POLITICAL SCIENCE 12
Question1: Checks and Balances
Onecommon element in almost all the constitutions of the world is thatthey were drafted as a reaction to the events and incidencesaffecting the citizens. Imperatively, those who drafted the documentswere motivated by individual goals, one of them being the preventionof tyranny. Consequently, various systems were established with theaim of preventing the organs of governments from perpetrating powerabuses, one of them being Federalism (Kahan, 2015). The model ofchecks and balances was designed so that there could be a form ofbalance between the state and national governments, thereby limitingthe powers of the latter. The underlying principle was that the stategovernment was closer to the citizens thus was bound to be moredemocratic. The other system that was invented was that of checks andbalances, or the separation of powers. The model partitioned thegovernment into three main branches and designated different roles toeach of them.
Checksand balances is a principle of government under which the branches ofgovernment are capacitated to limit the powers of other branches, orinducing them to share power (Rivera, 2014). They are primarilyapplied in constitutional democracies and form a fundamentalimportance in tripartite governments, for instance, the UnitedStates, whereby there are clear systems of separation of powersbetween the executive, judiciary, and legislative wings ofgovernment. The concerns of the founders of the various constitutionsaround the world had one overriding concern of ensuring that thepowers of the majority were put in a checkto make sure that they were not oppressive to the minority. Theyendeavored to offer a permanent solution that included theestablishment of systems of checks and balances to ensure that thethere was a definition of the relationship between the differentbranches and a limit to their powers.
Everystate has in its constitution a provision for checks and balances, aphenomenon that provides a way of ensuring that the governmentoperates within its mandate and powers without abuses. It is used bythe civil society to prevent the government from getting toopowerful. According to the American constitution, the system ofchecks and balances was designed to ensure that the variousgovernment branches do not become more powerful than the stipulatedlevel, a phenomenon that is also known as the separation of powers(Kaydor,2015). Whilethe origins of the model could be traced back to ancient Greek, theUnited States’ system of checks and balances largely borrows itsprinciples from the French philosopher, Montesquieu de Baron, whosought to define the nature of the association between the threebranches of government, namely, the legislature, judiciary, andexecutive (Kahan, 2015).
Theexecutive arm comprises of the president, the legislature is made upof Congress, while the Judiciary includes the Supreme Court. As such,there are various ways through which power is limited, but a typicalexample where the model of checks and balances is applied refers tothe ability of the president to veto legislation that is initiated byCongress. In the same way, the judiciary may render a law thatparliament has passed as null and void. Second, while the presidentis the chief appointing authority when it comes to judicialpositions, it is the role of parliament to grill the officials sothat they could formally assume office. Each branch of governmentplays many roles, but every function represented by each role isdesigned in a way that makes it possible for it to be controlled byanother branch of government. For instance, whereas the judiciary isexpected to interpret the laws that are passed by Congress, they arenot allowed to introduce any changes to them (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).
Themedia also offers a system of checks and balances to the various armsof government and is considered the fourth arm because of theoversight role that it performs on the other levels. The function ofreporting about the conduct and obligation of the government help thecitizens to see how their leaders are working towards fulfillingelection pledges (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).The media also helps the general population to gauge the performanceof their governments by providing a form of balance scorecard, andthis contributes tomaking the government of the day more responsive to the needs oftheir subjects.
Thegovernment of the United States is based on federalism, whereby thepowers of the central government are divided uniformly across all thestates. It is defined as the technique of governance whereby two ormore entities are permitted to share power and control over the samegeographic region, and every citizen is obliged to obey the laws ofthat country, city, or state, including the federal government(Kahan, 2015). In this kind of arrangement, power is shared betweenthe state and national government, and in the United States, power isdivided between the local, state, and federal governments. It isentirely different from a unitary system, whereby one unit possessesall the powers or a confederation whereby there is an association ofgovernment units that are independent. Originally, the United Stateswas a confederation as provided by the Articles of Confederation thatmade it possible for each state to operate as an independent unit(Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).With time, the American Constitution was repealed to establish afederal system and replace the principles supported by the Articlesof Confederation. As such, it recognized the federal government asthe highest organ in the hierarchy of power, while at the same timeproviding that the citizens are subject to other different powers.
Accordingto statistics, the majority of American citizens have more contactwith their local and state government than with the federalgovernment on a daily basis. Police departments, schools, librariesnotto mention parking and driver’s licenses tickets, usually fallunder the oversight of local and state governments, with each statehaving its visible constitution. What is more, the documents are moreelaborate than the Constitution of the federal government. Forinstance, the Alabama Constitution contains 300, 000 more words thanthe United States Constitution, meaning it is 40 times bigger(Rivera, 2014).
Thefederal government is charged with the role of overseeing the conductof national affairs as contained in the Constitution. Its areas ofresponsibility include foreign affairs, defense, commerce, trade andcurrency, immigration, telecommunication, postal services,broadcasting, air travel, pensions, and social sciences. Anotherinvolvement of the federal government includes funding of variousfunctions, such as education, health, industrial relations,environmental issues, and others.
Second,there is the state government, and it is obliged to undertake everyfunction that is not under the jurisdiction of the federalgovernment. Imperatively, both levels of government are alwaysinvolved in the same function (Wang, 2016). Some of the majorresponsibilities of the state government include hospitals, schools,community services, recreation and sports, industrial relations,agriculture, fishing, public transport, roads, and railways,environmental conservation, consumer affairs, prisons, police, andthe provision of emergency services, amongst others. Each state hasits distinct constitution that sets out its system of government.
Last,there are the local governments and these significantly differ incharacter and size. For instance, a single local governmentjurisdiction could comprise of 35 cities and municipalities, eachwith a local council (Subba,2014).Generally, Local governments feature in two tiers, including boroughs(also known as counties/parishes) and municipalities (ortowns/cities). Some states divide their counties into townships.There are many ways to which municipalities could be structured, asprovided by the constitutions of the state, and are known astownships, boroughs, villages, towns, or cities.
Thereare three main types of federalism, including Dual, Cooperative, andNew Federalism. In Dual Federalism, there is the provision of thestate, and the union co-exists in a power-sharing matrix, but theFederal power reflects more powers than the individual states. It isbased on the belief that there is a clear division between the stateand federal authority, and that the two levels of government could beperceived as similar entities (Skogstad,Cameron, Papillon, Banting, Simeon, & Queen`s University, 2013).Inthis regard, it means that the state and national governments couldlive equally, be treated equally, and holds almost equal authority.After all, the American Constitution captures this precise mechanismin the clause of reserved powers, in the quest of drawing a linebetween these two levels of government (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).
Second,Cooperative Federalism is a concept that captures the swiftcollaborative relationship between the local, national, and stategovernments. One of the most pertinent questions that face everynation is the mode of dispersing power among the country and its manysub-components, such as state, counties, provinces, parishes, andothers. This is attributed to the fact that federalism or the mode ofassociation between the central authority and its constituent partscould show significant variations (InBenz & In Broschek, 2013).The idea explains why since time immemorial different platforms havesought to come up with ways that would enable them to divide theresponsibilities of governments. One of the techniques is the use ofthe Cooperative Federalism model, whereby the national governmentthrough the legislature is vested with an unlimited authority toenable it to enforce national policies on the smaller parts of thegovernment.
Last,the New Federalism is a form of devolution, whereby the federalgovernment was made to transfer some powers to the state governments.It was initiated by the Nixon administration and it typicallyinvolves the provision of block grants from the Federal government tothe states with the aim of resolving societal issues.
Question3: Civil Rights
Duringthe Declaration of Independence speech in 1776, Thomas Jeffersonsought to promote a sense of equality in the constitution that wouldprotect the rights and freedom of citizens, while ensuring that noone is more important than the other (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).Though his concept was a bit different from the current notion ofequality in the American Constitution, the Founding Fathers strove tocreate a society that observed the dignity of individuals and madethem equal to each other. For instance, they desired to have asociety in which all Americans were free from various restrictions,such as religious persecution, and other individual liberties. Assuch, the civil rights movement was birthed in the 1950s, and itemanated from persistent calls of civil groups and American citizenswho demanded that the government provide a form of equality acrossall social groups and classes as provided by the law (Fair& Watson, 2015).These demonstrations established the stage for the other groups tocommence the process of agitating for new legislations as well.Consequently, the debates for the provision of civil rights could betraced back to the founding of America, althoughthe 1950s civil rights movement addressed political and civil rightsthat were denied to United States citizens. In contrast, there arewidespread worries that the African-American population is stillfacing structural racism, and that is why the Black Lives MatterMovement was formed and it gained rapid momentum while responding toa series of abusive incidences at the hands of the police (Rivera,2014).
TheBill of Rights was authored by James Madison in response to thenumerous calls by citizens to provide more protection for individualrights and liberties. Consequently, the first ten amendments wereintroduced to the American Constitution to provide for moreprotection forthe rights of citizens. For instance, there is the First Amendment(Amendment 1), which states that Congress shall not introduce any lawthat favors the establishment of a particular religion or evenprohibit the free exercise of worship (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).Further, it shall not undertake initiatives that abridge the freedomof the press, freedom of speech, or the right of people to assemble,including the right of individuals to petition the governmentconcerning their grievances or redress. The other civil right isprovided by Amendment 2 that provides for the protection of citizensand the state through a well-established military (Rivera, 2014). Assuch, it states that there shall be a well-regulated military tosafeguard the security of a Free State and offers citizens the rightto own and bear arms.
TheFirst Amendment has undergone various changes since time immemorialas necessitated by court cases, events, and ideas. For instance, adocument called the Magna Carta was prepared in reaction to theabuses perpetrated by King John of England when he failed torecognize the rights of ordinary citizens and noblemen (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).Accordingly, the document purposed to demonstrate that no one wasabove the law, including the king. In another incidence, a New Yorkpublisher was accused of libel after writing a piece that criticizedthe New York governor. He was later defended by Hamilton Andrew andacquitted, and his case initiated some changes to the FirstAmendment, for instance, that truth can be used as a defense to libeland it is uponthe jury to determine whether a certain truth is seditious ordefamatory.
Amendment2 has also undergone some changes thanks to the passage of time andnew circumstances, particularly the right to bear arms. In fact, whenthe Obama Administration assumed office during the first term, one ofthe policy changes that was implemented include the right to beararms. Going by the rise in civilian deaths atthe hands of their fellow citizens, the government thought it wise torepeal gun laws to reduce the number of arms at the hands of privatecitizens. In fact, gun enthusiasts termed him as the “most anti-gunpresident” the country has ever had because of the introduction ofpolicies that placed more restrictions on citizens who own, sell, andbuy firearms (Rivera, 2014). He signed two major gun laws thatextended the rights of those who owned guns in the United States.
The14th Amendment was proposed as a reaction to the issue of slavery andthe Civil War in America in July 1868 (Smith& Mount Allison University, 2014).Accordingly, it addresses the rights of citizens and provides equalprotection with regards to the law, aside from addressing a series ofcivil rights and citizenship issues. It has five main sections eachaligns with the central provision that prevents states from making orenforcing laws that undermine the privileges or immunities of UnitedStates citizens. Further, it prohibits state governments fromdepriving any life or person, property, or liberty without followingthe right procedure as provided by the law, as well as denying peoplewithin their jurisdiction from accessing equal protection by the law.
Question4: Concept from News
Thissection chose to discuss a news item from the New York Times whosesubject of discussion was the disadvantages of having a weak Federalgovernment. Accordingly, the author, Justin Gills, demonstrates howTrump’s policy on climate change could be undermined by the factthat the Federal government does not have enough capacity toimplement the law. Before he assumed office, Trump greatly mocked thescience behind global warming and termed it a Chinese hoax,threatened to abandon the global deal on climate change, and purposedto restore the coal enterprise to its former potential. As such, whenTrump won the just concluded general elections, coal investors wereoverjoyed because his administration signified good tidings for them.
Consequently,the Federal government gave the contract to the highest bidder forthe sum of $ 42 million, a value that is twice what it earned in theprevious year (Gillis, 2017). According to LiberianDemocracy,environmental and climate activists were left basking in despairsince they had placed all their hopes on the victory of HillaryClinton who was highly expected to advance the anti-global warmingpolicies of the Obama administration.Now, everything is in position, and in the worst scenario, Mr. Trumpis expected to use Congress to roll back the decades of progressrealized in climate change, thus selection is largely seen as badnews for the proponents of the climate agenda.
Themost striking thing about Trump’s climate change quest is that hehas assumed that the Federal government is well capacitated toimplement his policy. In contrast, the reality is that when he stepsinto office, he will have to deal with the fact that the governmentdoes have limited control when it comes to American energy policies,including the generation of electricity. This is linked to the factthat the coal industry is ravaged partly by the existence of cheapnatural gas (Gillis, 2017). What is more, its supply is abundantbecause of the application of technology in the production processthereby the president cannot introduce any policy changes to reversethat. The above scenario is associated with the discussions in thisanalysis because it shows how the principle of federalism works andhow the national government can find itself weak when it interfereswith devolved functions that are supposed to be performed by otherlevels of government (Gillis, 2017).
Fair,C. C., & Watson, S. J. (2015). Pakistan`sEnduring Challenges.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Gillis,J. (2017, January 2nd). WeakFederal Powers Could Limit Trump’s Climate-Policy Rollback.Retrieved March 18th, 2017, from New York Times:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/02/science/donald-trump-global-warming.html?_r=0
InBenz, A., & In Broschek, J. (2013). Federaldynamics: Continuity, change, and the varieties of federalism.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kahan,A. S. (2015). Tocqueville,democracy, and religion: Checks and balances for democratic souls.
LiberianDemocracy: A Critique of the System of Checks and Balances. New York:Harvard University Press.
Rivera,S. (2014). Billof Rights.Edina, Minn: Abdo Pub.
Skogstad,G. D., Cameron, D., Papillon, M., Banting, K. G., Simeon, R., &Queen`s University (Kingston, Ont.). (2013). Theglobal promise of federalism.
Smith,J., & Mount Allison University. (2014). Federalism.Vancouver: UBC Press.
Subba,D. (2014). Philosophyof Fearism:Life Is Conducted, Directed and Controlled by the Fear.Xlibris Corp.
Wang,C. (2016). Obama’s Challenge to China: The Pivot to Asia. New York:SAGE.Topof Form
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