The founding fathers had the vision of separation of powers when they instituted a federal government structure. However, the modern American government does not align with the vision because the independent arms of the government are performing roles not captured in the Constitution. The Founders foresaw a government structure that would protect civil rights, and liberties while still ensuring the safety of the people. This is not the case as recent terrorist attacks have altered the opinion of Americans regarding rights and liberties as people cede liberties for safety. Civil rights, liberties, and freedom of the media have largely been affected due to the inability of the federal government to perform functions envisioned by the Founders.
The founders had the vision to protect citizens’ rights and liberty through the separation of government powers. The modern American government does not fit the Founder’s vision of separation of powers. Congress has assumed a new role of law execution through oversight and appropriations processes (Calabresi, Berghausen, and Albertson 537). The new role is unmentioned in the constitution. Similarly, the federal judiciary is presently performing roles that go beyond their judicial functions when deciding specific cases and controversies. The Roe v. Wade case in which the court made up a system to determine the legality of abortions had no root in the Constitution (Calabresi, Berghausen, and Albertson 543). The Supreme Court was criticized for acting like an oligarch of the law.
Civil rights, liberties, and the media influence how government adapts over time. The civil rights and liberties legislation was meant to extend judicial protection and discourage racial discrimination (Abdolian and Takooshian 1434). Finding legislative solutions to the discrimination problem created new roles for the federal government to protect the civil rights and liberties of its people. The federal government enhanced consumer protection, funded education program, and provided healthcare coverage through Medicare and Medicaid. The media also played an essential role in informing people about occurring events. The media informed the public about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the 9/11 terrorist attack (Abdolian and Takooshian 1433). Americans, thus, turn the media for information and consolation. The federal government has adapted to freedom of media changes through attempts to regulate news content that reaching the public.
The changes in civil liberties have had major profound impacts on public opinion with regard to national security. The threat is a single factor that drives the public to cede their civil liberties. People are more likely to sacrifice their liberty to feel safe. The 9/11 terrorist attack created panic and a lot of anxiety among Americans (Abdolian and Takooshian 1444). The personal security perception alters the role of the government to initiate robust measures to support personal security ad prevent subsequent security threats. Security threats increase the support for more restrictions on civil liberties and rights (Abdolian and Takooshian 1445). Therefore, people rely less on social norms protecting their civil liberties and favor increased government involvement in combating security threats.
The modern American federal government does not fit the vision of the founders. Congress is performing new roles of law execution through oversight and appropriations processes. The federal judiciary is equally performing roles that go beyond their judicial functions. Despite all these, civil rights and liberties, and freedom of the media nevertheless remain core components of American society. However, security threats have prompted the government to adopt new measures to defend the people. This includes regulating the media and transgressing on social norms making Americans cede their liberties for national security.
Abdolian, Lisa, and Harold Takooshian. “The USA Patriot Act: Civil Liberties, the Media, and Public Opinion”. Fordham Urban Law Journal, vol. 30, no. 4, 2003, pp. 1429-1447.
Calabresi, Steven, Mark, Berghausen, and Skylar, Albertson. “The Rise and Fall of The Separation of Powers”. Northwestern University Law Review, vol. 106, no. 2, 2012, pp. 527-550. https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/1408-calabresi-rise-and-fall-of-separation-of-powers.
The American government is founded on institutions like the legislative, executive, courts, and bureaucracy. The bureaucratic institution is the most powerful because it fulfills the most important roles, implements laws, enforces rules, and settles disputes. In essence, bureaucratic agencies serve both the legislative and executive arm of the government. Notably, the separation of powers allows the institutions in the government to work together. Besides, interest groups have emerged as institutions that influence the functioning of the American government. Formal and informal institutions in the American government are meant to work together to fulfill specific mandated roles.
The bureaucracy remains the most influential institution in the American government. Through bureaucratic agencies, policies are delivered to authoritarian decision-makers which are later interpreted and implemented by the executive structures and departments (Kaufmann, Hooghiemstra, and Feeney 390). Bureaucratic entities are created by elected leaders to perform official roles on a daily basis, especially during exceptional situations of emergencies. Bureaucracies are powerful because they result from the political deals of varied political players in the government.
The formal and informal institutions in the American government work together through a concept known as checks and balances. As such, the legislative arm of the government makes laws but the president from the executive branch can veto the legislation. Similarly, the legislature can make laws later declared unconstitutional by the courts. The executive arm through bureaucratic agencies is responsible for the daily enforcement and administration of laws (Kaufmann, Hooghiemstra, and Feeney 395). As such, the president can veto a law that can be overridden by enough votes in Congress. Essentially, the institutions adequately fill their stated roles through separations of powers envisioned in the constitution. The decision to divide the government into branches was to allow one branch to check the operations of the other (Kaufmann, Hooghiemstra, and Feeney 399). In this setup, one branch of government would not be able to control so much power.
Interest groups are too powerful in American politics because they define policies and influence the public and their members into supporting particular candidates. Interest groups send their representatives to state headquarters and Washington D.C. to exert pressure on congressmen and women, as well as policymakers (Dur 518). The interest groups engage in lobbying for particular policies and legislation. The lobbying can be in the form of testifying in Congressional hearings to mobilizing their members to picket or demonstrate against unfavorable social policies enacted by the legislature. The lobbyists equally contact government officials directly or indirectly to discuss pertinent policy issues (Dur 520). The interest groups also sway the public and their members into supporting particular political candidates based on their positions on particular policies. The support also guarantees them an audience with the political class once their preferred candidates are elected into office.
The interest group’s role in policymaking essentially affects the functioning of formal institutions. Even though parties involved in policy-making may not be under the control of interest groups, the latter can influence the process by introducing other institutions into the process. For instance, interest groups can initiate a lawsuit against a bureaucratic agency’s execution of a social policy, bringing the judiciary into the policy-making dispute.
The formal and informal institutions in the American government execute varied mandated roles. The legislature makes laws, and the judiciary arbitrates, while the executive and bureaucratic agencies enforce laws and ensure national security. The different agencies work together through checks and balances though one branch may override the decisions and activities of another. Interest groups have also emerged as formidable institutions that influence policies and political processes in American society.
Dur, Andreas. “How Interest Groups Influence Public Opinion: Arguments Matter More Than the Sources”. European Journal of Political Research, vol. 58, no. 2, 2019, pp. 514-535. https://ejpr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1475-6765.12298.
Kaufmann, Wesley, Reggy, Hooghiemstra, and Mary, Feeney. “Formal Institutions, Informal Institutions, and Red Tape: A Comparative Study”. Public Administration, vol. 6, no. 2, 2018, pp. 386-403. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/padm.12397#:~:text=Formal%20institutions%20include%20constitutions%2C%20contracts,’%20(Pejovich%201999%2C%20p