Traditional Roles of the Branches of Government
Items 52 and 53 makes the following assertions:
52. In order to maintain a free or popular government, it is necessary that these powers shall be lodged in different hands; that the body which makes the laws shall have nothing to do with their enforcement; and that the judges shall be a body independent of both
the legislative and the executive branches of the government. Where this division of powers is well established and carefully guarded, if at the same time the nation has sufficient intelligence and public spirit to hold the rulers it chooses to a strict account, a people’s liberties are reasonably secure, and they are able to make their government as honest and efficient as they please to have.
53. For at the elections they are able to remove those legislators who enacted bad laws, or that executive officer who carelessly or wickedly failed in the proper enforcement of the laws. Thus the people not only rule, but are easily able to distinguish where the fault of misgovernment lies, and to apply the remedy. In our own government, this great division of powers is very clearly made: in the Federal Government, Congress enacts the laws, but cannot execute or enforce them; the President enforces the laws, but he does not make them; and the courts of the United States construe the Federal laws, and apply them in disputed cases.
In this passage, Nordhoff introduces the concept of “Separation of Powers”, in other words, dividing power into as many hands as possible to prevent the accumulation of too much power in the hands of a few people. This week, we will see the President of the United States stand trial for “Obstruction of Congress.” This Impeachment Article alleges that the President did not comply with Search Warrants and Subpoenas issued by Congress for witnesses and documents in the possession of the President. The President took these Congressional subpoenas to the Federal Court system for clarification as to whether the Congress can act like a Court and issue extra-judicial court orders to compel the president to comply. Traditionally, as Nordhoff states, “the courts of the United States construe the Federal laws, and apply them in disputed cases.”
. In an essay of 350-500 words, discuss how the Division of Powers between the three branches of government have shifted over the years. We now have Presidents essentially writing laws, Courts controlling Executive Decisions, and Congress acting like Courts. Express your own opinions on this blurring of the traditional roles of the Branches of Government and predict where this phenomena will ultimately lead.