of the states were clearly defined, with each having exclusive power over its sphere with little overlap (McClellan, 1997).
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Separation of Powers
Having defined the powers, the Framers became significantly concerned that too much power might fall into the hands of a single group. As a result, to avoid the said problem, they came up with the idea of separation of powers. The principle involves the division of the basic government roles into branches. The powers were split among the three branches (legislative, executive, and legislative). The legislative branch is responsible for enacting laws and appropriating necessary funds to operate the government. As for the executive branch, it is responsible for implementing and administering laws enacted by the legislative branch. Regarding the judicial branch, it is mandated to interpret the Constitution and laws. The separation of powers principle’s goal was to ensure that no one branch is given all the power (McClellan, 1997).
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Checks and Balances
The Framers deemed it necessary to have checks and balances to ensure that the three branches of the government work together fairly. The principle of checks and balances is undergirded by the ideology that power should be a check to power. Notably, although the three branches of the government are separate, they rely on each other to effectively and seamlessly perform the work of government. Thus, the main goals of the Framers when putting in place checks and balances was to reduce mistakes, prevent inappropriate behavior, and minimize the risk of centralization of power. The principle ensures that no one person or branch has absolute control over decisions and force cooperation between the three branches (McClellan, 1997).
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It is worth noting that the three principles relate to each other. Federalism answers the question regarding how power is to be shared. Separation of powers addresses the concern regarding how the defined power should be divided to ensure that too much power does not fall into the hands of a single group. The checks and balances principle seeks to make sure that the power is evenly distributed; thus, ensuring that the three branches of the government, although separated, work together fairly with minimal mistakes, without improper behavior, and without risking centralization of power. Together, the three principles form the foundation of the US Constitution.
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