A student recently wrote to me asking for help with an essay question on US Politics that they had been struggling with, “What is the Separation of Powers and why has it been criticised?”. Today I hope to answer that. For all the students stuck on this very question, read on!
The Separation of Powers of the USA refers to the idea that the powers of the governmental major institutions (Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary) are distinct- detached from each other, to prevent the misuse of power. The Founding Fathers also set up a system of Checks and Balances, however, because completely independent governmental institutions would prevent any effective government work being undertaken, though we will discuss that later.
Please note- this is only one side of the argument- the Separation of Powers has many benefits that have not been discussed here because the question prompts an analysis of the criticisms. I will of course write about the benefits of the Separation of Powers in a future article to prevent bias.
THE SEPARATION OF POWERS
What is it?
Why has it been criticised?
On a side note- a fun fact!! Did you know that ‘Borking’ is now an actual word to describe obstruction? I first heard it mentioned at a Politics lecture I had atttended, but until recently I had never thought that it was an actual term.
But it is.
Anyway, the final and perhaps most important point:
What this kind of question is asking you to do is to evaluate why, and perhaps how far, the Separation of Powers has been criticised. This is up to you to decide, though I recommend you first research the strengths of the Separation of Powers to get a better idea of how far the criticisms outweigh how much it has benefitted the US Political system. Nevertheless, the Separation of Powers, whether you see it as a wholly good or bad part of the US Political system, certainly is credited for standing the test of time, having first been outlined in the Constitution 226 years ago.
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