Checks And Balances

What are 'Checks And Balances'

Checks and balances are various procedures set in place to reduce mistakes, prevent improper behavior or decrease the risk of centralization of power. Checks and balances usually ensure that no one person or department has absolute control over decisions and clearly define the assigned duties. The existence of checks and balances within an organization prevents any one person or department from having too much power and forces cooperation in completing tasks.

BREAKING DOWN 'Checks And Balances'

Checks and balances are important, especially in businesses and other organizations where one individual can make decisions that affect operations. That said, checks and balances can cost more money and decrease efficiency, so a balance needs to be found. By separating the duties of various employees into clearly defined roles, businesses and organizations are better able to ensure that rogue employees or executives cannot bring down a business without other employees noticing. The term is most commonly used in the context of government.

An Example of Checks and Balances Within the Government

The United States Constitution provides checks and balances for the U.S. government through its division into three branches: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. The Constitution gave specific abilities to each one of these three branches. The point was to ensure that no one section of the government would have too much power. It therefore created a separation of powers.

For example, checks and balances work within the U.S. government in the following ways. First, the legislative branch is the part of the government that makes laws, but the executive branch gives veto power to the president, allowing him to keep the legislative branch in check. Additionally, the judicial branch, the part of the government that enforces the laws put into effect by the legislative branch, can deem certain laws unconstitutional, making them void.

Further, while the president has veto power, the legislative branch can overturn a president's veto with a two-thirds vote. This ensures that the president cannot use his power for personal reasons.

The executive branch can also declare executive orders, effectively proclaiming how certain laws should be enforced, but the judicial branch can deem these orders to be unconstitutional. However, executive orders are often for the benefit of the country and are not unconstitutional. For example, President Obama, on April 19, 2016, proclaimed an executive order that blocked property and suspended entry into the United States of all people who were seen to contribute to the current situation in Libya. In this scenario, the judicial branch stood firm with the president's order.

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