28 Principles That Helped Build America – Chapter 17 – Principle #17

A System of Checks and Balances should be Adopted to Prevent the Abuse of Power


In the early days of our Constitution many people wanted the separation of powers to be absolute, but in his Federalist Papers (numbers 47 to 51) James Madison explained the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and the judicial. In other words, he did not want something that was absolute, but for each to hold all in “check and balance.” He said that “the trick was to separate the powers and then delicately lace them back together again as a balanced unit.”


Christopher Demuth Sr. of the Hudson Institute said: “The struggle for power and advantage is a constant of human society.” Our Founding Fathers knew the frailty of human nature and the checks and balances that they came up with in the three branches of government has provided a very stable government for over two centuries. However, looking at what is happening today we see the abuse taking place as one branch tries to take precedent over the others in order to get its way.


The idea in back of the three branches of government is that none of them ought to possess or have an overruling influence on the others. Madison went on to say: “It will not be denied power if of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”


In second Corinthians 10:13 the apostle Paul said: “We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.” Paul did not want to go beyond the limits that God had assigned to him. In the same way this applies to the three branches of our government. They should not go beyond the limit that has been assigned to them. However, as I mentioned before we see how the executive is trying to override the legislative by issuing executive orders, and the judicial going beyond what the Constitution provides by creating ‘new’ laws (called judicial legislation) by pretending to be merely interpreting old ones. We see the legislative branch imposing taxes that were never contemplated by the Constitution.


The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance. And because in our Republic, we the people, have not been vigilant to keep a close watch on our representatives to make sure that they are operating within constitutional boundaries, we now find our freedoms slowly, but surely, eroding.


The checks and balances set up by the Founding Fathers were  to protect the people, but how do we now protect ourselves? When Framers put together the Constitution they made the three branches of our government separate as to their “assigned” function, but also made them dependent upon one another. Undersecretary of state, J. Reuben Clark, Jr said: “the Framers had no direct guide in this work, no historical governmental precedent upon which to rely. As I see it, it was here that the divine inspiration came. It was truly a miracle.”


We see the checks and balances set up between the three branches of government at the same time the people have a check on their congressman every two years; on their president every four years; and on their senators every six years. The problem in our Republic that we have today is that we have become lazy, ignorant and careless when it comes to voting (or have not voted) and have put in people that should not have been put in places of power. President Washington said “the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution entrusted with its administration”, but so often, we, the people have not taken the time to really ‘vet’ those that we vote for to see what their true intentions are. Just like the apostle Paul said that when he departs that there will be many false teachers, false Christs coming in like the real thing, but having their own agenda. So it is with our government today.


For over two centuries that this Constitution has been in operation it has carried this nation through a number of crises. Other countries that copied our Constitution, but did not put in the checks and balances found that their presidents have suspended the Constitution and have used the Army to stay in power.


A good example of this here in our own country is the “Watergate” where a president went beyond his authority and under the threat of impeachment, although he was the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, resigned and made no attempt to keep himself in power. The transfer of powers took place quietly and in order.


Over the last 55 years I have had the privilege of traveling and visiting many countries, and often I have seen the turmoil, confusion and mass killing that has taken place because of a lack of adequate government with proper checks and balances to restrain the frailty of human nature.

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