Checks and Balances

“All governments are corrupt. Some are just better at hiding it than others.”

This quote is a very true statement, but the problem is since all governments are ruled by people, they have to be to a certain degree corrupt. (Just try to imagine a government ruled by robots.) However, why are governments like Syria’s so outrageously worse than the United States government? What makes a good government is not how much corruptness that occurs, but rather how much corruptness is limited through the design of the government.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about how that the Chinese gov’t official was corrupt in the fact that he can forcefully evict a person off his land so that he could take that land. Here, he had no limitations; in order for this to not happen again, one has to impose limitations on that official. At the same time, the one who imposes this limitations has to be imposed himself, because he can get corrupted himself.

So this is where checks and balances come along. And let me tell you, whoever came up with idea is a super-genius. History dates this back to the Roman Republic, and later Montesquieu published it in his book. America’s founding fathers thought, hmm… we could use that. And it was a smart thing they did, too. Why? Well, let’s take a look.

The executive branch can’t do whatever they want, because the judiciary and legislative branch are keeping it in control. The judiciary is checked by the executive and legislative branches in return, while the legislative is checked by the executive and judicial branches. Of course, let’s say the executive and legislative decide to do some bad business together. Then it is up to the judiciary to catch them in the act. Similarly, if any of the other two branches do the same thing, than the third branch will keep them in control.

But then, how about if all of the three branches decide to do some bad business together? Who will be the one controlling them? On paper, the Constitution only mentioned the seperation of powers among three branches. However, they were smart enough to know that if all three branches decided to do bad business together, there would be a fourth branch: the people.

Just think about it: how do the legislative officials and the president keep their jobs? Why, by convincing people that they are the right man to do the job, because it is the people who vote for them! If the people ever found out, let’s say, the president was corrupted, then they can refuse to vote for him the second time. And no doubt there will always be another person seizing on this opportunity to become the next president. Of course, how about if the president is in his second term? All the people have to do is pressure the legislative branch to impeach him, even if the legislative is doing bad business with the president, because the legislative officials still need to keep their jobs. In a way, the key to all this power is in fact from the people.

Of course, the majority can also be corrupted. They can be corrupted through government propaganda, as seen when the German majority was entranced by the Nazis. Or they’re corrupted simply because of tradition, as when the majority of whites did not think blacks deserved equality. So does the government restrain them in this case? No, because the government’s power comes from the people. Who does then? The Founding Fathers (why were they so smart?) had a smart answer for this.

One thing that I got wrong yesterday: America is not a democracy. Shocking yes? It is in fact a republic, which seems like a democracy, because the people elect the representatives. The Fathers deliberately made America not a democracy, cause they knew it could be corrupt. So by electing representatives, the people don’t take that much part in the government decision-making process. Thereby meaning the majority can’t get much of its corrupt ideals, if it happens to be so, into effect.

Not only that, within a population, there is an even more effective system of checks and balances. Say the majority has the opinion of pro-abortion, and say that pro-abortion is truly immoral (this is just an example). Well, more than often will there be another group, a minority,  who will have the opinion of being anti-abortion. This minority group restraints the majority group, because through media and persuasion, they are able to spread more of their influence, countering the majority’s influence. But this is not just a two-side issue. There are multiple sides, and thus multiple minority groups, each spreading their influence and thus each countering each other’s influence. In a sense, the minorities do have power over the majority, and if the majority is corrupt, then the minorities will keep it in check.

What I have been describing and analyzing so far is what a good and least corrupt government should be like, at least of how I think it. The key to preventing corruptness is seperation of powers. In my opinion, the United States is the only one so far to have achieved this kind of perfect government. Even so, however, the United States does have some major flaws. First, I think the executive government has too much power nowadays. The executive can almost bully the other two branches. Because of certain clauses in the constitution, presidents can declare and execute war anywhere they want without the legislative’s approval, as normally required by the constitution. As always, political cartoonists know this too:

Well, of course, there can always be no perfect government. But we can always hope for the best.

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