Kevin Price
Separation of Powers were meant to keep government small
By Kevin Price
March 28, 2011

Separation of Powers are taught, but their importance is not, the reason why is that those in power do not like what this important political concept is intended to accomplish: limits on government.

The idea of separation of powers is not new. Some ancient and even modern European countries have exercised such options to the same extent as the United States of America. The United States was founded by people whose interest was not the central government, but the states they represented. They had already fought a war for independence and were not interested in a new tyranny, even if it was closer to home. Home for them was Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island — not the yet existent United States — and they were charged to protect their homes in writing a new constitution.

The separation of powers for the United States was seen in the form of three separate branches of government, each designed to "check" the behavior and decisions of the others and to provide "balance" in making sure the liberties of the people were protected. Those three branches were the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. Here is a brief summary of how it worked.

  • Legislative: the branch nearest to the people. This branch has checks and balances of its own, being bicameral in natural (meaning two houses, one for Representatives and another for Senators). The House was up ever two years and represents the smallest number of voters and was responsible for the origin of tax bills to prevent government from pursuing such. In addition it is involved in (and often takes an upper hand) in the passage of all legislation. The Senate was originally designed to protect the interests of the state governments and was appointed by governors and legislatures. The Senate is the only office where its members have executive (approve treaties and appointees), judicial (impeach office holders), and of course, legislative duties. 535 members in two Houses create a dispersion of power that makes it difficult for things to pass. This is by design, not accident.

  • Executive: in charge of carrying out the law. The executive branch has become incredibly powerful over the years and I believe this would be very surprising to the founders of this country. Most countries have an executive that is an extension of the majority in the legislative branch (e.g., the Prime Minister). That is because those governments are designed to "do more." Ours is decidedly different, it can veto bills passed by Congress and the founders made it very difficult for the legislative branch to over ride such. But the imperial President we have today is an odd phenomenon who creates law through edict (regulation) and not through Constitutional channels.

  • Judicial: should ask the question, is it Constitutional? The Judicial branch originally had a simple job — it was to enforce the very limited government found in the US Constitution. Over time, it has become a legislative branch of its own, creating law where the Federal Constitution said nothing, meaning it should have been left to the states.

The separation of powers is one of the concepts designed to keep us free and to keep government small. The study of the Constitution and supporting those who will defend it is imperative in restoring freedom.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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