Checks and Balances in the American Constitution

Checks and Balances in the American Constitution

Checks and balances are a principle of government where different branches are empowered to operate independently with the aim of controlling each other’s possible excesses. This means that the branches are induced to share the power to monitor each other. Checks and balances are mainly applicable in constitutional governments, with the fundamental relationships mostly constituting tripartite governments working to not only check on each other but also complement each other (Owens, 2005). The United States is one example of a government with checks and balances involving legislative, executive and judicial branches.

There are other checks and balances in the American Constitution. One is the presidential veto of the legislation, which can be overridden by the congress’ two-thirds majority vote. The other is the executive and judicial impeachment by Congress. In this arrangement, Congress is the only arm of government with the powers to appropriate funds.

Additionally, the houses check each other on the possible abuse of power or any disproportionate action. In practice, Congress also has the powers to reverse the Supreme Court decisions that they deem inappropriate through the initiation of a constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court members and other executive members, who are presidential appointees, must be approved by the senate. It is also the role of the senate to approve treaties (Owens, 2005).

The legislative veto was prominently exercised in 1983 by the Congress. During this time, particular clauses in the laws gave the executive powers the authority to act in specific subjects where the majority of votes from both houses registered their disapproval of such actions.

The case involved the deportation of an alien, where the Supreme Court ruled against that legislative vetoes as being unconstitutional. This was after the House of Representatives voted to overturn the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the deportation of the alien. The Justice Department’s decision had adversely affected over 200 laws, which covered varied subjects, including the presidential executive orders on declaring war, deciding foreign aid, sanctioning sales of arms, and environmental protection among others (Manuel & Cammisa, 2019).

Despite the decision by the Supreme Court, Congress continued to exercise their powers, which include legislative veto powers. Today, checks and balances have gone through evolution from custom and constitutional convention to congressional committee system and investigative powers, including roles played by political parties and the influence of the president when initiating legislations.

The Origin of Checks and Balances

The framers of the United States constitution had a strong influence from the Montesquieu and William Blackstone, who had the original idea of checks and balances. The Constitution framers saw checks and balances, as the only way of securing individual liberty in the constitution. When the people had elected representatives to the assembly, John Adams, the American statesman and the second president of the United States started the debate by asking whether the powers of government, legislature, executive and judiciary should be under one body (Adams, 2009).

Adams argued that this approach would deny the people freedom and that the people would certainly be unhappy if the government was under one assembly. This would be articulately captured in his letter to Richard Henry Lee, where he stated:

“A legislative, an executive, and a judicial power comprehend the whole of what is meant and understood by government. It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two that the efforts in human nature towards tyranny can alone be checked and restrained and any degree of freedom preserved in the constitution” (Burleigh, 2011, p. 161).

Based on this view, the judicial review would be established and given the role of examining the actions of the legislative, executive, and administrative arms of government to ensure that every action is constitutional. Although this role was not expressly highlighted in the text of the Constitution, it became one of the most important aspects of the United States Constitution.

This separation of powers in the form of checks and balances originated from the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, the monarchy was represented by the consul, aristocracy by the senate and democracy by the people. This type of arrangement greatly influenced America’s system of separation of powers in the checks and balances system.

In the British system, the checks and balances operate in a modified separation of powers under parliamentary systems. In this form of checks and balances, parliament has the prerogative powers to adopt a no-confidence vote against a sitting government, or cabinet, which in turn leads to the dissolution of the parliament. The British Parliament has supreme powers with the ability to pass laws. These laws are not subject to any review by the courts for constitutionality, hence remain the ultimate legal ceiling for deciding cases. In France, the government operates under the Fifth Republic (1958).

They have a form of government where a Constitutional Council of nine members, who are appointees of the president, Senate, and National Assembly, reviews the constitutionality of legislation. The nine-member team has a term limit of nine years. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the formation is similar to that of the United States, where the parliamentary and federal systems checks on each other. They have the power to declare a law unconstitutional.

The Americans’ adoption of the “trias politica” is seen as one that was inspired by the social and political philosopher Montesquieu through his published “Spirit of the Laws.” This was considered one of the greatest historical works in the field of political theory and jurisprudence.

Montesquieu’s work is seen as one that would later inspire both the Declaration of the Rights and the Constitution in the young United States under James Madison. This is because it was Montesquieu’s idea of the government as constituting executive, legislative, and judicial powers that would be adopted by the drafters of checks and balances. The system was based on the principle that the three powers should operate separately and independently to guarantee the liberty of the American people.

The genesis of checks and balances

As earlier stated, the concept of separation of powers was installed through the implementation of a series of checks and balances, which was incorporated into the United States Constitution. The goal was to ensure no single branch of government or person was too powerful to subvert the constitution.

This meant the constitution was put under the custody of three branches of government, namely legislative, executive and judicial systems. The drafters envisaged a scenario where without checks and balances it would be easy for an individual or a branch of government to exceed its bounds, perpetrate fraud, and engage in commissions and omissions errors.

In essence, the system of checks and balances was meant to act as some sort of control mechanism separating powers of the three branches of government. Practically, however, the power to take specific action was vested on one branch while the others were meant to verify the appropriateness and legality of the action.   

As the founding father of the principles of checks and balances, James Madison had experienced it from personal level the dangers of one person or government having too many powers. This is what informed Madison’s remarks, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted” (Sidlow & Henschen, 2016, p. 42). The framers of the checks and balances believed that because it was the creation of government under the administration of humans over humans, there was the need to “first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself” (Welch, Gruhl, Rigdon, & Thomas, 2012, p. 31).

The founders believed that humans are naturally selfish, and always coveted to possess more property. They also believed that leaders would yearn for more powers to acquire material wealth at the expense of the people and that this aspect of humans could not be changed. As such, Madison would comment, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary” (Welch, Gruhl, Rigdon, & Thomas, 2012, p. 31). The framers decided that the only way to ensure the government-controlled itself was to develop a structure that would prevent anyone leader group of leaders, or factions of people from exercising power over more than a small part of it (Manuel & Cammisa, 2019). This is the reason why they fragmented the government into small units with different powers over each other, as reflected in the structures of federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

Federalism was the first step towards the division of power between the national government and the state governments. The United States government under the Articles of Confederation has been set in a manner that the state government wielded more powers. In this arrangement, the national government exercised only the powers granted by the state governments.

The founders of the constitution became unhappy with this arrangement, neither were they happy by the unitary system that the British government practiced during the colonial times. Thus, they arranged to have a unique system, with a strong national government and reasonably strong state governments to run concurrently.

This was the birth of the federal system of government, which was a compromise between the previous confederal and unitary systems. They had seen federalism as the best way to provide adequate power for the government function even as they check excessive power that could lead to tyranny.

The constitutional provisions delegated some powers to the national government even as others were reserved for the state governments. For example, foreign affairs roles, including those making treaties, declaration of war, and repelling of external attacks among others were bestowed on the national governments. Others were the authority to print currency and regulate interstate trades.

Taxation was tasked both on national and state governments. These provisions ensured the national government remained with more powers to deal with both domestic and foreign matters. However, authority over other matters such as those of the welfare of the people was handed over to the state governments. According to the Tenth Amendment, the powers not delegated to the national government were reserved for the state governments. This arrangement also guaranteed some reasonably strong state governments as well.

However, the generality and succinct nature of the Constitution’s language made it quite ambiguous. Although this made the document acceptable both to the proponents of the strong national government and supporters of strong state governments, it made it a bit vulnerable that it could be interpreted in favor of any side.

The next step was the Separation of powers, which was directed to the national government. This was the power to make, administer, and judge the laws would be split into three branches of legislative, executive, and judicial (Hamilton & Slutsky, 2017). To reinforce the principle of separation of powers, members of the three branches were selected through different means.

Representatives were elected by the people, senators were selected by the state legislatures, and the president selected by the Electoral College, whose members were selected by the states. In this arrangement, only federal judges were chosen by officials in the other branches. The President nominated the federal judges and the Senate vetted them for final confirmation. However, after their appointment, they were allowed to serve for their “good behavior”, hence served for life with full independence (Hamilton & Slutsky, 2017).

The design of the Senate was meant to act as a conservative brake on the House, largely because the selection of senators by the state legislatures and their longer-term was viewed as more trustworthy. However, Thomas Jefferson protested the establishment of a legislature with two houses, arguing that it would lead to a divided government (Welch, Gruhl, Rigdon, & Thomas, 2012).

In this aspect, there was the possibility of one political party controlling both elected branches, as another party winning the presidency. This division has been common throughout the United States’ history, especially since the emergence of Democratic and Republican parties in 1856. This prompted the addition of another element of Madison’s concept of separation of powers: The checks and balances.

Checks and balances were established to prevent the concentration of power. Madison argued that “ambitions must be made to counteract ambition”, hence the decision to give each branch some authority over the others (Bailey, 2015, p. 21). This arrangement ensured that if one branch abused its powers, the others could use the checks to put the offender into the task of taking responsibility. In this model, the American government would be comprised of the legislative branch whose role was to enact the laws, the executive tasked with implementation and enforcement of the laws, and the judiciary to interpret the laws in reference to the Constitution in case there is a legal controversy between the other branches or the people.

How checks and balances worked in the past

As earlier explained, checks and balances were established to prevent the concentration of powers in one hand or on a group of people. In Madison’s view, “the greater security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments by others…” (Welch et al., 2012, p. 32). Based on this assertion, each branch was given some authority over the others such that if one branch abused power, others would use their constitutional power to prevent it.

Checks and balances complicated the government’s functional abilities, because rather than having a simple separation of powers, the American system became a complex, and to some extent, a contradictory constitutional arrangement. While the system of separation of powers gave each branch its own sphere of authority, the checks and balance system gives each branch to watch over other branches, and question their actions if they deem it unconstitutional or illegal.

For instance, separation of powers gave the congress powers to make the laws, but checks and balances the president has the authority to veto them and courts can rule such actions unconstitutional. In this arrangement, all three branches, directly and indirectly, play a role in the process of legislation calls it “a government of separated institutions competing for shared powers” (Mettenheim, 1997, p. 23).

However, a number of scholars have argued that the practice of separation of powers, and that of checks and balances was never practiced as such (Owens, 2005; Jones, 2000). Instead, it was a government of separated institutions sharing powers. This was well captured in the often-repeated statement by Dwight D. Eisenhower, “I am part of the legislative process” to remind other branches of his veto powers as the 34th President of the United States (Mettenheim, 1997, p. 23).

With this form of arrangement comprised of federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances, conflicts abounded. This arrangement invited several parts of government that would struggle against each other, hence limit any one branch’s ability to dominate the rest. They envisaged a balanced government, where the national and state governments would represent different interests. The House would represent the common people while the senate would represent both the wealthy people and the small states.

The president would represent all the people, as the Supreme Court represented the Constitution. In their own wisdom, they anticipated that although the branches would struggle for more power, none could accumulate enough powers to dominate other branches. That is, each branch would have to compromise or cede some powers and accept policies in favor of the interests of all parties or the majority’s interests.

Nevertheless, it was noted that there were numerous elements of undemocratic clauses in the early Constitution with its checks and balances components. Some of the undemocratic features included those that denied some Americans the right to participate in the government, and some Americans could not receive equal treatment from the government.

First, even though there were checks and balances, the constitution did not have clauses that forbid slavery. The Congress was not allowed to bring to an end slave trade for over two decades. In fact, the Three-Fifths Compromise institutionalized slavery even further by increasing the political powers of slaveholders (Henricks, 2017).

Moreover, the Constitution did not guarantee a section of society the right to vote. This gave states the freehold authority to exclude African Americans, Native Americans, women and other minorities from voting. In fact, some years would see certain states excluding white men who did not own property and those who never belonged to any established church from voting (Henricks, 2017). The founders created the Electoral College to prevent the people from choosing the president.

The changes and transformation of checks and balances

Checks and balances have faced a lot of tests since its enactment into the Constitution centuries ago. It started with President Franklin Roosevelt when checks and balances faced one of its greatest challenges in 1937. During this time, Roosevelt audaciously attempted to pack the Supreme Court with libel justices.

After reelection win for the second term in 1936 by a big margin, Roosevelt faced one big challenge against the judicial review. The latter threatened to undo some of Roosevelt’s major policy achievements through the judicial powers in checks and balances. Between 1935 and 1936, a conservative majority in the Court did away with many significant acts of Congress, including those that dealt with the National Recovery Administration, the centerpiece of Roosevelt’s New Deal (Rofe, 2007).

Roosevelt would later in 1937 ask Congress to bestow in him the powers to appoint an additional justice for any member of the Court who had reached the age of 70 but did not retire. The request could expand the Court to have up to 15 justices. The proposal was the beginning of the never-ending battle of the three branches of government that is seen to date.

Many Supreme Court justices even considered resigning to protest the proposal just in case the plan had gone through. At the end of it all, Chief Justice Charles Hughes opposed the proposal by writing an open letter to the Senate against granting the president such a request (Abbott, 2011). Additionally, one of the older justices resigned, which allowed Roosevelt to replace him. This replacement shifted the balance on the Court, which narrowly averted a constitutional crisis because the checks and balances system remained intact despite the threats to its survival.  

The enactment of the War Powers Act vs. Presidential Veto.

In November 1973, Congress passed the War Powers, which technically overrode the presidential veto to declare war unchecked. President Richard Nixon opposed the move by Congress, terming it an “unconstitutional and dangerous” check on his duties as commander-in-chief (Nuechterlein, 2019, p.49). Created in the wake of the Korean War and the much-contested Vietnam War, mandated the president to first consult with Congress when deciding to deploy American troops to any war.

The legislatures had the 60 days grace period to declare war or authorize the deployment of the U.S. soldiers. If they failed to act during this period then the American troops would be sent back home. The main purpose of the War Powers Act was to give legislatures powers to check on the increasing powers that the White House had on war declarations. The latter was seen as making some war declarations that were deemed unnecessary and costly to Americans. This was after President Harry Truman, JF. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon had each mounted the undeclared conflict during the Vietnam War (Nuechterlein, 2019).

After the passing of the War Powers Act, controversies about the act would continue when in 1981, President Ronald Reagan decided to deploy American troops to El Salvador. His actions raised concerns because he neither consulted nor submitted a report to Congress.

Years later, President Bill Clinton would go against the act by his continued bombing of Kosovo even after the 60-day grace period had elapsed.  President Barack Obama would also extend the controversy when in 2011 he initiated military action in Libya without seeking authorization from Congress. During Bill Clinton’s reign, the House of Representatives’ attempts to repeal the Act through amendment of many of its components was narrowly defeated, living the Act intact.

State of Emergency Declaration

The challenge with checks and balances was also experienced with the presidential powers to declare a state of emergency. The first test happened when President Harry Truman declared a state of emergency in December 1950. As the first state of emergency, Truman never sought approval from Congress. In 1976, Congress would pass the National Emergencies Act, which would formally grant them the powers to check the President’s powers to declare national emergencies. The Act was enacted in wake of the Watergate Scandal, and it included the requirement to have the states of emergency expire after a year unless renewed.

Since 1976 after the passing of the National Emergencies Act, there have been nearly 60 states of emergencies declared by different presidents. In these moments, presidents had the powers over many components of the nation including land use, military, public health and immigration among others.

The state of emergencies can only be stopped if both the Senate and the House of Representatives vote to veto it or if the matter is declared unconstitutional by the courts. The most recent one was when President Donald Trump declared the State of Emergency on February 15, 2019, with the aim of obtaining funds to implement his border wall with Mexico

President Trump declared, “The current situation at the southern border presents border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency” (Dycus, Banks, Hansen, & Vladeck, 2019).

How checks and balances work today

In the arrangements with three branches of government- legislative, executive, and judicial, the framers of the constitution had visualized a stable federal government with separation of powers with checks and balances (Manuel & Cammisa, 2019). In the Federalist Paper No. 51 published in 1788, Madison described the principle, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicial in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” (Hudson, 2012, p. 13).

In both theories and practice, each branch of the United States government is under checks by others, hence creating a “watch-over-each-other” kind of relationship. For example, the President heads the executive branch and has the veto powers to decline or reject laws passed by Congress.

On another dimension, Congress has the powers to override the Presidential vetoes with a two-thirds vote from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. On a similar breadth, the Supreme Court, which is the judicial branch, has powers to nullify any Congress-passed laws if they deem it unconstitutional. But the powers of the Supreme Court are also curtailed because he or she must be an appointee of the President with approval from the Senate.

In the a nutshell, the executive branch checks and balances on the legislative branch include powers to veto laws passed by Congress, propose new laws to Congress, Submits the Federal Budget to the House of Representatives, and appoint federal officials, whose duties are to execute and enforce laws (Manuel & Cammisa, 2019).

The executive branch checks and balances on the judicial branch include roles such as the nomination of judges to the Supreme Court, the nomination of judges to the federal court system, and the presidential powers to pardon or grant amnesty to persons convicted of crimes. However, presidential vetoes can be overridden by Congress with a two-thirds vote from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Senate can also use the two-thirds rule to reject proposed treaties, and nomination of federal officials and judges.

Congress can also impeach and remove the President or any other executive member. In this format, House serves as the prosecution, while the senate becomes the jury. On its role to check on the Judicial branch, the legislative branch has the powers to create lower courts, reject presidential nominees to the federal courts and Supreme Court, amend the Constitution to reverse decisions of the Supreme Court, and ability to impeach the judges of the lower federal courts.

The Judicial branch checks on the executive branch through judicial review to rule laws they deem unconstitutional. The judicial branch also checks on the legislative branch through the powers to rule presidential actions unconstitutional, and use the judicial review powers to rule treaties unconstitutional.

In short, there is a general agreement that the executive branch has had some expanded powers since the 19th century, consequently disrupting the original intentions of the framers of checks and balances. Some of the concerns are the presidential vetoes, which can be overridden by Congress.

Similarly, the ability of Congress to thwart presidential appointments and judicial determinations has also created a lot of controversies. On the expanded powers of the executive, some have questioned the president’s powers to issue executive orders to federal agencies without seeking approval from Congress. This is because executive orders are not expressly stated in the United States Constitution, but instead implied by Article II. In Article II, it is stated that the president “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

The president’s executive orders can only direct the government to make some policy changes, but they neither have the mandate to create new laws nor powers to appropriate funds from the treasury.

Nevertheless, checks and balances system has served the original purpose as intended by the framers by ensuring that the three branches of the United States government balance their roles and powers.

The Current Events in Washington

Over the years the Executive has been accused of attempting to expand its powers over legislative and judicial branches beyond the limits provided to them by the constitution. After the end of the Civil War, the executive branch has always sought to expand its constitutional scope in many ways. This is specifically on the role of the president as the Commander-in-Chief, and other powers such as his roles in issuing executive orders, declaration of local and national emergencies, granting and revocation of security classifications, presidential pardons, presidential bill signing statements and executive privileges (Manuel & Cammisa, 2019).

Some have also argued that there are more checks on the powers legislative branch enjoys than over the other branches of executive and judicial branches. For instance, both the executive and judicial branches have the powers to override or nullify the laws passed by the legislative branch.

President Donald Trump has relentlessly taken actions that are deemed to diminish the checks and balances system. For the last three years since he came to power, a number of actions have been taken from the White House that many critics believe are a direct assault on the checks and balances principle.

There are those who believe that President Trump has been consistently installing Imperial Presidency. This is because of the series of decisions and actions that seem to infringe on the roles of the legislative branch of the government under Article I of the Constitution. For example, issues that have been raised are related to taxing, borrowing and spending money, sanctioning acts of war and regulating commerce among others.

According to Manuel & Cammisa (2019), President Trump is just advancing what has been going on covertly for the last half-century, which is the erosion of checks and balances principles in favor of the executive at the expense of judicial and legislative branches.

In particular, President Trump has disregarded the powers granted to the legislative branch by the checks and balances provisions in the Constitution on many occasions. For instance, it is the prerogative role of the legislative branch to determine what funds should be drawn from the treasury and for what purpose (Manuel & Cammisa, 2019).

This violation of the funding provided is part of the articles of impeachment that included the allegations of bribery attempts, which involved the withholding of funds that Congress had already appropriated to be given to Ukraine to help them defend themselves against the Russian incursion. This is similar to President Trump’s decision to divert funds meant for the United States military base in the U.S. and Europe to instead accomplish his campaign promise of building the Mexican border. This was one of the most egregious actions based on the fact that Congress had explicitly refused to approve the wall construction on many occasions.

The highlights of the dilution of the checks and balances component of the constitution were even worse when President Trump instructed government officials to ignore subpoenas from the committee of the House of Representatives. The committee required the government officials to testify and volunteer data for the purpose of accomplishing its legislative role. The president claimed, “Absolute immunity” for himself and those of his former and present staff in government agencies both insider and outside White House. This action led to the other article of impeachment advanced in the House, which was based on the obstruction of Congress by the executive.

While President Trump has not explicitly resorted to preventing his close associates to testify, every action shows a person who is determined to strip Congress of his legislative roles as stipulated in the Constitution. These actions could only mean one thing: preventing Congress from exposing him, which may lead to unfavorable publicity.

Ironically, Congress has really struggled to retain its power to declare war and other core mandates that the executive seems to overstep its mandate. In practice, the last two decades have seen matters to do with foreign policy and war solely being dealt with by the executive branch of government. For example, recently, President Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani only after notifying Russia, Israel, and Republican leaders in the two houses. This means that the president chose to bypass the role of the legislative branch.

The current state of the checks and balances provided in the constitution and action by the executive suggests that the legislative authority has been seized by the executive branch of government. This systematic move has continuously undermined the watchdog role of each of the three branches as envisaged by the framers of the constitution, thus exposing American citizens to the accumulated tyrannical authority of the executive wing of the government.

Checks and Balances in the American Constitution
Checks and Balances in the American Constitution

As some have argued, President Trump is simply the crest of a long-term trend that has been with Americans for decades. These have been evident in the past few years by the differences in ideologies between the three branches of government (Samuilov, 2019). When President Obama was faced with the gridlock that barred his legislative proposals from passing the two houses in the first two years into the presidency, he resorted to executive orders to allow him to accomplish his objectives.

Republicans protested President Obama’s moves, arguing that he was going beyond his mandate as a president. Interestingly, courts successfully nullified some of his decisions. However, some of President Obama’s appointees to major regulatory agencies continued to follow up and implement some of the policies that he supported, despite being rejected by the legislative branch.

The dramatic nature with which President Trump has taken into reversing many of Obama’s executive orders has exposed partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats.  As has been the trend, Obama’s success with executive orders and regulatory initiatives are being reversed faster than they came. Despite having enjoyed majority support in both houses in his first two years, Trump has systematically and speedily issued executive orders to reverse almost every progress Obama made with his executive orders.

Trump has made numerous appointments in the regulatory bodies and given them tasks to modify and abolish rules their predecessors installed. The other alarming trend of Trump’s regime is the frequent appointment of heads of departments and agencies under the “acting” capacity. This strategy has helped him prevent the senate from subjecting the chosen appointees into explaining their actions or seeking the Senate’s authority in certain actions. Ironically, Republicans who protested Obama’s executive orders are currently silent on President Trump’s executive orders.

To make matters worse for the legislative branch, the Senate has been under the GOP control. As such, they have been reluctant to reassert its authority by setting a firm limit on the period one should serve on an interim basis after appointment to the action capacity. The consequence is that political appointees who are responsible for many functions of the government are not answerable to anyone except the White House, diminishing the role of checks and balances clauses in the Constitution (Samuilov, 2019). The outcome is the imbalance in checks and balances, which has massively tilted in favor of the executive, hence losing its original meaning as envisioned by the framers of the constitution.


The framers of the American Constitution envisaged a situation where power concentrated in one person or a group of people would lead to possible excesses with the leadership of the United States. They saw checks and balances, as the only way the constitution would secure individual liberty. This prompted them to create checks and balances clauses that would ensure the three branches of government- the executive, legislative and judicial, checked on each other to bring balance while executing their duties.

Giving each branch some authority over the other worked well to control the excesses of the government. Although checks and balances complicated the government’s functional abilities, it protected the American people’s liberty. One of the most prominent impacts of checks and balances would come during the Franklin Roosevelt presidency. When Roosevelt audaciously attempted to pack the Supreme Court with libel justice after his reelection in 1936 by a big margin, it was the Supreme Court’s checks and balances powers that saved the situation.

However, over the last few decades checks and balances principles have faced massive challenges of defacing by successive regimes from the 1970s. In specific is the use of executive orders by president that has peaked in President Donald Trump’s government. Before Trump, there was President Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama whose use of executive powers to make declarations was massively criticized (Samuilov, 2019). In other words, Checks and Balances have tilted to favor the executive branch of the government than legislative and judicial branches.


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However, it is interesting that the interest in the above references is to present a relevant or structural understanding of the current crisis, deeper causes, or realities. Despite several random factors, it has nothing to do with the accident that has played a vital role in mobilizing and exacerbating it.

To be sure, Jade Lindgard and Amy Poinsuit’s excellent article is entitled “Coronavirus, a Boomerang That Comes Back to Our Face.” Numerous systemic processes have been termed in association with the results that have made possible the current epidemic.

Schools are predictable to be sealed for weeks or months, and parentage are precipitously enforced to go to home-based school, frequently when they are enquired to remain their steady jobs. As well as most of the labor of this home education will be on working mothers.

The virus cannot discriminate against itself because it is infected; however, its effects will not reach everybody correspondingly in a society that suffers from gender inequality. Parentages who are not parents face a burden, and of these parents, mothers are the ones most affected (Peet 568).

The pay inequality frolicked a dominant part in this inequity: for various, the father had a well-paying job, so he considered living in the mother’s home economically. On uppermost of that, several mothers felt they were better qualified for daily work in home-based schooling.

Certain believed it was a congenital disability, though others lured their infantile girls into the social world – girls babysitting for a fellow citizen or serving to take attention of fresher siblings and companions ​​because he has the skills made him a better candidate.

Home Schooling Job Sociology

The study shows that mothers will do the utmost of the work of caring aimed at and instructing their country’s offspring throughout our large-scale coronavirus related school closings (Van Bavel et al. 6). Besides, not all mothers will be capable of ensuring the same.

A working mother may be forced to select amongst being punished for not prioritizing work, or her children may be tested for not giving priority. Specific those restricted with savings, relaxed from working at home-based, or partners allied to job safety may have to decrease working hours or leave absentee addresses.

Solitary mothers, who previously face extra inquiry for their parents, determination be even more precious (Coleman). People who can’t afford to proceeds time off, deprived of endangering their works, will facade more severe pressure and scrutiny, and as a result, their children will grieve unnecessarily. Americans are slowly coming to terms with the fact that institute closings are essential to deal with the epidemic.

Sociology and Modern Capitalism
Sociology and Modern Capitalism

Though this is trendy, we as a state can take paces to reduce the load on mothers. At the very least, we prerequisite and disaster, nationwide, timely payment strategy for parentages of offspring under 12. Followers of Congress are declamation of numerous reasons to give specific or entirely Americans cash to equalize the economic effects of epidemics (Peet 569). These suggestions are a decent jolt. However, they do not gross into excuse the additional hardships of institute closings.

Learning is the municipal worthy that we sustenance through taxpayer-funded municipal education. Our institutes are not solitary places of knowledge; however, we also the protection and care of new offspring (Van Bavel et al. 8).

hen schools are closed, we provide education, protection, and supervision for our children – especially by paying their mothers to help their children’s education. Paying for this wage is one way to continue investing in our children while confirming that families can be financially stable if working hours are condensed.


My greatest expectation is that when it’s all above and back in school sessions across the country, we recall a lot of social inequity training that this epidemic suffix will instill us. Solitary of these teachings will be almost the load on mothers when they move away from community facilities such as schooling.

I hope we will use this knowledge to sponsor our institutes’ betterment as a portion of a more excellent drive to progress the social organization that can help us better through such national disasters in the upcoming. American geographer and historian Mike Davis have shown the general link amongst global capitalism and pigs flu.

Nowadays, it is perfect that the epidemic of Covid-19 shows that the creative services that have accrued globally have developed services of devastation that drop us into modern-day barbarism. To acquire this, we need to reconnect the various social engagements, with the scrap for radicalism further than the state-run and the principal, to discover illegal inventions outside catastrophic capitalism.

Work Cited

Peet, Richard. “Inequality and poverty: a Marxist-geographic theory.” Annals of the Association of American geographers 65.4 (1975): 564-571.

Coleman, James S. Foundations of social theory. Harvard university press, 1994.

Van Bavel, Jay J., et al. “Using social and behavioral science to support COVID-19 pandemic response.” Nature Human Behaviour, (2020): 1-12.

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Kant’s Autonomy in relation to Drug Use

Kant’s Autonomy in relation to Drug Use

Kant’s Autonomy in relation to Drug Use Assignment – Morality and ethics are like a reflection of what we believe where moral laws and tend to refine or improve what we believe in. In most societies, justifying the need to limit the use of drugs is always controversial as some people are of the view that they should be left to choose what is good for their bodies and what is not (Smith, 2002). Therefore, the legalization of drugs in some societies has been mandated on the grounds of helping people achieve their autonomy or exercise liberty.

However, there are always consequences associated with engaging in drug-taking activities where it is noted that drugs directly affect the self while indirectly impacting society (Altman, 2011). Therefore, the arguments for regulating the intake of drugs is centered around the consequences of taking drugs and the intentions to take drugs as well as the autonomy of the human being.  This brings the need to ask questions, is it right to regulate the use of drugs? Does an individual’s ability to choose limited through legislation, is this enslavement?

According to Kant, the individual or a person has a certain dignity that requires an individual’s respect. Kant notes that the reason showing why people are sacred stems from the idea that we are rational humans who can use logic (Altman, 2011). Kant also notes that human beings are autonomous beings meaning that one can act and choose freely. In this case, autonomy focuses on an individual’s ability to govern the self.

This school of through is therefore based on the ability to focus on the self as a way of determining what is moral and immoral instead of being influenced by the injunctions of other people (Kant’s Moral Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), 2016). This, therefore, entails self-governance where an individual looks the self and hence pursuing the course of action that benefits the self despite the moral beliefs and norms revolving around the choice.

Further to that, according to Kant, an individual’s autonomy is compromised when the individual cannot make a decision individually. This is when an external body or external factors influence them may fail to be autonomous since the true self does not exist at this moment (Altman, 2011). For example, a child may have the inability to be autonomous as well as the disabled people or an oppressed individual as they may be having the inability to become autonomous.

This, therefore, presents autonomy as the ability to be fully aware of having authority over individual actions. Kant, therefore, calls upon the need to let the individual free will be the major guiding principle towards decision making rather than letting the socially developed principles and or laws and hence determining what is moral (Kant’s Moral Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), 2016).

In this case, people should be guided by the maxims which they choose to abide by where such maxims can be regarded as universal by any being. Kant further notes that our emotions and subscriptions are external to the development of the will and therefore, they should not play a role in determining the ability to self-regulate (Altman, 2011).

Kant’s Autonomy
Kant’s Autonomy

In other words, Kant means that our feelings, habits, the emotions that we develop do not contribute towards the achievement of autonomy are they are seen as external. However, it is important to note that the idea of free will and making personal choices does not entail being governed by no laws, but is focuses on being governed by the laws that are developed by the self. In this case, the concept of autonomy works beyond being manipulated or manipulating other beings for the sake of our good (Smith, 2002). This, therefore, means that deception and lying are not okay since if I’m being deceived or manipulated, I cannot make an autonomous decision since the decision was based on false information.

Therefore, when it comes to the issue of drug use in relation to Kant’s arguments, it can be noted that if the decision to take drugs is personal and not influenced by other external factors, it can be considered as moral by the individual (Smith, 2002). The model by Kant promotes the idea that human beings have the right to do what they deem right to themselves provided that other factors do not influence it and it does not affect other people. in fact, people with freewill have the right to undertake what they need for their bodies including engagement in drug-taking provided that it is what makes them happy. Engaging in drug-taking can be likened to engaging in sports for one’s benefit (Altman, 2011).

However, engaging in drugs because you saw another individual looking good or because you heard that taking drugs gives you a good feeling may fail to be autonomous since your decision was influenced by the arguments of others (Smith, 2002). For the person taking drugs to benefits themselves or as per their own decision can be regarded as autonomous.

Therefore, the decision to both reject and or use drugs as long as it emanates from the self can be noted as autonomous — Kant’s theory given individual liberty to determine their maxim. Therefore, if you define your maxim, you get the ability to decide what is right or wrong. We also need to ask ourselves if we are doing something for our purposes, and if the answer to this is yes, then we are doing the wrong or rather an immoral thing (Altman, 2011). This is, therefore, majorly based on the issue of consent, where if an individual is aware of all the good and bad consequences of taking drugs, but they choose the standard or the maxim within which they wish to govern their lives.

Kant’s argument on autonomy focuses on people setting their standards and determining their fate, therefore, reducing an individual’s ability to choose what is right for them to hinders their autonomy. Despite the negative consequences of drug-taking, as long as I decide self-harm, then it’s okay. This, therefore, gives one the ability to discipline themselves and do whatever they want no matter the consequences. However, we should always take into consideration the maxim or the principle within which we act upon; this is by considering whether we would want to lie to be universally accepted (Smith, 2002).

The argument focuses majorly on the intentions of the individual rather than the consequences. In this case, if the intentions to take drugs was to satisfy the self-nourishment, then the decision can be determined as moral. The consequences, which include causing social disruptions or self-harm, in this case, are not taken into consideration. Kant notes that rationality and autonomy also entail the duty to make choices to harm oneself or choose death (Finnis, 1987).

Kant’s idea is much contested due to its focus on the concept of free will in some of the areas of an individual’s life.  Notably, when an individual’s actions are truly theirs, they should, therefore, not be forced by any external force, and in our lives, there are clear examples of various situations that are not autonomous (Smith, 2002). This is due to being governed by cultural laws and norms that influence the human to act in a given way, which, if let to make your own decision, you would choose to do it. Therefore, since the decision is influenced by an external factor such as a law, they fail to meet the conditions of being an autonomous decision.

That said, being compelled to make choices that do not resonate with our own beliefs and views would be enslavement. This would mean being forced to live as per another individual’s preferences, which would be unacceptable to people with different views about the use of drugs (Finnis, 1987).  Therefore, people with different drug preferences cannot agree on whether it is right or wrong to use drugs.

Kant’s Autonomy and Society

Therefore, according to Kant, any time we choose to do something, we are always influenced by our desire, and therefore there is a need to govern oneself without any external interference (Smith, 2002).  In this case, society cannot make decisions for an individual as people can define their standards. Governing the use of drugs would, therefore, be enslaving the people, and therefore Kant would not support the need to set government policies to regulate the use of drugs as it interferes with an individual’s autonomy (Finnis, 1987).

This is because any action that is conducted without being influenced externally had its moral worth, not because of its purpose but according to the maxim developed by the individual. Therefore, personal intentions or needs should not be weighed against the needs of the public since something good for me might be bad for the bigger population.

In conclusion, the argument concerning the need to regulate the use of drugs is a controversial one where people take different stands as per the philosophical argument they subscribe to. Looking into the consequences of drug use, it would only be good if the government uses its power to regulate the use of drugs to protect and keep safe the general population.

However, there is a need to consider the needs of the users and the ability for an individual to make personal decisions. Kant notes that there is a need to let the individual free will be the major guiding principle towards decision making rather than letting the socially developed principles and or laws and hence determining what is moral. In this case, an individual should not be forced to make decisions that do not resonate with our own beliefs.


Altman, M. C. (2011). Kant and applied ethics: The uses and limits of Kant’s practical philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.

Finnis, J. M. (1987). Legal enforcement of duties to oneself: Kant vs. neo-Kantians. Colum. L. Rev., 87, 433.

Kant’s Moral Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). (2016).

Smith, P. (2002). Drugs, morality and the law. Journal of Applied Philosophy19(3), 233-244.

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Autonomy and Democracy

Society, Privacy, Autonomy and Democracy: Individual or Social good?

Understanding the correlation between privacy, autonomy and democracy have become a major thought for focus among political theorists. Unlike the debate on privatization influencing the market economy, this is mainly centered upon conceptualizing the inner links between privacy and legality. The concern has come into the picture because of a variety of reasons. It may be technological developments or emergence of aggressive identity politics, one or the other way these have triggered unforeseen social issues. Through this essay, I shall try to detangle the intertwined nature of individual privacy, autonomy and democracy and bring out the relations existing in-between them.

Technology today has inevitably advanced to an extent, where employing all types sophisticated devices without regulation is likely to leave no trace of privacy. Inventions like powerful surveillance cameras and biotechnological techniques have unscreened the impenetrable areas of life. It has now become essential to be vigilant about the individual image in life.  But rapid upsurge of identity politics in the issues like feminism, multiculturism, gay movements, racial discretion and national politics has given birth to ambiguities or highlighted the limitations of privacy rights. Constant critics on drawing boundaries between the individual interests and democracy have generated suspicious thoughts of condemnation, segregation and dominance on one part or another. Most important of all, privacy has created a significant impact on the society. It has been a potent reason for the arrival of prevailing forms of racism, ethnocentrism and nationalism. At this point, older regulations to protect the privacy of people are not ideal. Moreover, people are volunteering themselves to relax their private space with an interest to gain goods and services. The interests to acquire a self-determined life and fantasized rewards are affecting the idea of democracy and the autonomous subjects working under it.

Radical critiques from the anti-democrats have also influenced the deprivation of conceptual resources in making a proper judgment. The necessity is to take account of all the possible sources available, reshape and refine it. The main resources in context are privacy rights and democratic rules. On the other facet, feminism has always questioned the loopholes in the democracy. It has played an important role in revealing and justifying the issues faced by women in the civil community based on lack of economic opportunities. However, it has also given rise to situations where democracy is forced to build discriminatory laws and experience legal disabilities. So there are obvious discrepancies and complexities in the modern day society. The issues related to privacy and publicity have mostly been discussed in terms of male interests and norms which thereby have led to prolonged opposition against following the social hierarchies.


Whole societal structure can be seen in two halves, private and public. Firstly, public involves the egalitarian ideals of preserving peace and unity among the people. Secondly, privacy or personal space essential for individual well-being tends to create segregations in the society. Thirdly, autonomy resides somewhere in between the two spheres that influence both the ideas. Democracy certainly requires autonomy for its functioning. Besides solely working on the central command of power it distributes its autonomy among various levels. So democracy and autonomy are related to each other.

In fact, separation of privacy and autonomy is potentially not feasible as they are interrelated in a very dependable way. Similarly, using a public approach by considering the society as a whole by disregarding the various levels in the social structure is also not a viable option. So at the least, rules must exist to provide legal protection and acquire political balance in safeguarding the privacy and publicity. In other words, both the voices of many and individual voices must be protected in a democratic setup. The core intention of democracy should be to avoid leveling, prohibition and homogenization. Again, feminists are continually arguing about having personal priority over privacy. On this context, natural domain that comes into the picture relates intimate relationships, sexuality and family needs. With the attention to this matter, efforts have been made to refine the concept of privacy that oppresses women.


Autonomy greatly influences the policies and principles structured in the interests of society. A few autonomous agents are provided with the power to take actions and judgment. This in one sense is nothing, but overlapping the identity interests over the democracy. The providing autonomy to a group of people to regulate the democracy has both advantages and disadvantages. If deserving subjects who are clean in their conduct are placed as autonomous bodies, it would lead to prosperity. On the contrary, incapable candidates can pose questions over the justice of democracy. Likewise, it is also true that too much autonomy gets bad results. This happens when a person considers his choices as supreme and disregards the balance in privacy and publicity. The personal choices arise as a result of convictions, desires and values. As a result, it directly influences the goal set and actions of a person. There are also other instances where a person doesn’t have his own goals, but gets inspired or carried away by others actions. This is where self-direction comes as a part of illusion. In addition, ongoing social life is another factor that influences the person’s motives. Here an autonomous subject depends on the others judgment to carry out his actions. But in strict terms, autonomous person is one who has his/her choices and actions into play according to own will. Now the question is How to balance these actions following the rules democracy?

As an example, consider the operation of the Web. Democratic ideals must allow the web or internet to operate at maximum potential. Meanwhile, it also needs to protect the privacy of Internet users. Internet today is vastly familiarized, so these statements may seem as a matter of common sense. Nonetheless, for obtaining the objective, one has to perceive things relatively in a complex way. It requires the understanding of the real world situation and devising appropriate rules in a constrained environment. Looking at today’s trend of widespread use of social media, has left us ponder about making a distinction between public and private deeds. Something that was entirely concealed before is not anymore. The times have changed. Furthermore, it becomes more complex as there are distinct groups of people interacting with each other with diverse mindsets from all over the world. I after referring the Book called “The Public and problems” from the author John Dewey came to know an alternative way to perceive the distinction between privacy and publicity. The solution provided focuses on understanding the actions and consequences of the users. In other ways, after observing the adaptability of the users to the new technologies, rule of thumb is to keep aside the old situations and avoiding taking strict unforeseen decision that affects the people. The democratic principles must support the ever changing people to have their way of life. Additionally, imperatively taking decisions on the social privacy can outburst negative consequences and restrict the freedom of movement of the people.

The consequences of one’s actions can be direct and indirect, and as a democratic body it is very important to classify the actions of a user. When it comes to direct consequences, it remains bounded within a definite area and it can be dealt privately. Whereas indirect consequences on the other hand spread to a vast extent immediately after the action takes place. It should be clear by now that indirect consequences must be taken care of to preserve the public interests. Consider an example, where a house owner is burning garden waste in front of his house. In this case, immediate result would be affecting his children and family members. But if toxic pollutants are being burnt then, it becomes a question of the whole neighborhood. Here first part is a direct consequence and other is indirect consequence. The situation can be taken care by installing pollution measuring instruments and warning the owner, so that he hesitates to burn the toxics again. So private acts, triggering public consequences must be taken care by the legislation. In the pollution problem, the process would involve inquiries, warnings and charges against the home owner.


The indirect consequences are not always bad for the society. For instance, if a group of Facebook users come together and discuss their common problems with Facebook groups, it doesn’t pose any problems. It could rather solve the problem unless the issue is anti-democratic and against the government. So in this new generation the conventional philosophies may require refinements with the use of pragmatist approaches. It is very much necessary to safeguard the individual privacy along with curbing the activities that lead to mass tension. Overall, privacy, democracy and autonomy must be considered as parts that whole make up a whole system called society. Also to note, there are unavoidable influences between all the three subjects, and considering them as individual entities can create social enigmas that could remain unsolved. Finally, privacy is not to be neglected but instead must be considered as essential element to democracy and autonomy.

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