(This is the fourth in a series on Founding Principles with help from the Bill of Rights Institute. These principles are the foundation of our Constitutional Republic. They keep us a free, self-governing people. So far, we have covered Natural Rights, Consent and a Republic, and Limited Government).
Grab a cup of coffee or tea because today, we add the Founding Principle of constitutional precautions, or the “fences of protection” around our liberty. These are:
Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, and Federalism
Can you define these terms? They are important, because without them, we can slowly lose our Constitutional Republic and the freedoms we enjoy. Let’s look further into these “fences.”
Founding Principles: Separation of Powers and Checks & Balances
The Separation of Powers prevents any one Branch of government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) from gaining, assuming, or taking too much power. Each Branch has defined functions and is constitutionally given the power to carry out those functions. (See Articles I, Ii, III)
Checks and balances are different from the Separation of Powers in that each Branch of government has the power to limit the other two Branches. Again, this founding principle keeps any one Branch from becoming too powerful.
So, if the Executive Branch (president, his staff or Cabinet officers) tries to make laws, the Legislative Branch can stop this from happening. Likewise, if the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court) tries to make laws instead of discovering and applying the law, the Legislative Branch can constitutionally stop this from happening. Keep in mind, the Justices are not elected. They are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate).
Now, if the Legislative Branch (The Senate and House) tries to carry out the laws they make instead of letting the Executive Branch do its job, Congress can be constitutionally be stopped from overstepping its boundaries.
Founding Principles: Federalism
Finally there is the Constitutional precaution of Federalism. I explained this concept here:
Here is an excerpt:
“Your state and our nation operate with two levels of government. Think of our national government as a huge pavilion with a vast overhang umbrella. The federal government (the overhang) has 50 tables under it. Each of those 50 tables (or states) has its own umbrella with its own shape and size. The managers (federal elected officials) in charge of the huge overhang umbrella decide when the umbrella needs maintenance, hours of operation, etc. They got their jobs from their bosses (voters) sitting at the 50 tables. As for the 50 tables, those people have rules and regulations for their own groups. Some have fewer people at their table, and others have many more. They appoint sub-managers to oversee the day-to-day business at those tables.
The point is, there are two systems of operation at work. The overhang managers handle the larger issues, just like our federal government does. The tables address matters of concern for their group, just like individual states do. The voters decide if the managers (federal level) at the larger and smaller levels (state level) keep their jobs.
Under the 10th Amendment, the states or We the People are sovereign over all powers not granted to the federal government.”
If We the People do not guard these “fences” or Constitutional Precautions, we give up our role as a self-governing people. Our power slips into the hands of a few, just like most of the rest of the world.
Who is better able to protect and prosper our liberty? Is it a few popular people with unlimited power in each generation? Or is it you and I and our posterity? Over 240 years of American history give the answer.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸
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