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Główna zawartość

Principles of American government: lesson overview

A high-level overview of the principles behind the American governmental system, including separation of powers and checks and balances.
The US Constitution creates a complex, competitive policymaking process in order to ensure that the people’s will is represented and that freedom is preserved. It does this through separating powers among the three branches of government and between the federal government and state governments, as well as making sure that no one part of government can get too powerful through checks and balances in the policymaking process.

Pojęcia kluczowe

access pointA point in the policymaking process where ordinary citizens can influence government.
checks and balancesAspects of the Constitution that require each branch of the federal government to gain the consent of the other two in order to act.
factionAn interest group seeking to influence government for the benefit of its members. The Framers sought to prevent any one faction from gaining too much power.
majorityThe largest group that shares an opinion on any one issue, for example, whether to declare war or support a tax.
minorityA smaller group with a differing opinion on any one issue. The Framers sought to keep majority opinions from trampling minority opinions.
impeachmentThe bringing of formal charges against a government officer for alleged crimes or abuses of power.
removalRemoving a government officer from office after impeachment proceedings resulted in a conviction.
separation of powersAspects of the Constitution that ascribe different elements of power to different branches of the government, which act independently. This keeps one branch of government from controlling the others.
stakeholderA person with an interest or a concern in a political issue.

Ważne dokumenty

Federalist No. 51 — An essay written by James Madison (under the pseudonym Publius) that explains how the structure of the new government under the Constitution will provide the necessary checks and balances to keep any part of the government from becoming too powerful.
Advertisement for the Federalist Papers.
Advertisement for the Federalist Papers. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Madison argues that because people are naturally self-interested, separating the powers of government into distinct and independent branches will require them to compete with one another in order to govern, therefore limiting the power of the government as a whole.
Ważny cytat:
“What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Najważniejsze punkty

Complex policymaking processes: The structure of US government established in the Constitution purposely makes policymaking complicated, requiring various branches, institutions, and individuals to work together to accomplish goals.
The Constitution also provides solutions for indicting (impeaching), and if necessary removing, individuals who commit crimes or abuse their powers in office. These measures help to ensure that the people’s will is represented by permitting many people to influence the policymaking process, as well as preserving freedom by limiting the power of government.

Pytanie sprawdzające

Describe the concept of ‘checks and balances’ in your own words. Why are checks and balances important to the US government system?
Describe ‘separation of powers’ in your own words. Why is separating powers among the branches of government important?
What is James Madison’s argument in Federalist No. 51? How did his ideas, as expressed in Federalist No. 51, influence the structure of US government?
What’s the difference between impeachment and removal?

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