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, clearly define the assigned duties, and force cooperation in completing tasks. In the case of the United States government exercises checks and balances through its three branches: the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

BREAKING DOWN 'Checks And Balances'

Checks and balances are important in businesses and other organizations where one individual can make decisions that affect operations. However, checks and balances can cost more money and decrease efficiency. 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 harm a business without the intervention of other employees. 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 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 concept is to ensure that no one section of the government obtains too much power. Therefore, there is a separation of powers.

Checks and balances are practiced in 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 the president to keep the legislative branch in check. In addition, 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.

Moreover, 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 gain. 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 considered 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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